Located approximately 60 miles from Portland, Austin Hot Springs aka Carey Hot Springs are a series of natural hot springs, heated by volcanic activity. This beautiful spot in the Mt. Hood National Forest along the Clackamas River attracts hundreds of visitors each year due to its proximity to the largest cities of Oregon - Portland and Salem.
Geothermal water runs from several sources on both sides of the river. The hot water also emerges from the river bottom directly from hydrothermal vents.
The main Austin soaking area with large pools is built on the roadside of the Clackamas River. The pools have different sizes and different temperatures. Those which are colder are situated closer to the river.
Austin Hot Springs has been known as a dangerous place because it can have a sudden burst of boiling water with temperatures up to 200°F (93°C). Reports released by the Oregon Burn Center showed that at least 50 people have suffered from minor to serious burns from this extremely hot spring water. Just recently, 3 adults and a child were treated at the Legacy Emanuel Hospital and Medical after suffering from serious burns from one of the pools that were built along the river.
The most dangerously hot spots with bubbling and steamy water are marked by wires and red signs. However, the water near its boiling point can come unexpectedly from any place including the bottom of the soaking pools. The thermal injury will occur during just five seconds of exposure to hot water of 140-degree F (60°C).
There are soaking pools along the far side of the river, a few yards upstream. This is a more secluded and safe area. The hot water gushes out of a cliff and can be easily segregated and mixed with the cold river water.
Austin Hot Springs has been privately owned for more than a century. This means that any person accessing this spring without authorization from the owner is actually trespassing. Portland General Electric owned the site until 1985 and sold it when a few burning incidents took place. For decades the site's owners supported the efforts of local agencies to stop unauthorized usage of the hot springs to prevent thermal burns and, also, restore a natural pathway for salmon runs.
However, people keep coming, some carrying bags of concrete, old rugs, dirty carpets, and building soaking pools along the Clackamas River.
Austin Hot Springs | General Description
Open: Private property
Elevation: 1,750 ft (533 m)