Lake Abert

Greg Burke

In the southeastern corner of Oregon, a hidden wonder shimmers — Lake Abert.

When full, Lake Abert covers 65 square miles and is the sixth largest lake in Oregon. It is as shallow as it is broad, just 5 feet deep on average. It is the only hypersaline lake in Oregon, and one of just three hypersaline lakes in the U.S.

Lake Abert provides a crucial pitstop for migratory birds that traverse the Pacific Flyway and replenish their energy by feasting on the alkali flies and brine shrimp that are adapted to live in this hypersaline environment. With huge flocks of shorebirds, waterbirds and waterfowl all congregating here at once, it can be a pretty raucous place during the spring and fall migration. 

Download the Lake Abert Avian Species Checklist

Located midway between the present-day towns of Burns and Lakeview, the Lake Abert area also boasts of a long history of use by Indigenous people. Artifacts, settlements, and petroglyphs dating back thousands of years found near the lake challenge the current understanding of the culture of the Chewaucan people.

 

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The Land Between: The Greater Hart-Sheldon Region

The Land Between: The Greater Hart-Sheldon Region

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Michelle Frisella, member since 2017

Michelle Frisella, member since 2017

So proud of ONDA and its members and volunteers. Such hard work gets done. To use an overused word, this is patriotism!

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Aaron Tani, Sage Society Member

Aaron Tani, Sage Society Member

“It feels good to support ONDA on a monthly basis, because I know they never stop supporting our public lands. ONDA works to help make our lands a better place for the future, and I feel like I’m a part of that every month with my support.”

Wilson's phalaropes

J. Hertz

A Balance Upset

Two invertebrates are able to tolerate the salinity of Lake Abert — the alkali fly (Ephydra hians) and brine shrimp (Artemia franciscana) — but only when water salinity levels are between 3 and 8%. When salinity drops below or rises above that threshold, the fly and shrimp populations plummet due to inhospitable conditions. 

Since these two species serve as the main source of food for migrating birds, reductions in brine shrimp or alkali fly abundance create a major disruption along the Pacific Flyway. 

Unfortunately, water withdrawals, reservoir construction and drought have reduced water flow into the lake, increasing its salinity or drying up the lake altogether. With the food gone, migratory birds can no longer stop at this lake to replenish their energy.

Saving Lake Abert

Lake Abert is an indispensable ecosystem where birdwatchers and nature lovers have appreciated the wonders of the salt lake for decades. But the future of this lake is at risk. 

Although Lake Abert and the adjacent Abert Rim are identified by the Bureau of Land Management as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, the lake itself does not have any water rights so upstream withdrawals from the Chewaucan River, can leave the lake with little or no water, especially during drought years.

Long-term conservation, management and restoration of the unique habitat at Lake Abert requires a deep understanding of its hydrology, biology and ecology. It also requires the state of Oregon to improve water management, measurement, and regulation, and for local, regional and national stakeholders to work together to ensure the lake is provided the water it needs to thrive.

Ron Larson

A Drying, Shrinking Lake

Lake Abert’s delicate ecosystem depends on consistent and reliable fresh water inputs to maintain optimal salinity to support a complex food web that feeds the abundant birdlife at the lake. […]

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Ron Larson

Saving Lake Abert

Lake Abert — and the birds that depend on it — is under constant threat as the ongoing drought exacerbates the impacts of poor water management, resulting in reduced inflows […]

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Abert Rim and Abert Lake June 2018

Lake Abert Storybook

Lake Abert is a rich ecosystem teeming with life. See more images of this incredible saline environment in our storybook.

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