High Desert oases offer peaceful retreats for wildlife and human visitors.
Lake County Oases
Summer Lake lies at the base of Winter Ridge in Lake County, Oregon. When water levels are high, this alkaline lake measures 15 miles long and 5 miles wide. Explorer, Captain John C. Fremont, named the lake and ridge. Here is how he described them:
At our feet…more than a thousand feet below…we looked into a green prairie country, in which a beautiful lake, some twenty miles in length, was spread along the foot of the mountain…Shivering on snow three feet deep, and stiffening in a cold north wind, we exclaimed at once that the names of summer lake and winter ridge should be applied to these proximate places of such sudden and violent contrast.John C. Fremont, 16 December 1843, Report, Second Expedition
Lake Abert, in Lake County, is Oregon’s only saline lake. The lake can host over 50,000 birds a day. Wilson’s Phalaropes and Snowy Plover feed on the brine shrimp and alkali flies that only live in saline lakes. Like the Great Salt Lake, water levels have dropped dramatically in recent years.
Warner Pond is a secluded natural lake at Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge in Lake County. They stock this small, hidden gem with rainbow trout. You can fish from the dock or in a non-motorized boat. Camping is available at nearby Camp Hart Mountain or about a half hour away at Hart Mountain Hot Springs Campground, another oasis.
A Crook County Oases
Prineville Reservoir, in Crook County, was created by damming the Crooked River in 1961. The 12-mile long lake provides water for irrigation, flood control, and wildlife management. It’s a great place to fish and camp–when there’s enough water. Though we’ve had good snowpack so far this year, the reservoir in March 2023 is only 13% full.
A Deschutes County Oases
High Desert oases come in many forms. The Hatfield Ponds, near Bend, hosts the highest diversity of bird species in Deschutes County. The city uses the ponds for secondary sewage treatment. Like the other spots featured in this post, birds are drawn to the water in the desert landscape. In fact, eBird birders have seen 256 species at the Hatfield Ponds. Visitors can walk the trails around the ponds while taking in spectacular views of the nearby Cascade volcanoes.