By Gina Smith
May 02, 2012

Many Lincoln County residents drive hundreds of miles to enjoy camping, fishing, hiking and other outdoor fun.

But residents don’t need to cross state, or even county, boundaries to have an outdoor adventure.

The county has five state parks, each unique in its own way, where even a lifelong resident of Lincoln County can come tour and see and learn new things.  The parks include a local staff more than eager to help visitors make their stay as enjoyable as possible.

Spring Valley State Park

Spring Valley State Park

So let’s take a little tour, starting with Spring Valley State Park. Located 20 miles east of Pioche via State Route 322, the park features a dock for boats as well as a fishing dock. The vast mountain side provides a beautiful scene to enjoy while you fish or sit and have lunch at one of the nearby picnic tables.

After a long day of fishing, you can relax and cook up your catch by camping at Horsethief Gulch Campground, which is across the road from the lake. A local legend says that after thieves stole the horses, they would take them to the canyon to hide, hence the name of the campground.

Next is Echo Canyon State Park, located by State routes 322 and 323, 12 miles east of Pioche. This park also features great fishing. The smell of pine trees that surround the campsite makes for a peaceful, relaxing atmosphere. The park features an outdoor amphitheater. Nearby, Ash Canyon Trail allows people to explore the area and enjoy panoramic views.

South of Pioche and right before Panaca on Highway 93 is Cathedral Gorge State Park. This state park is one of unique beauty. Miller Point gives you a top side view of slot canyons that make up Cathedral Gorge. In fact, you can hike from Miller Point and ultimately end up in the park at the other end of the trail. The slot canyons were created by water and wind erosion. Great for hiking in and out of, the hiker feels a drastic temperature change inside the canyons.

One never knows what he or she will find in the park. This reporter found a very protective raven guarding its nest (see video below at the 1:35 mark), and it was not too pleased to have visitors.

View from within a slot canyon at Cathedral Gorge State Park

View from within a slot canyon at Cathedral Gorge State Park

Cathedral Gorge is also the site of a water tower that the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built and used when constructing the park in the 1930’s. Camping, horseshoes and volleyball are also available at the park. There is also a gift shop and visitor center.

If you are in the mood to truly get away from it all, then Beaver Dam is the place for you. This park is a 30 mile drive down a dirt road near the Nevada-Utah border. Just when you truly feel you don’t know how much farther you can go, you see the sign to the park turn-off. Not even cell phone service is available at this remote park.

Great fishing and trails for exploration, rock formations from years of volcanic ash, and complete quietness and serenity await. Beaver Dam gets its name from the beavers that are residents and build their dams in the area. Walking along the beautiful waterfall trail, you will see obvious signs of beavers busy at work gnawing on and collapsing trees for their homes.

Other wildlife include large lizards and beautiful flowers and plant life grow abundantly at this park.

The fifth and final State Park in Lincoln County is Kershaw-Ryan State Park. This park is a short drive from Caliente. It often is known as an “oasis in the desert” because of the greenery that grows amidst the surrounding, dry landscape.

Kershaw Ryan State Park

Kershaw Ryan State Park

Like Cathedral, Kershaw also has an original structure, an outhouse, from the CCC camp that helped build the parks. This park has a volleyball court and a horseshoe pit. It also has a wading pool and playground for kids. Additionally, Kershaw-Ryan features a campground and hiking on a variety of trails, ranging from shorter to longer hikes. One trail leads you to an overlook of the park, while another takes you to a spectacular view of the canyon.

Recently, the parks ranger, Jonathan Brunjes, moved on to a new position. He had been with the park for three years. The Brunjes family not only maintained the park, but also made the it fun with a Christmas lights celebration and transformed the grounds into a Halloween spook spot. Many in the community will miss the energy and enthusiasm they brought to the park.

For geocaching enthusiasts, there are several sites around the five state parks hidden for you to find. One, hidden by Cody Christensen, as he reports, is an especially challenging find.

Parks interpreter Dawn Andone encourages anyone who would like to volunteer for the parks to do so. “We are always looking for volunteers,” she said. “If anyone would like to work at the visitor center or help with gardening or weeding tasks at any of the parks, they are always welcome.”

Andone added, “If someone has expertise in public speaking or hiking where they could take visitors, they are welcome to come and assist with those kinds of things.”

So if you want to save some miles on the odometer this summer, come experience and enjoy one of these State Parks in our county.