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Alvord Desert

Southeastern Oregon, Oregon

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Alvord Desert

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  • Steens Mountain (9,734') from the Alvord Desert's northern end.- Alvord Desert
  • Pronghorn antelope (Antilocapra americana) near the Alvord Desert.- Alvord Desert
  • Steens Mountain (9,734') from the Alvord Desert's northern end.- Alvord Desert
  • Looking southeast over the Alvord Desert.- Alvord Desert
  • Alvord Desert and Steens Mountain (9,734').- Alvord Desert
  • Alvord Desert.- Alvord Desert
  • Alvord Desert.- Alvord Desert
  • Steens Mountain (9,734') from the Alvord Desert.- Alvord Desert
  • View south over the Alvord Desert toward Pueblo Mountain (8,632').- Alvord Desert
  • Looking east over the Alvord Desert.- Alvord Desert
  • Alvord Desert.- Alvord Desert
  • Alvord Desert.- Alvord Desert
  • Alvord Desert.- Alvord Desert
  • Alvord Desert panorama.- Alvord Desert
  • Steens Mountain scale comparison.- Alvord Desert
  • Steens Mountain scale comparison with Mount Hood.- Alvord Desert
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Driest location in Oregon. View of Steens Mountain.
Cons: 
Remote location.
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Region:
Southeastern Oregon, OR
Congestion: 
Low
Preferable Season(s):
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
Not Required
Points of Interest:
Viewpoint, Geologically significant
Dogs allowed: 
Yes
Current Local Weather:
Powered by Dark Sky

Today

Clear throughout the day.
76°F
39°

Thu

Breezy and partly cloudy starting in the afternoon.
67°F
41°

Fri

Partly cloudy throughout the day and breezy until evening.
51°F
37°

Sat

Light snow (< 1 in.) in the morning.
58°F
37°

Sun

Partly cloudy in the morning.
72°F
42°

Mon

Partly cloudy until afternoon.
72°F
50°

Tue

Clear throughout the day.
73°F
49°
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Adventure Description

Adventure Description

Team

Located in Harney County, Oregon, and tucked into the Steens Mountain rain shadow, the Alvord Desert is one of the most isolated and unique land formations in the state. With some areas only receiving 5 inches of annual precipitation, it is also one of the driest locations in Oregon.

The Alvord Desert was once a giant lake extending 100 miles from end to end with an estimated depth of 200 feet, a robust headwaters of a Snake River tributary. Today, the primary portion of this alkaline flat desert is roughly 20 miles long and 7 miles wide, and it is dry from July to November. Interestingly, several endemic fish species remain in two isolated bodies of water, Borax Lake at the desert's southern edge, and Mann Lake located just north of the desert's flat basin.

Flanked to the west by the 1-mile high Steens Mountain escarpment, the desert is located over a tectonic fault that has produced the uplift of the Steens Mountain fault block and numerous geothermal springs. Five notable springs located around the perimeter of the desert include Mickey Hot Springs, Alvord Hot Springs, Tule Springs, Buckbrush Springs and Borax Lake + Hot Springs, though Alvord Hot Springs is the only spring suitable for soaking.

Note: Vehicular traffic and hiking is permitted throughout the desert on public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and driving on the flat is only advised during the dry season (July through November).

Travel Safe

Be sure to fill up on gas before heading out to the Steens Mountain and Alvord Desert area. Year-round gas stations are in Burns and Fields, Oregon. The gas station in Frenchglen is only open during the summer months. Further, cell phone reception is virtually nonexistent in much of the area, so travel with extra provisions. If you plan to explore the area extensively, we highly recommend bringing additional, full gasoline canisters to ensure that you don't get stranded. Also, note that heavy rains can transform areas that are off road into thick, sticky mud that can easily detain even four-wheel drive vehicles; indeed, some dirt roads also need time to firm up before they are passable. Be aware and drive cautiously following heavy storms.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Map

Field Guide + Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(7 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(10 within a 30 mile radius)

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