Mickey Hot Springs

Mickey Hot Springs is Miniature Yellowstone at the edge of the Alvord Desert
Features scalding temperatures, steam, and fragile ground surface

Mickey Hot Springs is a series of thermal-springs systems on the northern edge of the Alvord Desert. After the rainy and wet seasons, Mickey's visitors have opportunities of witnessing dramatic performances - the geothermal area in action with gurgling and boiling mud pots, hissing steam vents, and the only natural geyser in Oregon. But in the summer and fall months, it is quiet and mostly dried up.

However, at any time during the year, you can observe the vibrant hot pools with a vivid yellow-orange hue at its edge and prismatic green or blue colored water in the center. The largest pool with extremely hot and clear water is 15-20 feet in diameter and over 10 feet deep. This pool looks like the geothermal pool in Yellowstone National Park with the romantic name "Morning Glory". It is not surprising that Mickey Hot Springs is known as Oregon Miniature Yellowstone.

Another big pool is 4 by 10 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep. The water from the pools and geyser flows through channels to the southeast of the dusted with sodium borate desert plain. According to BLM, sodium borate or Salt Flat is safe for contact.

Cautions. The steam and scalding temperatures make Mickey Hot Springs dangerous. The thin ground surface could break under your weight, exposing you to boiling water. For those reasons, it is very important to keep your children as well as your pets within a safe distance from the fragile edge of the extremely hot pools and steam vents. The coldest hot pool at the southern end of the stream is still too hot for bathing from 117 to 120°F.

While the soaking is not available at Mickey, browsing the environment, walking between the colorful hot pools and steam vents, harvesting the benefits of a mineralizing environment is an unforgettable outdoor experience. Besides the unique hot springs, the area offers scenic vistas of the high-desert landscape, Mickey Butte, and Steens Mountain in the background.

Mickey Hot Springs
Alvord Desert Hot Springs
Mickey Hot Springs
Scalding Temperature
Mickey Hot Springs
"Morning Glory"
Mickey Hot Springs - Geyser

Mickey Hot Springs Uniqueness

Mickey Hot Springs was noticed by a press in 1992 when one of the bubbling spots became an active mini-geyser that erupted to a height of 8 feet. Now Mickey Hot Springs is an area of Critical Environmental Concern. The BLM constructed a fence with a zigzag walk through the gate (prevent cattle from entering) around the thermal springs to save unique features of the geothermal area.

The hot springs site is gaining national attention today for its unique mineralizing environment. Scientists have been able to identify and collect an arsenal of thermophilic bacteria that could be found in geothermally heated areas such as Yellowstone National Park and Mickey Hot Springs. Thermophiles are able to survive at high temperatures where other microorganisms will be killed.


Bacteria is Responsible for Colors

Living in hot springs, thermophilic microorganisms form separate colonies - microbial mats. Their distributions strongly depend on the water temperature. Bright colors around edges of the hot springs and along the channels are the result of the presence of various bacteria with different ratio of chlorophyll and carotenoids.

The blue or green color in the middle of a clear pool is almost bacteria-free scalding water at 180°F (82°C) and higher.

Mickey Hot Springs, Red bio-film of thermophilic microorganism
Red bio-film of thermophilic microorganism

When water is cooled down at the edges, different temperature conditions provide growth of various bacterial species.

The green and yellow rings are formed at temperatures below 165°F (74°C) by cyanobacteria Synechococcus. Chlorophyll is the primary pigment responsible for green hues.

The orange band is cooler, below 150°F (65°C). It contains both green chlorophyll pigments and carrot-colored carotenoids (Synechococcus and Chloroflexus bacteria).

The red biofilm of thermophiles is the coolest part of the hot spring's outflow with temperatures around 130°F (54°C), still very hot! Red color defines the presence of many bacteria including Cyanobacteria Calothrix and Deinococcus-Thermus.

Mickey Hot Springs | Facts

Dangerously Hot for Soaking

Location: 39 miles north of Fields • Eastern Oregon • USA
Development: Undeveloped, fence
Amenities: None
Accommodations: Camping is not allowed within the Mickey Hot Springs area
Hiking distance: Short
Road Access: High-clearance vehicle is recommended
Day-use fees: Free
Managed by: BLM

Elevation: 4,190 ft (1,277 m)

Water T°: 120°F (49°C)-206°F (97°C)
Water acidity level: Weak alkaline (pH=8.1)
Springs type: Sodium Bicarbonate Chloride & Sulfate
Average dissolved solids: 2,090 ppm

Sodium (Na) - 610 Mg/L
Potassium (K) - 41.4 Mg/L
Lithium (Li) - 27.5 Mg/L
Boron  (B) - 10.3 Mg/L
Calcium (Ca) - 0.5 Mg/L
Carbonate (CO3) - 828 Mg/L
Sulfate (SO4) - 239 Mg/L
Chloride (Cl) - 264 Mg/L
Silica (SiO2) - 95 Mg/L

Sad Statistics

October 1996. A 35-year-old Kevin Williams, who went to Mickey Hot Springs to watch the lunar eclipse, died from hypothermia in the southern pool.

April 2017. Brent Torchio from California received second- and third-degree burns over 20 percent of the body, trying to rescue his dog Remnar. It is unknown if the dog jumped or fell into the near-boiling water of the geothermal spring. The dog died a few days later in an animal hospital.

More Adventures

Directions to Mickey Hot Springs

From Burns,

  • Take Highway OR-78 and follow southeast approximately 65 miles to Fields-Denio Road (Folly Farm Road or East Steens Road).
  • Turn right onto Fields-Denio Road and continue south for 31.5 miles
  • Turn left onto the Mickey Hot Springs access road, just before the cattle guard
  • Drive 6.9 miles east around the southern edge of Mickey Butte to the parking area near a BLM signboard.

From Fields,

  • Take Highway OR-205 North and drive 1.4 miles to Fields-Denio Road
  • Turn slight right onto Fields-Denio Road and continue 32 miles north
  • Turn right onto the Mickey Hot Springs access road just north of a cattle guard
  • Continue 6.9 miles east around the southern edge of Mickey Butte to the parking area near a BLM signboard.

Fields-Denio Road (East Steens Road) is accessible all year by any type of vehicles when dry but the Mickey Springs road may become inaccessible during rainfalls.

You can also drive around Mickey Butte from the northeast corner, but this way is recommended for the high-clearance vehicle.

Contact (BLM, Burns District Office): 541-573-4400

GPS: N 42°40.722' W 118°20.866' | 42.6787, -118.3481

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