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USA: Nevada: Carson City, Cathedral Gorge, Ely, Great Basin, Hoover Dam - Lake Mead, Lake Tahoe, Las Vegas, Lehman Caves, Primm, Red Rock Canyon, Reno, Virginia City
Cathedral Gorge, Nevada, USA: Spires & Cliffs
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
First glance at the majestic Cathedral Gorge State Park’s spires and buff coloured cliffs reminds visitors of Bryce Canyon but on a smaller scale. Close to 2000 acres of land that was once home to the Fremont, Anasazi and Southern Paiutes is now a State Park.
I was in Henderson, Nevada for a business conference. After the show, I was the guest of Nevada Commission on Tourism who would take us around for the next 3 days to see a few of the State’s Parks. Contrary to popular beliefs, Nevada is indeed a State of Parks & scenic beauty. It has 25 State Parks, 5 National Parks over 300 mountains! The State is also home to over 300 ghost towns.
We left our hotel, the Green Valley Ranch at 7AM. We were 13 trade delegates very well looked after by Connie Mancillas a member of the Nevada Commission on Tourism. We had a big bus from Lewis Stages Lines at our disposal, giving each one of us some extra room. We were in safe hands of our driver was Oscar Montegrano.
Taking the state highway 93, our first stop, a couple of hours away was at Windmill Ridge at Alamo. This was a breakfast stop which also gave us the opportunity to inspect western-themed cabins that comprise the lodging component at the stop.
With the Pahranagat Range to our left and the Delamar Mountains to our right, we continued our journey crossing the towns of Caliente and Panaca to reach the visitor centre of Cathedral Gorge State Park at around 11AM.
The spires and buff-coloured 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.
The park’s arid terrain, where wind and water erode rocks and soils at rapid rate prevents vegetations from growing on the slopes. The vegetation free slopes stand in stark contrast to the valley floor where primrose and Indian rice grass hold small sand dunes in place.
In the middle of the valley, clay, sand and gravel create a soil favoured by narrow leaf yucca, juniper trees, barberry sagebrush, greasewood, white sage, shad scale and four-winged saltbush. Rabbit brush grows in areas along the roadsides and walkways.
Wildlife include black-tailed jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, packrats, kangaroo rats, mice and gophers. Animals with more nocturnal habits, like mule deer, coyotes, kit foxes and skunks may be seen in the evening or early morning hours, but later in the day their tracks may be seen in the sand. Several species of non-poisonous lizards and snakes are abundant spring through fall and you may even spot a rattlesnake. Birds are plentiful, and it is common to see ravens, kestrels, robins, sapsuckers, flycatchers and sparrows around the park. You may even catch a glimpse of Nevada’s state bird, the Mountain Bluebird, a red-tailed hawk or golden eagle.
There are various trails in the park. We took a 20-minute trail that sort of cut-across the park to reach the Miller Point Overlook. As the name suggests, the point offers good views of the park as a whole.
To save on time, our bus had already reached Miller Point. With an hour well spent at the Cathedral Gorge State Park, we drove to our next destination – Ely.
Cathedral Gorge Image Gallery Photo viewer
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