When most people think of Oregon, they think of the stunning city of Portland (see here for how to spend a weekend in Portland) or the spectacular national parks like Crater Lake National Park. These are in the more populated and popular western and central parts of Oregon. Eastern Oregon is largely empty with every low population and it is dominated by desert and arid climates. But this region of Oregon is also stunning and it is an undeveloped geothermal wonderland just waiting for travelers who enjoy discovering the more remote parts of the country.
In eastern Oregon by the Steens Mountains, there is little but the stunning beauty of nature. The mountains are majestic and the whole region is just full of interesting outdoor places to see and explore. This area is also a hot springs hotspot with several free (but largely undeveloped) hot springs bubbling to the surface. These are best for people with RVs or who are camping.
Willow Creek Hot Springs
The Willow Creek hot springs make up an oasis in the desert. To access these hot springs one needs to drive down a remote dusty gravel road. The oasis is alive with wildlife. While not an oasis that one may expect filled with palm trees, it is filled with reeds. This oasis attracts various wildlife like birds, and these and other small wildlife, in turn, attract a lot of snakes (mostly harmless ones).
The hot springs are fee and feed into two divided pools. A hottish one and a warm one. There is also state-run free camping here with a basic toilet block on site.
- Two Pools: Hot And Warm
- Setting: In An Oasis In The Desert
- Facilities: Toilet Block And OK for Camping
- Cost Of Admission And Camping: Free
Mickey Hot Springs
Driving up the road following the foot of the Steens Mountain Wilderness is another hot spring. To find these one must drive on some dirt tracks for some distance while skirting the edge of the mostly dried salt lake of Alvord Lake. One comes to a sign for the Mickey Hot Springs.
- Accessed: Via A Dirt Track
- Facilities: None
- Caution: The Main Pool Is Scoldingly And Dangerously Hot, Do Not Jump In!
- Soak: Soak In The Small Side Pool, This Is Still Hot But Acceptable. But One Should Test The Waters First, It May Still Be Too Hot For Many People
- Cost Of Admission: Free
The Mickey Hot Springs is an "Area of critical environmental concern" according to the signposted by the US Department of the Interior. The spring feeds into a beautiful hot pool with various types of heat-resistant algae growing in it. This pool is dangerously hot and no one should jump in. But it is stunning to view.
The water drains from this large scoldingly hot pool into a hand-carved pool to the side. This is a small pool with a bench carved into the pool. The water in this pool is bearable but still very hot. This is where one can enjoy a really hot thermal pool, just on the edge of accessibility. It is much hotter than the Willow Creek Hot Springs just down the road.
Alvord Hot Springs
Between these two hot springs and just off the road is the Alvord Hot Springs overlooking the salt flats of Alvord Lake. Of the three springs, these are the only private springs that one needs to pay for.
The setup is basic but enjoyable where one can enjoy the stunning beauty of eastern Oregon while soaking in these pools. There is also a small shop and basic camping here as well as bunkhouses for those wanting to stay the night.
Overnight guests may use the pools at any hour, while day visitors can pay to enjoy the pools during normal business hours.
- Facilities: Camping, Small Shop With Basic Necessities, Restrooms, Bunkhouses
- Campsite: Start At $40.00 Per Night (Includes Access to the Hot Springs)
- Bunkhouse: Start At $80.00 Per Night For Two (Includes Access to the Hot Springs)
- Tip: The Pike Creek Trail Is Just 2 Miles Away
One of the great things about these hot springs is that while they are privately owned, they are low key and development has been kept to an absolute minimum. Soakers can enjoy the serenity of the wide, largely unpopulated open spaces against the backdrops of the Steens Mountains and Lake Alvord.
These are just a few of the hot springs in the west. When visiting the western states, it can be a lot of fun to seek out these remote and forgotten hot springs.