Surrounded by countless sagebrushes and tall grass, South Harney Lake Hot Springs is located at the southeastern edge of Harney Lake, inside a caldera of the 1,500 square-mile Harney Basin. The basin was formed over 30 thousand years ago by volcanic activity when lava flows separated the watershed of the basin from the Malheur River.
One of the hottest springs of the Harney Basin with distinctive sulfur ("rotten eggs") smell, South Harney Lake Hot Springs is formed by a series of geothermal seeps with a great flow of over 450 liters per minute. The temperature of the geothermal sources is about 140-150 degrees F. The hot mineral water from the colorful pond runs into a natural channel and then diverted into two dug-out pools. The water cools quickly while flowing through the channel and becomes comfortable for soaking further from the source.
There's one hill nearby, but most of the landscape is quite flat, allowing for panoramic views of the vast desert, alkaline Harney Lake, and distant mountains.
Unfortunately, South Harney Lake Hot Springs does not provide the cleanest or safest soaking experience, due to its very high temperatures and muddy interior. Two pools are located a few yards downstream but it looks nasty and not suggested for soaking. Some red mites are also found at the edges of pools.
The plastic tub or any container is one of the options to take a bath at South Harney Hot Springs. You can fill it with hot water from the channel. The water downstream of the pools is cleaner and hot enough at about 100-110°F to take a bath.
It is not recommended to travel to the hot springs until mid-summer. The last 8.5 miles of unimproved road is likely to be either snowy or incredibly muddy during the winter and spring seasons.
Though the hot springs are located on private land, it's available for public use. No signs are indicating if overnight camping is prohibited here but we suggest looking for BLM camping options.
If you ever visit this area, please do not abuse the privilege of accessing the area. Be sure to leave no trace behind!
South Harney Lake Hot Springs | General Description
Managed: Private Land
Location: South Harney Lake
Services: No services are available
Accommodations: Camping is not prohibited
Distance from the parking: Short
Road Access: High-clearance vehicles, the road can be inaccessible during wet weather
Day-use fees: None
Elevation: 4,100 ft (1,250 m)
South Harney Lake Hot Springs is located:
- 34 miles south of Burns
- 165 miles southeast of Bend
- 315 miles southeast of Portland.