Over 500 miles of US 93 are in Nevada, and the land it crosses is largely unchanging; usually the route passes along the floor of a wide valley while distant, jagged mountain ridges follow the road at either side. So it is with the stretch north of Caliente – a sleepy railway town close to the Utah border – but hidden just one mile to the west, close to the even smaller town of Panaca, is a unique landscape, created by erosion of soft shale and mudstone by rainwater flowing into the seasonal Meadow Valley Wash, an area known as Cathedral Gorge. The formations have been protected since 1935 when the gorge became a state park, one of the first four such places in Nevada. The park is 165 miles north of Las Vegas and 83 miles west of Cedar City in Utah.
Cathedral Gorge: ‘Gorge’ is a slightly inappropriate term as nowhere do the branched ravines formed by the creek exceed a depth of much more than 50 feet – the uniqueness of this place is a result of the many narrow water-created passageways and caves at the edges of the valley, which is half a mile wide at the entrance but tapers towards the north end, and has several side canyons which become quite narrow and enclosed. Besides rainwater, erosion is accelerated by climatic extremes; freeze-thawing cycles occur in winter when temperatures are often below zero, while the baking heat of summer, sometimes over 100°F, dries and cracks the rocks.