Hot Lake, Union County, Oregon

This steaming mineral lake 10 miles east of La Grande was probably first visited by the white men when Hebert Stuart and the returning Astorians passed there on 7 August 1812. Washington Irving describes it in these words: in traversing this Grande Ronde plain, they passed close to the skirts of the hilts a great pool of water three hundred yards in circumference fed by a sulphur spring, about to feet in diameter, boiling up in one corner. The vapor from this pool was extremely noisome, and tainted the air for a considerable distance. The place was much frequented by elk, which were found in considerable numbers in the adjacent mountains, and their horns, shed in the springtime, were strewed in every direction around the pond."

     When the wagon trains first came into the Grande Ronde Valley all of that part from Hot Lake to what is now the town of Union was a lake of water until late in the summer. Here was a favorite resting place for birds of many kinds. Sandhill cranes, wild geese and wild ducks were there in numbers almost unimaginable today. Many of the early settlers supplied themselves with flocks of wild geese to furnish the soft downy feathers for bedding. When the time of year came for the wild geese in move to the South, those that had been captured wanted to go with the hands. To prevent this, one wing was taken off each bird at the first joint, and they were then unable to fly.

Contributed by: Jim Reavis

Union County



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