Places We Protect

Borax Lake Preserve


Pools of water with mineral deposits around the edges and grasses growing on the shore.
Borax Lake Preserve Borax Lake Preserve — an oasis in Eastern Oregon's Alvord Desert. © Mary Alice Wilson

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



Effective April 1, 2021, this preserve is open to the public. Please observe social distancing guidelines, follow all posted site usage/visitation guidance and wear a mask whenever encountering other guests. Use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) is prohibited on or over the preserve. This property is privately owned and managed in order to protect the sensitive species that call it home. We appreciate your help in protecting the landscape and respecting all those who enjoy it.

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.

Why TNC 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 nearby public lands are now protected from through the Steens Mountain Cooperative Management and Protection Act of 2000."



Please follow visit guidance, no dogs/pets, & don't disturb lake/hot springs

Explore our work in Oregon

Please observe the following guidelines while visitng:

  • Stay on the trail. Don't collect plants, insects or other species or disturb soil, rocks, artifacts or scientific research markers. 
  • Do not enter/disturb lake or adjacent hot springs.
  • No dogs. Preserves harbor ground-nesting birds and other wildlife that are extremely sensitive to disturbance.
  • Please observe social distancing guidelines, follow all posted site usage/visitation guidance and wear a mask whenever encountering other guests. 
  • 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).
  • Use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or “drones”) is prohibited on or over the preserve


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.

Stand Up for Nature in Oregon

The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters upon which all life depends, and for nearly 60 years, we've been working in Oregon to do just that. We're bringing people together to solve the biggest conservation challenges of our time by transforming policy, inspiring communities to take action, protecting vital habitats and natural resources and improving livelihoods.

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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