Borax Lakes Hot Spring

General Description: A whole bunch of extremely hot water coming out of deep holes in the ground, and a large 95 degree lake with unknown depths
General Location: Southeastern Oregon in the Alvord Desert
Pool Type: Death Pit, and Warm Lake
Pool Temps: Extremely Hot (106° - 110° F), Warm (Below 100° F)
(Click to enlarge.)
Accessibility: Year round, but the road may be too muddy when wet
Restrictions: none.
Elevation: 4200 feet.
Distance from road: 0.00 mile.
Map Reference: Burns District (south half) BLM Map, or Borax Lake OR USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle


The Hot Spring:

  Borax Lakes Hot Springs are a half mile series of springs along a fault line in the Alvord Desert, just south of Alvord Lake.  Each spring along the half mile line is a "death pit" where the water flows from a hole in the ground with tufa deposited around it, officially called ephermial vents.  The death pits are in all shapes and sizes, from small holes to a large 300 foot diameter lake creating a truly awe inspiring geothermal wonderland.  The water temperature is highly variable but most of the springs are extremely hot with temperatures exceeding 180 degrees.

  Only two springs offer soaking opportunities and even then caution should be taken because the BLM has measured arsenic levels in the water more than 25 times higher than acceptable drinking standards.  The large 5 acre Borax Lake is a huge hot spring where the water flows out from a huge "death pit" in the center of the lake about 50 feet wide and unknown depth (the largest hole in the ground we have ever seen).  Hundreds of gallons of water flow out from this hole at over 190 degrees F and cool as it rises to the surface to 80-90 degrees F.  It is a thrill to swim over this large hot spring thinking about what is below you and feeling the warm water flow up and past you, but be careful not to ingest any water because of the arsenic.  Care should also be taken because this unique environment has unique and endangered fish only found in the lake called the Borax Lake Chub.

  The other soaking opportunity are the last two pools in the line of springs and are a bit more dangerous.  These two "death pits" next to each other and sometimes called Little Borax.  Each is about 20 feet in diameter and 6-10 feet deep with tufa deposits built up on all sides and forming a 3 foot wide walkway between them.  The temperatures should always be checked before soaking because they are highly variable and could get considerably hotter at depths.  The southern pool is known to be the cooler of the two at about 105 degrees F on a good day, and the northern pool is usually too hot or about 110 degrees F.  Extreme are should be taken if soaking in these pools because the temperature could change quickly, when we visited they were both way to hot to even soak our feet.

  Next to Borax Lake are the rusted remains of the old borax company that operated here at the turn of the 1900's.  In 1898 Charles Taylor and John Fulton bought the 3,000 acre property from a rancher and moved their Borax operation from Nevada to the Alvord Desert.  They used the raw white sodium barate that covered the ground all around the lake with the lake water and sulfuric acid to form pure crystalline borax.  This was then bagged and hauled along a 150 mile mule team to Winnemucca, which gave them the name "Twenty Mule Team Borax Company".  Unfortunately they failed to register the name and a competing company in California took the name and they changed their name to "Rose Valley Borax Company".  They sold the property in 1902 and the borax operation ended in 1907.  Little happened on the property until the Borax Lake Chub was discovered and now the property is owned by the Nature Conservancy to protect the endangered fish.

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I just bookmarked the page.

I just bookmarked the page. Hot Springs are just as beautiful as nature itself but is so dangerous.


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