Named after poet Robert Burns, this town was the unofficial capital of the 19th-century cattle empires that staked claims to these southeastern Oregon high-plateau grasslands. Today Burns is a working-class town of 2,800 residents, surrounded by the more than 10,000 square miles of sagebrush, rimrock, and grassy plains that compose Harney County, the 10th-largest county in the United States (it’s just a bit larger than all of Vermont). As the only place in the county with basic tourist amenities, Burns serves as a convenient stopover for many travelers. However, its usefulness as a source of modern convenience goes hand in hand with the sense that, unlike many of the region's smaller outposts, its Old West flavor has largely been lost. Rather than a final destination, think of Burns as a jumping-off point for exploring the poetry of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Steens Mountain, and the Alvord Desert. Outdoor recreation includes fishing, backpacking, camping, boating, and hiking.
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