Borax Lake and hot springs

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pcg
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Borax Lake and hot springs

Post by pcg » November 4th, 2017, 12:53 pm

I usually go to the Great Basin area every spring and fall to get my desert fix. This last September I spent a week in Owyhee Canyon country with my wife and son, and on the way back we went west and then north through Fields. This cold rainy day has me thinking about hot springs and I noted that there are no hot springs listed in the field guide, so I thought I would post some information on Borax Lake and hot springs.

The lake and hot springs are two different entities several hundred yards apart, east of Steens Mountain and just south of the Alvord Desert. Getting there is more of a stroll than a hike and neither are worth a drive from Portland, but if you live closer or are already in the area and have time to spare, it’s worth a couple hours to explore and learn a little local history.

Hot springs everywhere fall into two categories – developed and undeveloped. In Oregon, developed usually means some slimy ramshackle lumber and a bit of litter lying about, but the water temperature is just right. I prefer no signs of civilization, but that often means the water is too hot to touch. Borax Hot Springs is such a case. In fact, it is time for this…

DISCLAIMER – Borax Hot Springs is DANGEROUSLY HOT. You will not survive a careless slip here. Be VERY careful!

How to get there… a high clearance vehicle and dry weather is required. If there is snow on the ground or it is muddy, be careful - you will need 4WD and maybe chains, shovel, and a high-lift jack. From the town of Fields it’s about a 20 minute drive. Fields itself, population 120, is a worthwhile destination. The proprietors of the local general store (gas/diesel, water, food, and a couple overnight rooms) have a reputation for being friendly and helpful with directions. In addition, they make incredible milk shakes to go with their burgers. When you are done in Fields go north about two miles and turn right at the electrical substation. Follow the two dirt tracks under the power lines for another two miles and take the first left. Drive until you get to a locked gate and park here.
Borax Lake-1.jpg
From here, start walking. That's borax on the ground, not snow. During the walk in you will pass some old mining equipment (which I neglected to photograph), including a large iron holding tank left from the old borax mining activity that occurred here. Apparently not all borax came from that 20-mule team in Death Valley (age-related remark)...
Borax Lake-2.jpg
It's about a ten minute walk to Borax Lake, here with Steens Mountain in the background. You will see ducks on the lake, so the water is warm, not hot, but it's full of algae, and the banks are muddy. Even if that doesn't deter you, you shouldn't swim here because accessing the water will cause environmental damage to the fragile shoreline.
Borax Lake-4.jpg
Looking east toward the Buckskin Mountains.
Borax Lake-3.jpg
If the weather is cool, you will see steam rising in the distance from the hot springs north of Borax Lake. Photo taken on a cold April morning. Again, that's borax, not snow...
Borax Lake-5.jpg
Another few minutes walking and you are there. Photo taken on a September afternoon...
Borax Lake-6.jpg
Be very careful!...
Borax Lake-7.jpg
Scary to look down into the depths...
Borax Lake-8.jpg
Some of the wildlife is scary too. This western rattlesnake was on the road into Fields from Whitehorse Ranch...
Borax Lake-11.jpg
And some of the wildlife is unusual. This is a baby horned-lizard that was too slow to avoid my hand...
Borax Lake-9.jpg
And some of the wildlife is just plain pretty, as is this long-nosed leopard lizard...
Borax Lake-10.jpg
There's another half-dozen undeveloped hot springs in this remote corner of Oregon - some too hot and some just right. Have fun exploring!

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justpeachy
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Re: Borax Lake and hot springs

Post by justpeachy » November 5th, 2017, 11:18 am

Very cool, thanks for sharing! I love the photo of the lake (Borax Lake-4.jpg). You should enter it in the calendar contest. :D
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bobcat
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Re: Borax Lake and hot springs

Post by bobcat » November 6th, 2017, 8:18 am

Thanks for the report! I am extremely jealous of the leopard lizard encounter. We visited Borax Lake a number of years ago with my goal to obtain a sighting of the Borax Lake chub, the tiny fish that lives only in those pools. We sat by the side of a pool, but my wife got bored after 15 minutes and left, calling it a "wild goose chase after some insignificant minnow." I stayed on until I spotted a couple of the little silvery things near the surface. Apparently the fish has survived here over the millennia (from when this was a shallow inland sea) by sticking to the cooler parts of the pools and foraging off the bottoms.

Iams
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Re: Borax Lake and hot springs

Post by Iams » November 6th, 2017, 8:16 pm

+1 Very cool

pcg
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Re: Borax Lake and hot springs

Post by pcg » November 6th, 2017, 8:42 pm

bobcat wrote:... my goal to obtain a sighting of the Borax Lake chub, the tiny fish that lives only in those pools.... I stayed on until I spotted a couple...
Now I remember the "Borax Lake chub" being in the news many years ago, but I had completely forgotten about that.

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tschalpi
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Re: Borax Lake and hot springs

Post by tschalpi » November 7th, 2017, 11:18 am

Very cool! I have some bad memories from there because I drank water from Borax lake coming from the other side. I only saw the sign that it's not safe to drink after the fact. But I lived, ha! Here's the episode (with some drone footage of Borax lake): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XtjM3DOYMg
.: Christof

pcg
Posts: 206
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Re: Borax Lake and hot springs

Post by pcg » November 7th, 2017, 7:00 pm

tschalpi wrote:Very cool! I have some bad memories from there because I drank water from Borax lake coming from the other side. I only saw the sign that it's not safe to drink after the fact. But I lived...
Christof
I suspect that refers to arsenic levels that are dangerous to consume on a daily basis, so a one time swaller is OK.
tschalpi wrote:Here's the episode (with some drone footage of Borax lake): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XtjM3DOYMg
.: Christof
Great video, which encouraged me to watch some of your others. Hardly know what to say... holy cow!

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