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Old 01-16-2011, 07:54 PM
DakotaHawk's Avatar
DakotaHawk DakotaHawk is offline
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Arlington, WA
Posts: 800
Default Alvord Desert, OR

I've been reading on a couple of different sites about the Alvord Desert in Southern Oregon.

The Alvord Desert playa, which can be either wet or dry depending on the time of year, is one of the largest playas in Oregon?six miles wide and 11 miles long. Tens of thousands of years ago, a lake almost 200 feet deep covered the Alvord Desert and extended southward into Nevada. The old shoreline forms terraces along the edge of the valley, and deep under the desert floor are the same lava flows that make up the top of Steens Mountain
I did a search on VAF for "Alvord" and only got four hits on the location.

Has anyone ever flown in here? I was thinking about flying in/camping there sometime this summer. Any suggestions?
Scott "Grumpy" Stewart
RV-7 N957RV (First Flight on Dec 18, 2009)
RV-14 N144P (Empennage complete, wings almost complete, fuselage almost complete)
#866 on the Van's RV-7 hobbs
#6563 on Van's generic hobbs
Arlington, WA
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Old 01-16-2011, 08:03 PM
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BSwayze BSwayze is offline
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Molalla, Oregon
Posts: 955


I can only relay this to you second-hand, but my friend Kevin Lane told me about flying in there with his RV-6A. Do you know him? He's here in the Portland area. You might call him and ask him about his experiences.
Bruce Swayze
RV-7A Standard Build
First flight November 3, 2019!
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:05 PM
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Greg Arehart Greg Arehart is offline
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Delta, CO/Atlin, BC
Posts: 2,420


I've not landed there, but have flown over the Alvord a couple times and around that area. Big flat spot from the air. Like a lot of playas, one has to carefully select a landing spot because of 1) soft places (read: mud at certain times of year) and 2) a lot of playas have small ephemeral streams running into and part way across them. Although the relief on these is generally small, they can be large enough to cause landing issues with small tires (and even some big tires). Oh, and if you get stuck there for whatever reason, its a long walk out. With those caveats, I think it would be great fun to fly in there and land.

Greg Arehart
RV-9B (Big tires) Tipup @AJZ or CYSQ
N 7965A
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:45 PM
Joel Joel is offline
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Posts: 94

Scott, backcountry pilot,, has several posts regarding Alvord Desert. If you try it, make sure you have someone back you up in something with fat tires.

I don't remember who posted where, but it supposedly can be VERY serene out there at night.
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Old 01-16-2011, 10:29 PM
Lars Lars is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Davis, CA
Posts: 1,176

I haven't flown over it, but I've driven on it. I'd recommend sticking with landings on obvious tire tracks. The surface can look great, the soft stuff under the crust can be pretty grim.

That said, the Alvord has some fantastic hot springs, and I'd guess it would be entirely practical to land at some of them.
Lars Pedersen
Davis, CA
RV-7 Flying as of June 24, 2012
960+ hours as of June 30, 2020. Where did the time go?
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Old 01-17-2011, 08:10 AM
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638RS 638RS is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Portland, OR
Posts: 270

Willamette valley soaring takes gliders and tow planes to the Alvord dessert for two weeks every summer. You can read about their last trip here.
Portland, OR RV-7A
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Old 01-17-2011, 08:43 AM
Danny7 Danny7 is offline
Join Date: May 2008
Location: central oregon
Posts: 1,089

I know some guys that have landed there, i could ask them about it at the next EAA meeting if i make it there. I don't think it would be safe to land there for several months due to the rain we've been getting, even though that is the desert area. (i'm in bend on the edge of the rain shadow- 2 miles west ponderosa, 2 miles east sagebrush and juniper).
nothing special here...
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Old 01-17-2011, 09:09 AM
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mculver mculver is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Redmond, WA
Posts: 269

Go to and search for Alvord. A number of people have camped there with their planes.
-- Mike Culver;
RV-9 project sold but details of the build at
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Old 01-17-2011, 10:15 AM
Lars Lars is offline
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Davis, CA
Posts: 1,176

Originally Posted by mculver View Post
Go to and search for Alvord. A number of people have camped there with their planes.
Ooohh. Thanks for posting that. I'd never seen that site before; bookmarked under "travel"
Lars Pedersen
Davis, CA
RV-7 Flying as of June 24, 2012
960+ hours as of June 30, 2020. Where did the time go?
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Old 01-17-2011, 10:36 AM
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JoeBlank JoeBlank is offline
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Molalla, Oregon (KOL05)
Posts: 529
Default Been there, done that....

Highly recomended. But save it for July-October timeframe as the lakebed is probably too soft or awash right now. I typically try to plan it for late summer when there is high pressure dominating the area. Otherwise you risk some honking winds there. Fly a 3 or 4 leg pattern over the lakebed to estimate winds from your GPS groundspeed, prior to picking a landing direction.

We usually land near the west side just south of where the stream outflows on to the lakebed. There are hot springs/tubs there that can be used if you are game. Camp right there on the playa...

I have a Google Earth KML file but I can't figure out how to attach it...
Joe Blank
Advanced Flight Systems

Van's Aircraft Inc. Technical Support-Retired
EAA Tech Counselor & Flight Advisor

Last edited by JoeBlank : 01-17-2011 at 12:00 PM.
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