There are plenty of places in Nevada where a person can take a break from the crowds and pressures of urban life but few are quite as remove—and lovely—as Beaver Dam State Park, located about a half-hour east of the community of Caliente in eastern Nevada.
Beaver Dam, in fact, is among the less well-known and least visited park facilities in the state park system. Even description of Beaver Dam on the state park web site notes that that it is Eastern Nevada’s most remote park and is noted for its “primitive and rustic character.”
However, there are good reasons for exploring the park, which offers not only scenic beauty but also fascinating history.
For example, historians believe the first visitors to the area were Native Americans, who camped and hunted along Headwaters Creek and Pine Creek, and in the 17th and 18th centuries, Spaniards may also have passed through the region while establishing trade routes.
According to one account, in 1849 an emigrant party traveling to California crossed through the region. Apparently the rugged terrain and bad weather caused them to abandon their wagons on the eastern rim of nearby Pine Park Canyon and the group continued on horseback and foot.
Before leaving the area, however, two of the party, Wesley Smith and Henry W. Bigler carved their initials and the date in a cliff (“WHB, Saturday, Nov. 3, 1849”). Bigler later served as California’s governor and was the original namesake for Lake Tahoe (it was first named Lake Bigler).
The first permanent residents of the Beaver Dam area were members of the Hamblin family, which homesteaded a ranch in the 1860s. By the turn of the century, the Hamblin ranch had become a popular spot for picnics and outings by local residents.
In 1935, at the urging of Lincoln County residents, the state recognized the area’s natural beauty and designated it an official park, making it one of the state’s earliest parks.
In 1961, Beaver Dam was built, which created a 15-acre reservoir (called Schroeder Reservoir) for fishing. In 2005, flooding damaged the dam and four years later the reservoir was drained and, according to state park officials, Beaver Dam Wash was restored to its pre-1960s condition.
Today, fishing is permitted in several small streams that pass through the park.
With its high canyon walls, picturesque streams and thick foliage, Beaver Dam is one of Eastern Nevada’s most scenic spots. The canyon walls are colored with volcanic rock ranging from pink rhyolite to white ash-fall tuffs.
Hikers can explore the park via four developed trails including: the one-mile Waterfall Trail, which leads to a lovely seasonal waterfall; the Overlook Trail, which takes you above the wash and offers a panoramic view of the entire park; and the Oak Knoll Trail, which leads to the creek below the wash.
The 2,393-acre park’s plant communities include sagebrush and piñon-juniper woodlands as well as ponderosa pines, oaks, willows, cottonwoods and some species of cactus.
The name, Beaver Dam, is related to the fact that there are beaver in the area, which often construct dams on the various creeks and streams. Other animals that can sometimes be seen in the park include mule deer, rabbits, frogs and a wide variety of birds.
The park has two developed campgrounds with individual sites that have a fire pit, picnic table and parking pad. Water is available between April and November.
While open year-round, the park’s high elevation (5,000 feet) means that it can be extremely cold and might even have snow in the winter months.
Beaver Dam State Park is located 34 miles east of Caliente via U.S. 93 and a marked, graded gravel road that leads to the park. There is a $7 park day use fee ($2 less for Nevada residents) and a $14 fee for overnight camping ($2 discount for Nevada residents).
For more information contact the park main office in Carson City, 775-684-2770, the Nevada State Parks Eastern Nevada Regional Visitor Center at 775-728-4460, or www.parks.nv.gov/parks/beaver-dam-state-park/.