Way down in deep dry isolated southeastern Harney County, Oregon, is Crystal Crane Hot Springs. It's located 16 southeast of Burns. Crystal Crane is not a fancy, aesthetically-refined facility. It’s very much a product of this isolated rural region which, economically, is largely centered around cattle ranching. It is what it is and if you can accept that, it is a great place to soak.
The hot springs water is pumped up from the ground into an artificial lake and, as needed, into a long narrow single-story building with individual private soaking rooms. (More on that below.) The water that feeds the lake is pumped up onto some sort of old concrete platform. This may have been the foundation for an old pump house. Water spills off of the platform into the lake. Airing the water out first may serve to help moderate the temperature. It also slows the flow of the water into the lake, helping to provide less intense temperature gradation so it doesn't go from cool to scalding hot as you float closer to the water source.
When I stayed here we only were able to take advantage of soaking in the lake, not the baths. (There wasn't enough time since we were just passing through. ) The experience was excellent. It was great floating in the sunset watching migratory birds land in nearby marshes. When it was completely dark the stars came out in full splendor. I was so taken by the show that I left the water, went to my cabin and put contact lenses in so I could appreciate the dazzling night sky. This wouldn't have worked with glasses since they would have fogged up while floating in silent luxuriance.
The artificial lake is periodically lined with gravel to keep it from getting too mucky. Some little insect creatures were swimming in the water. Floating around I and others would periodically get nipped. My best guess was that these were dragonfly nymphs. It was a little disconcerting but the bites didn’t hurt much and I don’t seem to have caught any diseases.
Crystal Crane Hot Springs offers a number of accommodations. There are individual cabins built along the artificial hot springs lake. I stayed in one of these. It was an odd mix of home-improvement construction materials and simulated cowboy-themed décor. Nevertheless, it was quiet and clean and I slept well.
Here are the cabins:
At one point there may have been hotel rooms but that building looked to be shuttered. There are pads for teepees that in the summer are set up for camping.
Teepees (pad and actual teepee):
These might be an affordable way to visit, especially if you were car camping through the area.
Finally there were a number of people who were staying in larger community bunk-like facilities. These groups were enjoying an odd form of recreation. I didn’t get the full story but I’ll relate it as best I can:
When we entered the driveway off to the south there was a large gravel pad with a number of really odd custom-made trailers. I couldn't figure out what they were for. They looked like gypsy caravans or crudely conceived Conestoga wagons without the canvas tops. They were, in fact, old truck beds that had been converted into trailers with plywood platforms with what looked like benches on the sides. I learned from a guest that these trailers were shooting platforms. Crystal Crane provides these rigs, with paying guests!, to farmers for controlling prairie rats on cattle land. I didn't get the complete financial arrangement but people from all over the Northwest come to Crystal Crane for the privileged of shooting these animals.
This metal building contains a small store, a hotel lobby-type space and the guest registration counter. This is where the prairie-rat-shooting tourists stayed as well (or it might have been in a building behind this one.)
When I arrived it was for a short visit. We made dinner. I relaxed in the lake-side cabin, I soaked and went to bed. I didn't get to appreciate the bathhouse until the next morning when it was light out.
I think the bathhouse is the highlight of Crystal Crane Hot Springs. If I were to return here I'd take full advantage of a private bath.
The bathhouse is a long single story structure. There is a covered walkway outside of individual bathing rooms. Here are some photos:
These rooms seemed absolutely magical. Maybe it was the light from the old windows. Maybe it was the sound of the water filling up a tank getting ready for the next soaker. The tubs were either cattle stock tanks or concrete. Any one would be ample for two people to utterly relax in privacy. The wood siding maybe had a bit of a 70s feel to it but it worked me.
I want to go back and experience this properly!