Kershaw-Ryan State Park is located two miles south of Caliente via U.S. 93 and State Route 317. It is situated in a colorful, scenic canyon at the northern limit of Rainbow Canyon. Steep canyon walls tower over a long, narrow valley. Early settlers here cultivated a garden of grape vines, trees, and grassy lawn surrounding a spring-fed pond, providing a sharp contrast to the rugged landscape. A picnic area, restrooms and trails offer visitors nature study, photography, picnicking, and hiking.
History of the Area
Kershaw Canyon was named for Samuel and Hannah Kershaw who homesteaded the canyon in the 1870s. A post office and settlement were located near Kershaw from 1892 to 1904. At that time, the property was sold to James Ryan of Caliente.
In 1926, the Ryans donated the "Kershaw Gardens" as a public park. Soon after, the Civilian Conservation Corps developed picnic sites and a small wading pond. In 1935, the State created Kershaw-Ryan State Park. A campground, group use ramada, water system, restrooms and trails were subsequently constructed to improve visitor services. Unfortunately, two successive flash floods in 1984 destroyed nearly all of these facilities.
Today only the group use ramada, water system, restrooms and trails are available. CAMPING IS NOT ALLOWED YET.
In 1990, the voters of Nevada passed Question 5: The Parks and Wildlife Bond Issue, which funded new planning and development at the park. In 1997, Kershaw-Ryan State Park re-opened.
You are welcome to explore the park's backcountry area above the canyon. There are three developed trails for your enjoyment. The Canyon Overlook Trail is one mile long, the Horsespring Trail is ? mile long, and the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail is about ? mile in length.
The deep canyons of Rainbow Canyon and Kershaw Canyon were created by water eroding across the terrain, carving deep channels into the bedrock. As recently as 10,000 years ago, vast lakes engulfed the Meadow Valley Wash south of Rainbow Canyon. As the lakes drained and the land uplifted, the flowing water created deep canyons. In the Caliente area, this erosion removed more than 1,000 feet of older sediments and gravels from the plateau that once existed.
Flash floods are common in Kershaw Canyon. In August of 1984, a thunderstorm produced a flash flood in the canyon which caused extensive damage to the park. Only one month later, a second flood of similar magnitude inflicted further damage. These floods washed away nearly all of the park's facilities, forcing the park to close.
The park itself hosts four distinct plant communities. Riparian species like cottonwood, dogwood, willow, wild grape and reeds are found along the cool, canyon floor. The mountain brush community is found in isolated pockets on the escarpment and canyon floor. Serviceberry, snowberry and current are found here.
Sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and Indian ricegrass make up the cool desert shrub community outside the canyon. In even higher elevations of the upland or mesa areas is the pinyon-juniper community.
A few trees, like the common apple, were originally planted by Mr. Kershaw in the late 1800s. The canyon floor provides shelter and a supply of water to seasonal and resident wildlife, including mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The area also serves as a part-time habitat for migrating birds who find relief and protective shelter within the park.
Surrounding areas and higher elevations are inhabited by larger mammals such as deer, coyote and even mountain lion.