Lincoln County is home to five Nevada State Parks, each with their own separate beauties and attributes: Beaver Dam, Cathedral Gorge, Echo Canyon, Kershaw-Ryan and Spring Valley.
For those who call Lincoln County home, they are a valuable resource, creating revenue and providing residents with historic, geographic, and scientific education while being entertained by the wilderness lifestyle. For nonresidents, it provides an escape from city-life with the beautifully calm scenery in an adventurous ghost-town-like atmosphere.
All the parks are located off the Great Basin Highway, or U.S. Highway 93, and are equipped for camping, picnicking, trails and nature studies, and are pet-friendly. Their similarities end there, however, as a trip to the parks will prove that they each have their own specialties and attractions for visitors.
The beautiful Beaver Dam State Park received its name quite fittingly as beavers lived in the land, and the dams they created provided swimming and fishing holes for residents and visitors. However, flooding in 2005 caused structural damage to the stability of the dam, and it had to be removed. Natural flowing water is still there, and the park offers fishing, as the streams are stocked with rainbow trout by the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), and even has a highlighted waterfall trail hike available. For geocachers who trek the waterfall hike, a special point of interest awaits at the end of the near-mile hike.
Visitors can catch a glimpse of the natural wildlife found there: mule deer, cottontail and jack rabbits, porcupines, turkeys, great blue herons, bull frogs, lizards, and snakes. With lavish foliage and an almost rainforest-like surrounding, the park offers two campgrounds, a group area with enough table space for 60 people, horseshoe pits, and a firepit and picnic table at each campsite. The maximum size RV space available is 28 feet. A short trail will take visitors to a primitive campground area where fishing and hiking are offered, as well as a place to pitch a tent for overnight stays.
The park is located 28 miles off of U.S. Hwy 93, down a graded dirt road. The road is maintained throughout the year, but for wet weather seasons with rain and snow, four-wheel drive and high-clearance vehicles are the preferred safe method of travel. ATV trails have not officially been designated, so it is asked that all ATVs are trucked in and out of Beaver Dam State Park during a stay.
The park covers 5,500 acres, making it the largest of the state parks in the county, and borders Utah. The elevation is around 5,000 feet. Summer highs and lows are 95 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. During winter, highs and lows reach 45 and 25 degrees. Temps can drop below zero at times.
Cathedral Gorge State Park is located just north of Panaca, and is quite a popular tourist attraction for Europeans. It is the only state park in Lincoln County with its own visitor?s center that equips travelers with all of the parks? basic information, souvenirs, snacks, and restrooms. Showers are offered at the main campground, and the park offers an RV dump station. RVs up to 40 feet can fit into the campsites. There are 22 campsites, and each has its own table, grill and shade ramada. Facilities next to the campsites offer larger shade areas, grills and water.
The park is unique to others in Lincoln County because of its extreme carved cliffs and canyons. Visitors can go through the Canyon and Cathedral Caves, marked by a trail head. Miller?s Point is a scenic overlook at the end of one of the trails, and offers a trek through the canyons as well as magnificent views from above.
Special events are always offered at Cathedral Gorge. Every year, the park puts on a Dutch Oven Cook-Off that is open to the public. During astronomical events, such as the eclipses that occurred in 2012, schools and universities from Las Vegas and Utah are known to drive to the Gorge and Miller?s Point to view the event, or to capture the vastness of the night-time sky without interruptions and distortion from city lights.
Cathedral Gorge was one of the first four original state parks in Nevada, created in 1935. This park is unique because of its geographical and historical foundation. Violent volcanic activity, erosion and sedimentary, and shifting plates all helped in creating the natural beauty we see today. It features some of the county?s best hiking trails and offers a multi-use trail for hiking, horse riding or mountain biking.
Echo Canyon State Park is one of the two state parks in the northern part of Lincoln County, with a 35-acre reservoir stocked with rainbow trout and largemouth bass for anglers pleasure. A fish-cleaning station is also offered, and swimming is allowed.
Every year, Spring Valley and Echo Canyon State Parks host a fishing derby, offering anglers their chance to catch a tagged fish worth $50,000. A boat launch is offered at Echo Canyon along the north shore of the reservoir, but during summer months, the water level drops and boats must be launched from shore. This state park is 1,800 acres, has 33 available campsites, fitting in 35-foot RVs, and 20 units have full utility hookups available. Elevation varies from 5,200 feet to 5,600 feet. The summer high and low temperatures are 85 degrees and 54 degrees, respectively, and monsoons are common during July and August. During the winter, temperatures get to 40 degrees during the day, and into the low teens at night, with occasional snowfall. The campgrounds offer restrooms and drinking water. Echo Canyon also offers a moderate hike, the Ash Canyon trail, which takes visitors into the park?s backcountry. The trail is 2.5 miles long, and climbs 300 feet in the first ? mile, before descending into Ash Canyon, which debuts its steep-sided walls. Numbered posts go along with a brochure that outlines more information throughout the trail.
Spring Valley State Park is the highest-elevated of Lincoln County?s state parks, with the elevation of the reservoir at 5,836 feet. The 59-acre reservoir was named after the town by where it was located, Eagle Valley. Here, fishing is a main attraction, along with the more historic sites, such as Horsethief Gulch, the Ranch Campground, George Washington Rock, and the rustic Stone Cabin. Spring Valley State Park offers showers, and two campsites with tables, grills, and shade ramadas, restrooms, and water. More primitive restrooms are found at the Ranch Campground, two miles north of the main campground at Horsethief Gulch. RVs up to 35 feet can fit the campsites.
The boat launch at Eagle Valley Reservoir is located on the south shore, next to the day-use picnic area, and offers a ramp, dock and temporary docking slips. The park sees a large number of anglers and swimmers. During the winter months, the reservoir freezes over and offers ice fishing. Sometime between January and February, the reservoir hosts the Ice Hole Golf Tournament, where a small course has been chiseled and paved on the ice. Golfers use regular putters and green tennis balls. Holes are cut about six inches deep into the ice. Each year, the course gets more features and obstacles added to it, and last year?s event including ice billiards.
If you visit the Spring Valley or Echo Canyon State Parks, be sure to stop by the Eagle Valley Resort, the only store located in the area. However, no gas is sold at Eagle Valley, so it is advised that visitors gas up in Pioche before making the trip.
Kershaw-Ryan State Park is located in Rainbow Canyon near Caliente and has picture-perfect features at its location. Kershaw?s lush growing season sets this park alone from any other. The name derives from the two big surrounding ranch owners, the Kershaws, who sold their property to James Ryan, one of the largest cattle ranch owners in the area. The Ryans donated land to the state to use as a public park, and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), who are responsible for building much of the earlier state parks in Lincoln County, added facilities such as campsites, toilets, a caretaker?s cabin and a wading pond. In 1935, the state designated it as a state park. Floods in the mid-80s destroyed a good portion of the original facilities, which caused the park to shut down for repairs. It reopened in 1997 to the public.
Kershaw-Ryan provides a great resource to the residents of Caliente and the rest of Lincoln County. The park is actively involved in the community, offering a haunted trail hike during Halloween. The Lincoln County High School Drama Club comes into the canyon, sets out corners of the trails for their big scenes, and spook the visitors as they go through an easy hike. Kershaw-Ryan also holds an annual Winter Wonderland toy drive during December to gather gifts for underprivileged children. During Memorial Day weekend, it hosts the annual volleyball and horseshoe tournaments for Caliente?s Homecoming celebration. In October, it is the starting and ending location of the Park to Park Pedal: Nevada Extreme 100 bike ride that takes bicyclists down U.S. Hwy 93, from the county?s southernmost park to their northernmost park.
Only three miles away from Caliente, the park will see an increase in tourism once the state repairs SR 317, which is currently labeled closed. The road is drivable, and leads out to the Historic Elgin Schoolhouse. However, because no one traverses SR 317, the school house is closed.
The pavilion at Kershaw-Ryan is the main attraction for visitors, and is also visited frequently by European travelers. The canyon is normally cooler by quite a few degrees, and the small wading pool offers children a fun time. The park is saturated with plants in full bloom during the spring and summer seasons, and offers a great reception area for weddings, family reunions, company picnics, and the like.
The campsites are new at Kershaw-Ryan. Only three years old, the park is doing everything they can to make it a place that people want to camp at. Shade trees have been planted along the campsites that will grow to provide adequate shade coverage. A vineyard has been started also. And flush restrooms and hot showers are also available.
The smallest of the parks in Lincoln County, Kershaw-Ryan can fit RVs up to 30 feet. The hiking trails are easy to moderate, and will take you up along the canyon to overlook the entire park. The park has just qualified to receive grant funding for trail heads to be installed along the hiking trail that will offer education on the different shrubbery, habitats, landmarks and wildlife.
With breathtaking views, and plants that make you forget you?re in a desert, this park is a must-see for anyone traveling through Lincoln County.
No matter what you?re interested in, the state parks in Lincoln County offer a little bit of something to everyone who comes this way. Only three hours north of Las Vegas, and anywhere from two to three hours west of Cedar City and Saint George, Utah, travellers have a great opportunity to enjoy parks rich in nature, history and culture.