Saturday, 12 November 2016

Part 9 of our holiday in the USA. A visit to Cathedral Gorge and Ely, from our base in Mesquite.

Cathedral Gorge State Park is, in USA terms, a mere skip (1 hour)  north-east of Las Vegas and something more different from that concreted casinoland you couldn't find!! The Park covers 1,608 acres (651 ha) in a long, narrow valley, where erosion has carved dramatic and unique patterns in the soft bentonite clay.  There are a number of walking trails around the park, but because of the extreme heat while we were there, we only explored the area adjacent to the car park. Michael and Mary found this slot canyon for us to visit, and the temperatures within its shady angles were a bit more comfortable. They had not been to the Park before either, so it was a new experience for all four of us.

The beauty that visitors enjoy today developed from violent beginnings, starting with explosive volcanic activity that, with each eruption, deposited layers of ash hundreds of feet thick over the entire area. About five million years after the eruptions ceased,  faulting (fracturing of the bedrock that allows the two sides of the fracture to move in relation to each other) shaped the mountains and valleys prevalent in Nevada today.

Lots of information and a walking trail map clearly displayed for the  visitors.


Astonishing landscape! I felt a bit as if we had landed on the moon!


 Amazing formations in the soft rock eroded by rainstorms.


Adventurous explorers can crawl through small openings and tunnels in the network of canyons to discover hidden chambers.


Not for the claustrophobic!


Michael and Mary exploring the narrow and deep slot canyon...


and Nigel as well, negotiating one of the narrower side turnings.


Deep inside the slot canyon, here's how the sky appears from ground level!

Intricate rock patterns formed over aeons.

After a two or so hour drive north on Highway 93, our next stop after the park was Ely, where we stayed the night. Ely stands on the crossroads with east-west running Highway 50, also worryingly known as the loneliest road in the USA!


Founded as a stagecoach station along a Pony Express route, the town was named after Smith Ely, a local copper mining company president. Ely's mining boom arrived in 1906 with the discovery of copper there.

The copper market crashed in the mid-1970s and Kennecott, one of the main mining companies, shut down, and copper mining  temporarily halted. The dramatic increase in demand (and hence price) for copper in 2005  once again made Ely a copper boom town, but as the Kennecott smelter had been demolished, copper concentrate from the mine had to be transported by rail to Seattle on the west coast, from where it was shipped all the way to Japan for smelting.  However, since the 2008 financial crisis and the drop in the copper price, it is no longer worth producing copper from the Ely mines and Ely's prosperity is suffering  in consequence. There are still a few reminders in the town of Ely's steam railroad history, and the East Ely museum (housed in the old station building) contains some very interesting artefacts of railroad life, not least the preserved steam locomotives, two of which (nos 40 and 93) pull daily passenger excursions for visiting enthusiasts.

In 1961, No 93 was donated by Kennecott to the museum and was subsequently restored to operating condition by volunteers. We unfortunately arrived in town too late that day for the ride, but here she is in the shed cooling down!


One of the old coal tenders.


The grand old ladies of steam on the Nevada Northern Railroad, locomotives No 40 (restored in 2005) and No 93. The volunteers who rebuilt these locomotives and other rolling stock and who today operate the railyard and museum deserve the highest praise for their dedication in preserving this part of United States industrial heritage.However, due to lack of finance, it may close down in the near future and we were therefore very fortunate to see it!

The old station building, now the museum, is on the left of the track.

The amazing  mountain views visible from the station.

Looking down the tracks.

A Ford van belonging to the Railway Express Agency - it's all explained on the sign in the window! (see below).


Safety First is the motto , but this pick-up looks as if it has taken a few knocks!

We left our overnight stop at the Prospector Hotel the following morning and headed for the Great Basin National Park, but that is coming in Part 10 of our holiday!

44 comments:

  1. That's a stunning landscape, I would love to see it myself! I hope someday, I can!

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    1. Rose it is quite amazing, if you get the chance to go in that direction jump at it and I am sure your kids would love exploring. We loved it there. Take care Diane

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  2. Hi Diane. What a fab experience for all 4 of you. Certainly does look like you all landed on the moon. Thankfully you had the rock formation crevices to seek cooler air. Super photos. Xox

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    1. Anne it was good to be able to explore in the cool, what an amazing place. The trains were excellent as well. Hope all is well, take care Diane xox

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  3. What a stunning site...looks as if it helps to be slim to explore it!

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    1. LOL yes being fat you might just get in there and never come out until you have wasted away ! It is a beautiful place though. Best wishes to you both especially Leo if he is feeling down at the moment. Diane

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  4. I need to add Cathedral Gorge to my SW viewing list. Awesome erosion features and I absolutely love slot canyons. Would be a shame to loose the history of Ely.

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    1. You would love Cathedral Gorge, I am surprised I have actually seen a place that you have so far missed. It will be sad If Ely museum closes, but when it is run by volunteers and there is no extra money coming in things do not look very bright. Take care Diane

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  5. A very amazing place indeed! What a wonderful experience and visit!

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    1. Nancy it is such an interesting place and quite different to anywhere else we have seen. It was great that we managed to see it all. Diane

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  6. Hi Diane - lovely photos and as you say what a geological wonder ... incredible looking area. I can imagine the heat ... I'm feeling it now?! The history of the area is fascinating the ups and downs of mining life - sounds like Cornwall. Heritage preservation ... I hope they can do something with the engines, railstock and museum pieces and it's not lost ...

    Wonderful photos and descriptions - cheers Hilary

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    1. Yes Hilary, as you say a geological wonder and one that is constantly changing. I hope that there will be some money coming in to help Ely preserve its heritage, but from what they told us there it does not sound very hopeful. It will be sad if it closes down. We had a wonderful time at both places and we were lucky to see them. Stay well Diane

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  7. Hi Diane .. I meant to add that I'd spotted the area was used to put on Shakespearean plays ... with the 'crevices' being used as dressing rooms, backstage etc. When I wrote my Shakespeare post in August and the April one - when researching I'd never realised how often Shakespeare was staged in the States ... cheers Hilary

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    1. That is interesting, the perfect setting for backroom areas. Diane

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  8. Wow what a landscape! Very moonlike as you said. It is sad that the museum may have to close. You can see why residents of towns like Ely voted for Trump.

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    1. An amazing landscape as you say and we were lucky to see it.

      Re Ely; we are glad that you have picked up on why the residents of Ely would vote for Trump. It was going to go in the post but we thought maybe it was too political!

      Hope all is well, take care t'other Diane

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  9. Bonjour Diane,
    Merci de nous faire partager vos émotions lors de superbe voyage!
    Les paysages sont fantastiques! Bravo, cela montre la force et la beauté de la nature!

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    1. Comme vous le dites, les paysages sont incroyables. C'était un privilège de marcher dans la région. Bonne journée. Diane

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  10. What an amazing landscape, and wonderful photos of the old trains. Shame you arrived too late for a ride and it'll be an even bigger shame if the museum has to close. Yet another source of income removed from the local economy. I quite agree with diane b's thoughts.

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    1. Thanks for comment Sarah. I wonder if Ely will get something out of this presidency, it would be great if they did. The slot canyon was amazing and certainly like being in another world. Hope all is well Diane

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  11. I'm so glad you were able to visit some places which were well off the beaten path! One hour's drive is considered no distance at all in the West, and even here in the much more densely settled East it's no big deal. I would get claustrophic in those rock formations, but the train museum looks like a delightful place to visit!

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    1. Thanks Marjie we were lucky to have friends, who like us mileage is nothing, we all come from Southern Africa where distances of all day drives are everyday occurrences. When we lived in Mafikeng we used to drive 3 hours to do our shopping and 3 hours home again! I did not go down in any of the small tunnels but I was fine in the slot canyons where i could see the sky. I hope the train museum gets some funding as it is well worth it. Hope all is well with you, Diane

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  12. Oh WOW!!
    Amazing places you visited!
    The landscape is fabulous, I can imagine the shots I would take in such an interesting geological site!
    Great post Diane!
    Yes, I was keeping an eye on the sky, I would love to take photos of the moon tonight with my 800 mm lens but it is still quite cloudy...
    Keep well and have a great evening :)

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    1. Noushka I can just imagine your photos taken here and you would have found birds and insects there as well I am sure :-) Full cloud cover her sadly :-( Have a wonderful week hugs Diane

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  13. I've been to Nevada, as a matter of fact I got married in Las Vegas, but I've not been to either of these places. The gorge definitely look like somewhere other than earth. Thanks for sharing your photos Diane…they are very interesting.

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    1. Karen if you should head back in this direction this place is well worth a visit. It is quite remarkable. Have a good week Diane

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  14. Diane, it definitely looks like you've landed on the moon! I've been to Las Vegas many times but never to that part of Nevada. Plenty of mountains and rock formations out that way for sure. Sounds like you had a great trip!

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    1. Pam if you go this way again these places are well worth seeing and still more exciting places yet to come on our trip. We had a great time thanks to so many good friends. Hope you are both wll Diane

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  15. What amazing and lovely locomotives Diane !
    When we were little we loved travel in these. Fun !
    Love the pictures too thanks by sharing Diane :)

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    1. Thanks Gloria, I have seldom travelled by train but on the odd occasion when I did I loved it. Hope you are well Diane

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  16. Those rock formations are beautiful, Diane. It's a pity that it was too hot for you to be able to explore at length.

    It looks like a great little train museum. I really hope it survives, but I guess that at that size, and being relatively remote, it might struggle a bit - much will depend on the dedication of the volunteers. Is it still connected to the main rail network?

    I hope that your weather picks up soon - we could do with a bit more sunshine - I suspect that you're finding it quite frustrating looking back at the images of Nevada!

    Best wishes - - Richard

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    1. Hi Richard
      In short, and we are not experts, the answer to your question is probably "yes" (somehow!). We looked at american-rails.com which explains how the myriad of small local rail companies in the US were swallowed up by bigger ones, until Union Pacific ruled the roost. The Nevada Northern (and perhaps others)transported copper ore from Ely (after the Ely smelter was demolished) all the way to Seattle for shipping to Japan - that's a long way and there must be rail lines to do that!! We don't think the Ely yard will survive unfortunately (too much to do for too few people), but who knows what will happen to these backwoods towns when Trump gets going and coal is mined again??!! Yep, we're wishing we were back in the sunshine and under blue skies!

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  17. Love this post Diane. And Nigel looks so handsome in his pose.......

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    1. Ha ha thanks Leon. Hope all is well with you, when are you moving in to your new house? Diane

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  18. I have really enjoyed reading about your travels, thanks for sharing with us.

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    1. Thanks Linda, ever thought we would make it to the USA but it happened ;-) Take care Diane

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  19. Amazing sights dear Diane. I am so happy to be reading you again and to know you have been enjoying such a great time in the USA. Best regards

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    1. Thanks so much Pamela, we had a great holiday. Have a good week Diane

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  20. Hi Diane, I think my previous comment went astray somewhere ☺ We have an amazing area like your rock formations also, it's called the Pinnacles. Must get out there sometime, it's only about an hour and a bit away, yes here in OZ an hour is also considered a mere skip away ☺

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    1. After living in Africa as we both have done a days drive is nothing let alone an hour :-) Amazing rock formations I have never seen anything quite like it. Will be interested if you visit and take some photos. Have a fab weekend Diane

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  21. Cathedral Gorge State Park looks amazing. Adding that to my must visit list.

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    1. Certainly a must see place Pam it was amazing. We were lucky we saw so much in such a little time. Enjoy your weekend Diane

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