The high desert is filled with many surprises.

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A flash of blue that streaked across the black and gray lava rocks of Jordan Craters immediately caught my attention.

The last thing I expected to see at Jordan Craters in Southeast Oregon was a bluebird. The birds were seeking shelter in the craggy lichen-covered holes in the lava cliffs.

The high desert is filled with many surprises. As you know from past outdoor spotlights, I spend a lot of time in the desert in the spring. Last week I wrote about back roads across the great expanse of Southwest Idaho and Southeast Oregon. This week let’s focus on a particular area off one of those roads — Jordan Craters.

The 27-square-mile lava flow is a huge black spot on the green-brown desert about 80 miles from Treasure Valley. It’s a must see in spring.

As you approach Jordan Craters, you’ll see Coffeepot Crater, a deep cavity at the far northeast of the flow. It is the main area to explore. Walking in and around Coffeepot you’ll see side pits, tubes and caves that look like the surface of the moon. From the parking area there’s a straightforward loop trail around the rim so that you can look 150 feet down into the crater.

Getting there: Drive U.S. 95 south of Marsing. The turnoff to Jordan Craters is on the right, just about 8 miles before Jordan Valley. Follow the gravel road for 11.5 miles to a fork. Keep right. Drive about 7 miles to another fork. Go left onto a rougher dirt road. Stay left at another fork in roughly 6 miles. After about a mile and a half, fork left again. Drive to the end of the road to a parking area. You will see Coffeepot Crater in front of you. The road down the hill into Jordan Craters is best suited for four-wheel-drive vehicles or SUV drivers with clearance. This road is not good enough to be traveling after even a quarter inch of rain.

Be surprised in the desert at the craters.

Pete has been writing about the outdoors in Idaho and the Northwest for decades. Give him a shout at

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