Diamond Craters, Frenchglen, Fields, and the Alvord Desert

On Friday we woke up early to hit the road to check out the loop that goes around the Steen’s Mountains in the far corners of the Oregon outback. Let me start by saying there is SO much to see along this drive, but we narrowed it down to a few stops because we knew we were going to have a full day. Just to drive the loop from Crystal Crane and back is about 4 hours, so we had our “work” cut out for us. 🙂

Our first stop was the Pete French Round Barn. My sibs and I had been here before, but our friend Raquel hadn’t, so we stopped to check it out. It is a pretty cool and unique structure, and is all that is left of Pete French’s (aka the “Cattle King”) empire, which was built sometime between 1870 – 1880. His questionable methods of obtaining land and water rights had him in and out of court a number of times, and one of the disputes actually led to his murder, when a neighbor shot him in the head over a long time boundary spat. This round barn was used to train wild horses.

Pete French Round Barn

Diamond Craters wasn’t a planned stop, but I’m so glad we made this little detour! We saw a sign for a driving tour and pulled in where an older couple in a camper van were parked.

We pulled up, and the older gentleman walked toward us. We asked him if he had been here before, and he told us this was their first time. They had camped overnight here. There are seven stops that are marked with numbers 5 – 11, and he told us the one that was supposed to be number 10 had the zero rubbed off, but to be sure to stop at that one. He said we would pass by a crater to our left, but to walk about 100 feet past it. He said he didn’t want to tell us what would be there, but that it would be an awesome surprise, and he was so right!

100 feet past the crater to the left is the only lake filled maar in Diamond Craters. It looks completely out of place considering its location, and literally has its own little ecosystem full of life. It was definitely a cool surprise!

Diamond Craters

There are some places where time stands still, and Frenchglen is one of those places. A quaint and beautiful oasis along our desert tour, where we stopped into the old mercantile, checked out the historic hotel, and watched some beautiful butterflies.


This was a cool old homestead we drove by, somewhere between Frenchglen and Fields.


Wide open spaces.

Alvord Desert-2

Fields, Oregon is home to the Field’s Station best known for it’s world famous milkshakes. Of course that meant we had to try one!

Fields, Oregon

Alvord Desert

My sister and I split a delicious butterscotch and banana milkshake, and my brother got a strawberry banana one.


Last, but definitely not least, we found our way to the Alvord Desert. Along a dusty gravel road out in the middle of nowhere is where you will find the Alvord Hot Springs where you can dry camp (which we want to do next time!). There is also an access road there to drive onto the desert, that we paid the nice lady in the office $5.00 to use, and it was the best $5.00 we have ever spent!

She gave us two tips of advise before setting us loose to roam the desert. The first bit of advise was to drive straight out past the edge of the desert, because water coming from underground makes the ground soft. She said to avoid the ground that looked darker and gray in color, because it is easy to get a car stuck in that. Her second bit of advise was once we drove straight out for a ways, to get out of our cars and find some sort of landmark to make our way back to the access road later on. We were in the desert till sunset, so that last bit of advise came in really handy when we left that evening.

This first set of pictures were are first sightings of the Alvord Desert. The Alvord Desert is approximately 12 miles long and 7 miles wide, and is a dried up lake bed.

Alvord Desert

When we actually got out onto the playa, it was like we had landed on another planet. And all giddiness and craziness ensued!

Setting land speed records in the Alvord Desert 😉

I can’t even begin to describe the magic that is the Alvord Desert. As soon as the sun started going down, we kicked off our shoes and started running around. The ground is dry, but has some give to it. It is almost like walking on a hard, but powdery clay. We also had even more photog fun when I took some photos of my sister-in-law in her ballet attire. She and the desert look stunning….check those pics out in my post Amber in the Alvord Desert!

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