Touring Highway 395 through the north end of the Great Basin Desert in Oregon certainly is a visual experience like no other! This is a very desolate region and the remoteness has a way of limiting the number of visitors. The gas stations are few and far between, while modern accommodations are even less likely to be encountered. The Great Basin in Oregon is as pristine as can be, so there is no better setting for viewing wildlife. Lake Abert is one of the best spots for doing some serious birdwatching and this destination is an interesting earth science study in itself.
Lake Abert is located between the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and the Fremont National Forest. Mountains can be seen in the distance and evidence of ancient volcanic upheavals is all around. One side of Lake Abert borders upon towering bluffs, while the other side of the lake is flat enough to stretch out forever. This is quite a beautiful setting, so be sure to plan on spending some extra time in this place, especially since the drive will be a long one, no matter where a visitor comes from.
Lake Abert is a natural body of water that has its origins in ancient times when this end of the Great Basin Desert was basically a large body of water called Lake Chewaucan. As the ancient lake that was the size of an ocean dried up, fair size lakes, swamps and lush green growth took its place. Eventually as the land mass arose, this lush savannah turned into the desert environment that is seen today.
Just like with so many other lakes in the Great Basin Desert, water depletion is becoming worse as time moves on and Laker Abert is definitely drying up. This lake still looks like a big blue spot on a map, but the shoreline is much smaller in real life. In fact, the water is so shallow in some parts of this lake that it looks like a beach that stretches out forever. How long it will be before Lake Abert completely dries up is anybody's guess, but judging by the global warming trend, it would not be wise to delay planning a trip too far into the future.
Birds of all kinds enjoy wading and lazing in the shallow Lake Abert water during the hot summer season and during autumn this is a migratory bird sanctuary. Everything from seagulls and pelicans to cormorants and ibis can be seen in these waters. A wide variety of waterfowl pass through too and raptors can be seen hunting in the valley. If you happen to be into bird photography, Lake Abert definitely is a place where lugging a big telephoto lens and a tripod along for the ride will be well worth the effort!
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