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.
Not everyone has the courage to explore these macabre destinations. Do you?More