Suggested Citation: Kerr, Andy. 2000. Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes. Seattle: The Mountaineers Books. p. 37.
The Oregon Desert is thermally blessed (or cursed, if we're talking potential geothermal power plants).
Hot springs are often overused, and ecological damage can occur. There is something about a hot spring that says if there is one other person there you don't know, it is overcrowded. Hot-springs elitists agonize about any written word describing how to get to a hot spring (though they don't mind telling their friends, who tell their friends, who tell . . . ).
Hot springs have an etiquette. It is polite to ask people there first if they mind if you join them. It is not polite for them to refuse. Clothing is not required at hot springs on public land. If you have a problem with that, you may not want to visit. Counseling may also help.
If the hot water is adjustable, do so carefully. At the Alvord Hot Springs in particular, the tubs are far easier to heat up than to cool down. Turn the heat off when you leave.
Numerous hot springs in the Oregon Desert are little known or visited (the author doesn't tell his friends, either). To experience a better-known hot spring, see the appropriate area description.
Hot Spring Area Exploration
Willow Creek Trout Creek Mountains Wilderness Little Whitehorse Creek
Alvord Steens Mountain National Conservation Area (General description)
Hart Mountain Bighorn Wilderness DeGarmo Canyon and Warner Peak
Warm Springs Canyon Owyhee Wilderness Three Forks
One other of note is Snively Hot Spring, about 12 river miles downstream from Owyhee Dam on the way to Lake [sic] Owyhee State Park in the proposed Lower Owyhee National Conservation Area.
Commercial operations do exist at Summer Lake (on OR 31) and at Crystal Crane Hot Springs (25 miles southeast of Burns on OR 78).
Hot springs are for spiritual and emotional, not physical, cleansing. You don't want to know the bacteria counts, and some springs are best visited in the dark. You also don't want to know about those little mites that cyclically exist in many hot springs and may enter your body through any orifice.
Don't use any soap anywhere near the hot spring. If you can drive to the spring, park the car a fair distance away, and don't do cannonballs off your rig into the pool like some yahoos do at Willow Creek Hot Spring.