Travelers driving through the arid desert of southeast Oregon are accustomed to seeing little more than an endless sea of sagebrush.
In that lonely High Desert landscape, Crane Hot Springs is a veritable oasis. In ancient times, much of this region was covered by lakes — watering holes for mammoths, dire wolves and other prehistoric animals. Most have long since dried up, leaving cracked lake beds that see water only seasonally.
Any water in this part of Oregon is appealing, let alone steaming natural hot springs.
Pull off state Highway 78 east of Burns to find Crane Hot Springs, where you can spend the day or night soaking in the large main pool, or in one of many private tubs around the property.
On crisp, cool days in fall and spring, the hot springs are particularly popular among tourists and locals alike.
A resort has been built up around the natural hot springs since the 1920s, according to current ownership, the first one called I and C Hot Springs. In proper Old West fashion, I and C featured a saloon directly above a concrete soaking pool.
After a night of dancing, the floor would be removed, and everyone would take a dip.
“It sounds a little dangerous, but it sounds amazing,” said Debbie Kryger, general manager of Crane Hot Springs.
These days the resort is firmly focused on relaxation. Kryger’s family purchased the property in 1997, she said, and since first replacing the pipes underground, they have been working diligently to slowly improve and expand the resort.
Two years ago, they added hotel suites for overnight guests. Last year, they added two tipis with private soaking tubs attached.
Next year, they plan to build a bigger shower house with more restrooms beside the main soaking pool.
“We’re probably always going to be under construction,” Kryger said. “We always want to expand and we always want to improve.”
In 2019, the family also began the process of changing the resort’s name from Crystal Crane Hot Springs to just Crane Hot Springs — an effort to eliminate confusion with Crystal Hot Springs in northern Utah.
That is not to say any mix-ups have hurt business.
Kryger said their slow seasons in summer and winter have only become busier in recent years. The addition of more year-round heated lodging — including new heaters in the outdoor tipis — has certainly helped cold-weather travelers. Summer visitors, meanwhile, have not seemed to mind soaking under the hot, sunny skies, she said.
Crane Hot Springs’ greatest strength might lie in its diverse appeal. You can set up a tent or park your RV, but there are also rooms with private bathrooms, as well as more original setups like the tipis. It’s a lot more than rustic natural hot springs (often adjacent to a primitive campground) can offer.
“We’re family friendly, we’re pet friendly, you can bring the whole gang out,” Kryger said.
But when you get down to it, it’s all about the water. Just as prehistoric animals gathered around those big, ancient lakes, people today flock to bubbling hot springs in the desert. Crane Hot Springs is just one of many places to soak in Eastern Oregon, but it’s one of the few that comes with an amenity nature doesn’t provide: a warm bed to crawl into at night.
To make a reservation at Crane Hot Springs, visit TripAdvisor, cranehotsprings.com or call 541-493-2312.