Alvord Hot Springs
In the southeast corner of Oregon in Harney County, the picturesque Alvord Hot Springs offers a feeling a soaking in a remote corner of the state. It is on the eastern side of the Steens Mountains and the western edge of the Alvord Desert. Taking the dirt road between OR state routes 205 and 78 is worth the trip to experience this natural spring.
Alvord Hot Springs is a natural spring where at its source, the water averages 174 degrees F. A system of pipes cools and regulates the flow of incoming water into the pool so that the temperature is maintained at about 112 degrees. The Alvord Hot Springs flow into the Alvord desert where the water eventually evaporates. The spring smells somewhat of sulfur but not enough to dissuade visitors from soaking in the pool.
If you are looking for luxury, the Alvord Hot Springs is not the place for you. The small man-made rectangular pool on private property was made by and for local ranchers. The concrete pool is 3 feet deep and 25 by 50 feet. It has a covered as well as an open portion. The covered portion is rustic with corrugated sheet metal and wood.
The first time we went to the Alvord Hot Springs several years ago it was free and we just parked on the side of the road and walked out the short distance to the pool. However in 2013 the property owners (Alvord Ranch) constructed a parking lot and a small building which will house a store. Fortunately they are not so close to the pool that the pool still has that remote feeling. There is now a fee of $5 per person per day.
We did not encounter other visitors either time we were there and enjoyed the remote feeling as well as the magnificent views of the Steens Mountains to the northwest and the Alvord Desert to the east.
The Alvord Desert is a 12-by-7 mile dry lake bed and averages only 7 inches a rain a year. During the dry season, the surface is flat enough to drive across or land a small aircraft on. An unofficial women’s world land speed record was set here in 1976 by Kitty O’Neill at 512 miles an hour.
Just south of the Alvord Desert and Hot Springs is the town of Fields, the last place to get any services before getting to Nevada. We stayed at the small hotel there. Fortunately we called ahead. When we told the owner of the hotel that we would not be there until around 8:00 pm, he said: “I’ll leave the key in the door for you”. Sure enough….
Fields was established in 1881 by Charles Fields. The town with a population of less than 100 consists of a store, cafe, gas station, camp ground, hotel, post office, and a few houses.
Alvord Hot Springs is 106.9 miles southeast of Burns. From the junction of Highway 20 and 395 with Highway 78 in Burns, heading east on Highway 78 to the turnoff for Fields, 65.2 miles. Turn right onto the Fields-Denio Road and travel on gravel to the turn off for the hot springs, 41.7. Continuing south on the Field-Denio road will connect to Hwy. 205. South on 205 continues into Nevada, but going North on 205 goes by the Steens Mountains and the Malheur Reserve.