A surprising forestry gem on the outskirts of Caliente, Kershaw-Ryan State Park is a sharp contrast to its surrounding rugged low desert landscape. Natural springs trickle through the lush grounds, feeding wild grapevines, fruit orchards and rose gardens. But how appropriate—considering Caliente’s nickname is “Nevada’s Rose City”, amed after the wild roses growing throughout the region. Aside from creating a lush, green getaway, the natural cold springs in the park feed a small pool and koi pond.
As the ultimate adventure basecamp, hike the park’s short but spectacularly scenic trails that bring you up and out of this desert oasis to a ridgeline with amazing perspective of Rainbow Canyon below. Or, embrace the newly established Barnes Canyon Mountain Biking Trails system that runs adjacent to the Park itself before returning to the Kershaw-Ryan campground and cold springs for the night.
EARLY DAYS IN RAINBOW CANYON
Originally settled in the 1870s, pioneers Samuel and Hannah Kershaw were drawn to the canyon for its natural lushness. As the natural springs served as an irrigation system, the Kershaw’s were able to cultivate fruit orchards within the canyon itself—many of which can still be found in the area to this day. By the early 1900s, a man named James Ryan purchased the property from the Kershaw’s. Rumor has it that he never actually lived within the canyon, but was interested in getting ahold of the land to preserve its natural beauty and serenity for future generations to enjoy.
In the late 1920s, Ryan was finally able to see his master plan come to fruition after donating the land to the Nevada State Parks system. With the help of the Civilian Conservation Corps, it became one of Nevada’s first four state parks, along with Valley of Fire, Beaver Dam and Cathedral Gorge. During this time, they constructed campsites, picnic tables, restrooms, and even the wading pool that still remains at Kershaw-Ryan today.
VISITING KERSHAW-RYAN STATE PARK TODAY
The 700-foot colorful canyon walls that house Kershaw-Ryan State Park are completely stunning, and a remnant of millions of years in the making. Lava and ash erupting from ancient volcanoes laid the groundwork for these colorful rock formations, while the water from the natural springs (and rivers that no longer exist in the region) forged deep channels within the rock, creating the striking canyon you see today. The natural springs can be seen oozing from the back of the canyon walls, and interestingly enough, from fountain-esque receptacles the CCC created in the 1930s. The springs here are so pure, they require no filtration whatsoever and are used to naturally irrigate the Park’s gardens, wading pool and Koi fish ponds. First-timers visiting the park are amazed by the prolific growth of trees, vines and wildflowers, offering a shady respite to the desert adventurer.
The park has recently undergone a campground facelift, with a 15-unit campground with a restroom, coin-operated showers and an RV dump station. Each site is equipped with a shade ramada, picnic table, fire ring and grill. While visiting the park, be sure to take advantage of a lush park, tables and large grills, group shelters, the Overlook Hiking Trail, horseshoe pits, and volleyball courts.
The climate within this southeastern section of Nevada is diverse, ranging from the mid 40s to subzero temps in the winter months, to the high 90s in the summertime. Monthly rainfall averages less than an inch, but during the monsoon months of July and August, afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurence and are responsible for flash flooding, both historically speaking and currently. Take caution while hiking the canyon trails during July and August, and for the most up to date information on trails and visiting the park in general, be sure to check with a ranger.
ADMISSION AND FEES
Admission to Kershaw-Ryan State Park is $5.00. Camping is $15.00 per night and offered on a first-come, first-served basis—sites may not be reserved. For the most up to date information on hours, campsite availability and entry fees, please click here.
Kershaw-Ryan State Park is located an easy 3 miles from downtown Caliente, via the Great Basin Highway and State Route 317. All access roads are paved entirely.