Cathedral Gorge State Park, situated in Lincoln County,  Nevada, is an expansive area of approximately 1,800 acres (730 ha) that offers both public recreation and geological preservation. The park showcases a breathtaking landscape characterized by eroded soft bentonite clay. Positioned at the west end of State Route 319, just two miles (3.2 km) northwest of Panaca, the site has been a favorite destination for local picnickers since the nineteenth century, when it bore the name Cathedral Gulch.

In the 1920s, the park’s striking typography served as a backdrop for outdoor performances and annual Easter ceremonies. Recognizing its natural beauty, Governor James Scrugham initiated efforts to acquire and protect the area in 1924. These efforts culminated in its designation as one of Nevada’s original state parks in 1935. Cathedral Gorge’s distinctive spires and bluff-colored cliffs are the result of millions of years of geological processes. The region experienced volcanic activity that deposited layers of ash, forming unique patterns within the malleable bentonite clay.

After a series of intense eruptions, the bedrock fractured, resulting in a shifting fault. This faulting gave rise to Meadow Valley, which gradually filled with water, forming a freshwater lake. Over time, as the lake receded, erosion exposed remnants of ash and pumice from ancient volcanic events. Today, Cathedral Gorge showcases the remnants of this prehistoric lake, as well as the ongoing influence of weather events. Whenever rainstorms pass through the region, the slot canyon walls composed of Bentonite Clay become soft and impressionable, constantly reshaping themselves.

While early settlers were attracted to the area in the late 1800s primarily for mining and agriculture, it was the rise of the automobile in the 1920s that propelled Cathedral Gorge into prominence. The unique landscape drew numerous visitors who sought hiking opportunities, picnics, and open-air shows. In 1935, Cathedral Gorge was officially designated as one of Nevada’s first four state parks, thanks in part to the contributions of the Civilian Conservation Corps. During that period, the CCC also constructed nearby Kershaw-Ryan and Beaver Dam. The park’s amenities, including stone masoned fire pits, a distinct shade ramada, a photogenic water tower, and restrooms, were added by the CCC in the 1930s and continue to enhance visitors’ experiences to this day.

Cathedral Gorge State Park
111 Cathedral Gorge State Park Rd.
Panaca, NV 89042
(775) 728-4460

This page was copied from the Nevada Lifestyle Lincoln County Magazines 2024 Edition for your enjoyment… to enjoy the full online edition, please visit here – Thank you