Cathedral Gorge State Park is located north of Caliente near Panaca, NV and is about 2.5 hours north of Las Vegas off of Hwy 93--The Great Basin Highway. It is a high desert park in eastern Nevada comprising 1,608 acres.
The landscape at Cathedral Gorge is very unique. It has been shaped by the erosion of soft shale and mudstone by rainwater flowing into the seasonal Meadow Valley Wash. Erosion in the area has created various formations, called panaca formations, that can be found throughout the park. In 1924 the area was set aside for protection and officially became a state park in 1935.
When we visited, we spent hours exploring the cave-like formations and cathedral-like spires. I actually had the unique experience of an owl falling on my head. I'm not quite sure what happened, but I think we must of spooked an owl and he somehow fell into the chamber I was in. I heard a strange noise above me and when I looked up there was an owl floating down toward me. I think since the chamber was so small the owl couldn't get any lift to fly. His wings were spread so he wasn't falling very fast, but I couldn't get out of the way and it landed on my head. It then took off and flew over Dan's head and out through the maze on caverns. It appeared to be fine and it didn't look like it hit anything other than my head when it fell toward the earth--it actually didn't even hit my head that hard, but I felt it's talons kind of grip my head then push off to fly--what a crazy experience!
A bit more on the geology of the park from Nevada State Parks:
"The spires and buff-colored cliffs are the result of geologic processes occurring over tens of millions of years. The beauty enjoyed today had violent beginnings, starting with explosive volcanic activity that, with each eruption, deposited layers of ash hundreds of feet thick. The source of this ash, the Caliente Caldera Complex, lies to the south of Cathedral Gorge.
About five million years after the eruptions ceased, block faulting, a fracture in the bedrock that allows the two sides to move opposite each other, shaped the mountains and valleys prevalent in Nevada today. This faulting formed a depression, now known as Meadow Valley.
Over time, the depression filled with water creating a freshwater lake. Continual rains eroded the exposed ash and pumice left from the volcanic activity, and the streams carried the eroded sediment into the newly formed lake.
The formations, made of silt, clay and volcanic ash, are the remnants of that lake. As the landscape changed and more block faulting occurred, water drained from the lake exposing the volcanic ash sediments to the wind and rain, causing erosion of the soft material called bentonite clay." ~Nevada State Parks.
Animals that you might see at Cathedral Gorge State Park are small mammals including, black-tailed jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits, coyote, kit foxes, packrats, kangaroo rats, mice and gophers. You may also see deer venturing into the gorge during the late fall and winter. Birds are common, around the campgrounds and in shrubby areas and you may see kestrels and small hawks, roadrunners, sapsuckers and black-throated sparrows, to name a few. Migratory birds include tanagers, cedar waxwings, warblers, bluebirds, and hummingbirds. Several species of lizards and snakes can be found throughout the park, and in the summer, the Great Basin rattlesnake may be found. As for plants, it is likely that you'll see narrow-leaf yucca, juniper, barberry, sagebrush, greasewood, shadscale, four-winged saltbush and rabbitbrush.
If you would like to see more pictures of Cathedral Gorge State Park, please visit our landscape gallery and click on the link for Cathedral Gorge.
Follow us on these social media sites:
The Basin and Range Project
We love the Basin and Range region and work to promote appreciation and respect for the area. We encourage all users to learn about, play in and protect this amazing resource.
We currently focus primarily on issues in the Nevada region of the Basin and Range, but are looking to expand soon.