Cathedral Gorge
State Park

The slot canyons and hoodoos of Cathedral Gorge are the result of millions of years of geologic forces. Initially the area was part of a volcanic complex, where each eruption deposited a layer of ash. After volcanic activity ceased five million years ago, fractures in the Earth's surface created Meadow Valley, which eventually filled with water and deposited ash and volcanic debris, forming a freshwater lake. Over time, the volcanic ash beneath the lake was turned into bentonite clay, which remained as the lake eventually drained. That soft layer of bentonite clay has since been eroded by wind and rain, transforming it into the unique landscape seen today.

Later the region was home to Fremont, Ancestral Puebloans (Anasazi), and Paiute natives, and after the 1860s, white settlers who homesteaded and mined there. The town of Bullionville was formed near the mouth of what was then called Panaca Gulch in the 1870s, and in 1894 Mrs. W.S. Godbe - wife of a prominent Pioche mining figure - visited the gulch on horseback and, likening its sculpted rock to European architecture, dubbed it "Cathedral Gulch", which later became Cathedral Gorge.

After the turn of the century, and especially after the advent of the automobile, visitors began to explore the crevices and slot canyons of the gorge, and by the 1920s it was even used for Easter ceremonies and as a backdrop for vaudeville performances. In 1924, Governor James Scrugham set aside nearly 2000 acres for preservation, and in 1934 the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived to begin building facilities and improving trails. The next year, Cathedral Gorge was designated one of Nevada's first four state parks.