Alvord Desert

• Alvord Desert is the largest in Oregon dry lakebed with a smooth flat surface
• Enjoy hiking, soaking in hot springs, nature viewing, and rockhounding

Alvord Desert - Frog Springs
Frog Springs
Alvord Hot Springs
Alvord Hot Springs
Pike Creek Hiking - Alvord Desert
Pike Creek Hiking
Mann Lake - Alvord Desert
Mann Lake
Alvord Desert
Alvord Desert



Alvord Desert is a remote playa in Harney County located right at the foot of Steens Mountain. The largest in Oregon (9 miles long and 7 miles wide) dry lakebed or playa used to be an ancient lake's floor. During the glacial Pleistocene Era, the lake was nearly 300 feet deep and extended towards Nevada. We can still see old wave-cut shorelines along the basin's edges.

The vast playa has a smooth flat surface that is seasonally tough enough for driving and even landing light aircrafts. The desert is typically dry from May to October but during wet seasons it is muddy and even can become a shallow lake.

The entire area is volcanic in nature and bounded by a tectonic fault which formed the Steens Mountains on the west. Due to volcanic activities unique geothermal zones - Borax Lake Hot Springs and Mickey Hot Springs were created. Both of them are not suitable for bathing. However, there are two hot springs in Alvord Desert – Alvord Hot Springs and Willow Creek Hot Springs to enjoy soaking in mineral hot waters.

Steens Mountain is a 70-mile long snow-capped mountain range with its summit that rises 9,733 feet above sea level and 5,000 feet above the desert surface. Alvord Desert is extremely dry because it lies in a rain shadow of the Steens Mountain, the Cascades, and the Coast Range that separate the desert from the Pacific Ocean.

Alvord Desert was used to set a series of land speed records. Kitty O'Neil set the women's absolute land speed record of 512 mph in 1976. Her record remained intact until August 27, 2019, when Jessi Combs managed to hit a speed of 522 mph setting a new world record. Unfortunately, Jessi Combs died while attempting to go beyond Kitty O'Neil's speed. Despite Combs's unfortunate death, Guinness World Records recognized her achievement a year after it was set.

Alvord Desert can be your own breathtaking place of tranquility and reflection of infinity. Camping here is one of the best ways to fully enjoy the beauty of this place. Enjoy the night sky filled with thousands of stars and meet the magical desert sunrise. Additionally, driving through the desert, hiking, rockhounding, wildlife viewing, soaking in hot springs, and even fishing opportunities exist in this exceptional remote area of Oregon.



Know Before You Go

  • Strong winds are common, and weather conditions are often unpredictable
  • There are long distances between gas stations, services, and food
  • Most roads are rough, so high clearance 4WD vehicles are suggested
  • No cell phone services in the area.

Things to See and Do

Alvord Playa

Driving on the playa

Driving along the huge cracked playa surrounded by breathtaking snow-dusted mountains is exciting. The area attracts adventure seekers, off-highway riding fans, land sailors, and drivers of jet-powered vehicles. Avoid to be trapped in the mud in wet areas and the spring drainage.

Alvord Desert was used to set a series of land speed records. Kitty O'Neil set the women's absolute land speed record of 512 mph in 1976. Her record remained intact until August 27, 2019, when Jessi Combs managed to hit a speed of 522 mph setting a new world record. Unfortunately, Jessi Combs died while attempting to go beyond Kitty O'Neil's speed. Despite Combs's unfortunate death, Guinness World Records recognized her achievement a year after it was set.

Camping

Camping in the desert is free but be aware of possible strong wind, cold nights, and frosty morning. The best place to put your tent is along the playa edges letting you have some protection from strong wind, some privacy, and staying out of racing vehicle routes.



Alvord Playa Access

There are two ways to enter the desert.

To get to the desert points of access, you should drive south on a gravel dusty road - Fields-Denio Road for about 41 miles from Highway 76, 65 miles east of Burns, or 22 miles north of from Fields. The lakebed basin can be accessed from Alvord Hot Springs or Frog Springs, located 2.5 miles from each other.

You should pay for access through the private road of Alvord Ranch but if you camp at the hot springs, it is free.

Managed by BLM, Frog Springs Site allows free access to the desert.

Frog Springs

Frog Springs is a recreational area with free access to Alvord Desert and free camping. This site is managed by BLM and located near Fields-Denio Road.

Here you can ramble the vast cracked dry lakebed by bikes, foot, land yachts, or cars. High clearance 4WD vehicle is recommended when the weather is wet.

Please follow the regulations in place for this area, and use Leave No Trace techniques.

Elevation: 4,050 feet (1,234 m)

GPS: N 42°30.460' W 118°31.819' | 42.507667, -118.530317

Mann Lake Recreation Site

Mann Lake, located at the base of Steens Mountain, holds water year-round. The shallow lake has been attracting anglers for decades for its Lahontan cutthroat trout that was stocked by ODFW and adapted to alkaline water of the lake.

As a result of decreasing precipitation and droughts, currently, water levels got low reducing chances of trout survival.

Besides fishing and camping, you can enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing. Free camping is available here but do not camp within 200 feet of the lake shoreline. There are vault toilets.

Elevation: 4,220 feet (1,280 m)

GPS: N 42°46.646' W 118°26.325' | 42.777433, -118.438750

BLM Map



Hot Springs

Alvord Hot SpringsAlvord Hot Springs

The high desert oasis, Alvord Hot Springs is located between the Alvord Desert and Steens Mountain...

Mickey Hot Springs PoolsMickey Hot Springs

A miniature Yellowstone featuring hot pools, boiling mud pots, hissing vents, and a natural mini-geyser...

Willow Creek Hot Springs | Whitehorse Ranch Hot SpringsWillow Creek Hot Springs

A hot springs oasis in the Alvord Desert featuring two adjoining pools with crystal-clear blue waters...

Borax Hot SpringsBorax Lake Hot Springs

A geological phenomenon of the Alvord Basin featuring a warm lake and extremely hot thermal pools...



Pike Creek Hiking & Rockhounding

Pike Creek OregonPike Creek Canyon is a dramatic scenic site tucked away on the eastern slope of Steens Mountains. The canyon offers perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of your daily routine providing opportunities to enjoy the magnificent landscape and amazing geology. Spend your time sightseeing, hiking, rockhounding, and camping.

Read More...

Fields Station

The incorporated community of Fields was established as a stagecoach supply station in 1881 to serve travelers between Burns and Winnemucca and since stays in use. This is only one place found at the desert offering gasoline, food, and lodging.

There are a motel, RV park with full hookups, a store, and a café that has the reputation of the best milkshakes.

Phone: 541-496-2275

Address: 22276 Fields Drive, Fields, OR, 97710




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