Cave Lake State Park
Cave Lake State Park
7 miles South of Ely on U.S. Highway 93 turn East onto State Road 486
Cave Lake State Park is located about fifteen miles south of Ely, nestled into the Schell Creek Range. The man-made dam that created the lake was first built in the 1940ís by a cattle ranch, for water storage. In the 1960ís, the State Department of Wildlife purchased the property and increased the size of the dam to create a lake for fishing. A small campground was developed in 1965; it became a state park in 1973, and a second campground was built in 1989. Cave Lake has become one of the most popular small parks in Nevada, with around 100,000 people visiting and camping during the year. The parkís elevation of 7,300 ft. above sea level makes it a cooler place to visit in the summer, and the lake freezes to a depth of around 18" every winter for ice-fishing. The stateís record-sized German brown trout was caught at Cave Lake in 1984, and fishermen come every year to try to beat that record. Every year, the White Pine County Rotary Club sponsors an ice-fishing derby during late January, for a limited number of participants.
The park is heavily wooded by native pinyon pines and junipers; chokecherry trees and willows also line Cave Creek (which feeds the lake) and Steptoe Creek (along which visitors drive when entering the park). Aspens grow just a little higher, along Cave Creek and Steptoe Creek, and provide beautiful fall color. Pinyon jays and magpies fly through the pines, along with chickadees, nut-hatches, brown creepers and other woodland birds. Elk and deer roam the mountains, and are preyed on by mountain lion (who are seldom, if ever, seen by humans). Summer days seldom exceed 95, and nights cool into the 40ís even during July. A variety of mountain wildflowers provide habitat for a large variety of butterflies, and hummingbirds in the summer. Winter temperatures plunge below zero at night, with days barely up to freezing; a heavy blanket of snow usually covers the ground from November until March.
A rugged, one-mile hike leads to an overlook of the lake and surrounding mountains; while the five-mile Cave Springs Trail winds through the low hills east of the campground. Another trail leads from the Elk Flat Campground along Steptoe Creek, to the trailhead for the Cave Springs Trail, approximately a mile. Graded gravel roads provide access into the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest which surrounds the park on 3 sides. The Success Summit Loop road goes north through the Schell Creek Range, and emerges about five miles north of McGill, Nevada (15 miles north of Ely), on U.S. Highway 93. This road is suitable for high-clearance vehicles from May until the snow falls. Cross-country skiers may enjoy traveling through the rolling hills, and snowmobiles may use the roads on U.S. Forest lands adjacent to the park (the paved road at Cave Lake is plowed during the winter, not suitable for snowmobile use). ATV use is not allowed in the park, but a large parking area is available for users to park their trailers and access the Forest Service roads.
Pictures and information were provided by Barbara Rohde of the Nevada State Parks
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