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Five of Nevada’s finest state parks make Lincoln County a must-visit destination.
Photo: Dave Harrison (Cathedral Gorge State Park)
The most remote of Lincoln County’s five state parks, Beaver Dam State Park sits near the Nevada-Utah line 34 miles east of Caliente via mostly dirt roads. Although Beaver Dam is open year-round, winter travel is not advised due to the varying conditions of the road and the park’s isolation.
As the name suggests, numerous beaver dams along the park’s streams are a popular draw, as well as camping, fishing, hiking, photography, picnicking, and nature study amid the park’s deep canyons and juniper and piñon forests.
A reservoir existed in the park from 1961 until 2005, when flooding destabilized the dam and the Nevada Department of Wildlife removed it out of concern for public safety. The area around the old dam site offers an interesting perspective on natural re-vegetation processes as it returns to its pre-reservoir state.
Three campgrounds offer 33 campsites with fire pits, picnic tables, parking pads, and nearby water hydrants and toilets. Some of the sites are suitable for trailers up to 20 feet long (longer trailers are not advised on the narrow, winding dirt road to the park).
Beaver Dam State Park
PO Box 176, Panaca, NV 89042
CATHEDRAL GORGE STATE PARK
It’s no wonder that the towering erosion-carved walls and cathedral-shaped spires of Cathedral Gorge State Park have been compared to Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. One of Nevada’s four original state parks when the program was started in 1935, Cathedral Gorge has long been a favorite scenic getaway. Photography is one of the park’s most popular activities, and some of the best photos lie along the four-mile loop trail that meanders through the majestic canyon.
A campground, in the southern portion of the park about 15 miles north of Caliente, has drinking water, showers, flush toilets, and 22 developed sites with tables, grills, and shade structures. The scenic overlook at Miller Point is mere steps from U.S. Highway 93 and affords travelers with limited time the opportunity to take in the picturesque park. The park has appeared on the cover of Nevada Magazine four times.
Cathedral Gorge State Park
PO Box 176, Panaca, NV 89042
”It’s breathtaking; beautiful beyond compare,” [Mrs. Al Godbe] exclaimed, “and they call it a ‘gulch’! It’s one of God’s own Cathedrals—I shall think of it as ‘Cathedral Gorge.’”
“Lincoln County’s New Look”
Nevada Highways and Parks, No. 1 1957
ECHO CANYON STATE PARK
Following the completion of Echo Canyon Dam on the Meadow Valley Wash in 1970, the resulting reservoir and surrounding area were made into Echo Canyon State Park. About 13 miles east of Pioche via State Route 322 and Echo Dam Road, the park and reservoir are popular for boating, camping, fishing, and hiking.
Anglers ply the waters of Echo Canyon Reservoir for planted rainbow trout, bass, crappie, and the occasional German brown trout. The 2.5-mile Ash Canyon trail leads to the park’s backcountry, where many hikers choose to further explore the region’s unique geography—courtesy of volcanic activity tens of millions of years ago—off trail.
The park’s lakeside campground includes drinking water, flush toilets, and 33 sites, some of which can accommodate RVs. There is also an RV dump station.
Echo Canyon State Park
HC 74 Box 295, Pioche, NV 89043
KERSHAW-RYAN STATE PARK
When the Kershaw family of ranchers came to Nevada in the 1870s, they settled in a secluded canyon with an abundance of natural grape vines clinging to its walls and trees in its shaded bottom. The family planted many fruit trees and tended meticulously to the oasis and its spring-fed pond.
Today, their beautiful homestead continues to provide respite from the harsh desert elements as Kershaw-Ryan State Park, three miles south of Caliente.
The park and its peaceful, shady lawns are favored by families, picnickers, and campers, and a handful of hiking trails provide views of the canyon and surrounding countryside. The 15-site campground has a restroom, coin-operated showers, and an RV dump station.
Kershaw-Ryan State Park
PO Box 985, Caliente, NV 89008
SPRING VALLEY STATE PARK
Boating, fishing, and swimming at Eagle Valley Reservoir are the main draws to Spring Valley State Park, 20 miles east of Pioche via State Route 322. The historic Millet Ranch museum and nearby Stone Cabin offer out-of-water activities, and many visitors enjoy off-trail hikes around the reservoir.
Two campgrounds, Horsethief Gulch and Ranch Campground, offer a combined 44 sites with tables, grills, drinking water, and restrooms. Horsethief Gulch, the larger of the campgrounds, also has showers.
The 66-mile Mount Wilson Backcountry Byway, which includes State Route 322 from its intersection with U.S. Highway 93, past Echo Canyon State Park and through Spring Valley State Park, provides a scenic dirt-road drive amid iconic Great Basin terrain. Traveling north from Spring Valley, the byway passes the White Rock Range and Parsnip Peak Wildernesses before rejoining U.S. 93 at Pony Springs.
Spring Valley State Park
HC 74 Box 201, Pioche, NV 89043
An autumn cycling tour of four Lincoln County state parks.
Rides of 100-plus miles—typically called century rides—are a major accomplishment in the biking world, a coming-of-age if you will. Lincoln County’s Park-to-Park Pedal can help cyclists realize the dream of a triple-digit ride in some of the most scenic settings Nevada has to offer.
The October 8 event provides the chance to ride 103 miles through Kershaw-Ryan, Cathedral Gorge, Echo Canyon, and Spring Valley State Parks. If a century ride is outside of your ability or desire, Park-to-Park Pedal also offers a 38-mile, two-park loop between Kershaw-Ryan and Cathedral Gorge State Parks, and families will enjoy a short ride through Kershaw-Ryan State Park and colorful Rainbow Canyon.