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”, named after the wild roses growing throughout the region. Aside from creating a verdant getaway, the park’s cold springs also 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 an amazing perspective of Rainbow Canyon below. Or, embrace the newly established Barnes Canyon Mountain Biking Trails system that runs adjacent to the Nevada State Park 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 wild lushness. As the natural springs served as an irrigation system, the Kershaws 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 had purchased the property from the Kershaws. Rumor has it that he never actually lived within the canyon, but was interested in getting a hold of this oasis in the desert 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, the CCC 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 in Caliente, NV 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 vibrant 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.
Spring water can be seen oozing from the back of the canyon walls, and interestingly enough, from fountainesque receptacles, the CCC created in the 1930s. The springs here are so pure, they require no filtration whatsoever, and are used to naturally irrigate Kershaw-Ryan’s gardens, wading pool, and koi fish ponds. First-timers visiting the park will be absolutely amazed by the prolific growth of trees, vines, and wildflowers offering a shady respite to the desert adventurer.
Kershaw-Ryan State Park has recently undergone an overnighting facelift, complete with a 16-unit campground featuring a restroom, coin-operated showers, and RV sites. Each site is equipped with a shade ramada, picnic table, fire ring, and grill. While visiting the park, be sure to take advantage of group shelters, horseshoe pits, and volleyball courts, too.
The climate within this southeastern section of Nevada is diverse, ranging from the high 90s in the summertime and anywhere between the mid 40s to subzero temps in the winter months. Monthly rainfall averages less than an inch, but during the monsoon months of July and August, afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence and are responsible for flash floods, both historically speaking and currently. Take caution while hiking the canyon trails during these months, and for the most up-to-date information during your visit, be sure to check in with a park ranger.
Getting to Kershaw-Ryan State Park
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.
Kershaw-Ryan State Park is open seven days a week, from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily.
Admission to Kershaw-Ryan State Park is $5.00. Caliente camping is $15.00 per night and offered on a first-come, first-served basis—sites may not be reserved.