Friday, February 1, 2013

Alvord Desert Hot Springs - open year round


Approaching dry camp area near Alvord Hot Springs (Julianne G. Crane)

Alvord Hot Springs is a geothermal spring located in southeast Oregon on the eastern slope of the Steen Mountains on the western edge of the vast Alvord Desert. The springs sit at an elevation of 4,080 feet in the Oregon high desert region. Currently open to the public year-round.

Hot springs on Alvord Ranch (Julianne G. Crane)
The Alvord Hot Springs is on the Alvord Ranch, and is privately owned, as is most of the desert itself. Please be respectful of this, clean up after yourself, and do no harm.

After years of providing free access to the springs, as of March 1, 2013, a fee will be charged, according to an e-mail from Paul Davis, a member of the family who owns the Alvord Ranch.

(Update: 2/17/2013 e-mail from Paul Davis:

"As I see this, being the land owner, these are my options:

1. Continue to ignore the liability issue knowing that someday it WILL be addressed. 
2. Sell the property, but John Doe has the same options. 
3. Close off property, but to do so I will have to destroy it as people still will trespass. 
4. Charge for the use of this resource. 

"I have tried to lease the property to the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] since 2008 with the idea they take on the liability. To do so they want a 25-year lease. I will not do this because I feel it will be a publicized park. I would entertain the idea of a 5-year [lease] as this would keep advertising to a minimum. 

"So here is the plan:  March 1, 2013 a fee will be collected by a caretaker.  I will run with this for a year or two; but in the end, if it does not work, I have no choice but to close it down." 
Paul Davis, Alvord Ranch


The spring and facility
At its source the spring water is a scalding 174 degree Fahrenheit, but flows through a series of channels down into a soaking pool, allowing the waters to cool considerably. A wooden platform provides easy access from the road. A windscreen and changing shed have been constructed around the pools, creating one outdoor and one sheltered pool.

Hot soak on cold day. (Julianne G. Crane)
Half of the pool is enclosed by a corrugated wall above the ground.  The outdoor pool is about 10-feet by 10-feet, with water three feet deep. The temperature at the pool stays around 112 degrees F.  The pool is bound by concrete walls with a concrete slab bottom and are surrounded by nice decking. Swimsuit optional.

Camping:
Currently dispersed, no fee. There is a large flat area directly across from the Alvord Hot Springs. There are no services and no shade, but plenty of level ground for dry camping. These campsites are not improved, so bring in your own toilet. Alvord Desert is a dry lake bed. This is a vast open space, so there is no protection from the wind. On the days we were there in mid-March it was windy and temperatures were below freezing with snow flurries.

Dry camping near Alvord Hot Springs.
Location:
Alvord Hot Springs is 107 miles southeast of Burns, Ore.
South of Burns on Hwy 205.
Drive north of Fields, Ore., on County Road 201 (gravel) for 25 miles.

Gas, groceries, a cafe, motel, propane and an RV park are located in Fields.

Sources: Gill Adventures and 'Hot Springs and Hot Pools of the Northwest' by Marjorie Gersh-Young.

To read more of Julianne G Crane's writing, go to RVWheelLife.com.

Photos: Alvord Hot Springs by Julianne G Crane

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