Borax Lake Preserve — an oasis in Eastern Oregon's Alvord Desert.
Borax Lake Preserve Borax Lake Preserve — an oasis in Eastern Oregon's Alvord Desert. © Mary Alice Wilson

Places We Protect

Oregon

Borax Lake Preserve

An oasis in the Alvord Desert, Borax Lake is a haven for waterfowl and an endangered fish.

Why You Should Visit    

Remnant of a once-vast lake ecosystem that extended across southeastern Oregon, 10-acre Borax Lake is home to the highly unusual and endangered Borax Lake chub, which has evolved to thrive in this lake. Fed by hot springs, surface temperatures can reach 105 degrees.

Location

In Oregon's Alvord Desert, east of Steens Mountain

Size

320 acres

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site 

The unusual nature of the Borax Lake ecosystem has made it the subject of many ecological, geological and hydrological studies. Ecologists have monitored the population of the endangered Borax Lake chub and studied their feeding and reproductive ecology. Surveys of aquatic invertebrates and geothermal microbes have been taken in Borax Lake and the adjacent hot springs. Detailed studies of water temperature, water quality and the geology of the areas have also been done. Many of these studies were motivated by the threat of nearby geothermal development, which the area is now protected from through the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000.

 

What to See: Animals

The lake and surrounding ponds and marshes, including wetlands dominated by three-square bulrush, provide habitat for many waterfowl and other birds, including snowy plovers, black necked stilts, Forster's terns, black-crowned night herons, American avocets, willets, phalaropes and other shorebirds. Because the lake and marsh do not freeze in winter, they provide important habitat for wintering waterfowl. Canada geese, long-billed curlews and marsh hawks nest in the area. Neotropical birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway use the area as a stopover. Western whip-tail and leopard lizards are found here at the northern end of their range.

Please remember that Borax Lake is a biological reserve. Only foot traffic is allowed, with vehicle access limited to handicapped visitors and scientists conducting research. Do not enter or otherwise disturb the lake or adjacent hot springs.

Please observe the following guidelines while hiking:

  • Stay on the trail. Don't collect plants, insects or other species or disturb soil, rocks, artifacts or scientific research markers.
  • No dogs. Preserves harbor ground-nesting birds and other wildlife that are extremely sensitive to disturbance.
  • No bicycles or motorized vehicles. Native plants and research sites are easily trampled.
  • No hunting, fishing, camping or campfires.
  • For groups of 10 or more, please contact us before visiting a preserve (a volunteer naturalist guide may be available).
  • Please bring a bag and carry out any trash you find.
  • Please report to us any problems you observe (e.g., camping, plant removal, hunting, off-road vehicle damage, etc).