The Ely Times

The Nevada Department of Wildlife has temporarily closed Cave Lake while safety projects are under way

In October, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), in coordination with the Nevada Division of Water Resources (NDWR) and the Nevada Division of State Parks (NDSP), commenced a rehabilitation project to restore and repair the Cave Creek Dam, located within Cave Lake State Park. 

At that time the park was able to stay open, but with recent discoveries the park has been temporarily closed. Repairs are expected to happen when you look at the age of Cave Creek.  Constructed in 1932, White Pine has been very fortunate that a safety situation hasn’t happened. 

An investigative report from the Associated Press indicated that a state inspection in June 2018 rated its condition “poor” and warned the potentially undersized spillway may need increased capacity to handle large storms. Inspectors also cited the absence of a low-level outlet necessary to draw down water in an emergency.

Dam’s aging infrastructure, coupled with findings from a recent engineering assessment, indicate that the dam needs repairs and improvements to help accommodate extreme weather and storm events. 

The Cave Creek Dam rehabilitation project includes enhancing the overall stability of the dam with an expanded spillway, increased storm water storage capacity, advanced technology, and other necessary long-term improvements.

To date, NDOW has expended about $789,593 on the actual dam rehabilitation which includes analyses of the dam, design of mitigation alternatives, estimates for the design alternatives, monitoring the dam, preparation of an emergency drain down plan, performing emergency draw down operations, and design and construction of an emergency drain down siphon.   

Recently, project engineers discovered unstable and potentially dangerous conditions at Cave Lake, including deep mud along the shoreline that is currently obstructing visitor access, among other safety concerns. To help address these issues and protect park visitors, several safety projects are now under way, including the construction of new and improved entry points to the lake. 

The campgrounds will remain open, access to the lake will remain closed until all necessary safety measures are complete.

When Cave Lake reopens, visitors will be able to resume access to the lake and enjoy an abundance of water activities, including kayaking, fishing, and swimming, for the duration of the Cave Creek Dam rehabilitation project. The boat dock, however, will remain closed. The health of fish and area wildlife will not be impacted by the

If conditions allow, the Rotary Club of Ely’s Annual Ice Fishing Derby will be held at Cave Lake as planned. However, the annual Fire and Ice Festival will be relocated. For event updates, please visit 

“The Nevada Department of Wildlife, together with our partners, is committed to ensuring all visitors can continue to enjoy the myriad recreational opportunities and natural splendor that Cave Lake State Park has to offer,” said NDOW Chief Engineer Rodd Lighthouse. “We appreciate your understanding as we complete these criticalsafety projects at Cave Lake to help ensure safe, memorable, and amazing recreational experiences for all.”

Ashley Sanchez, Public Information Officer with Nevada Department of Wildlife noted that funding to complete the project is still being worked out.  The estimated funding for the project is $3.4 million, which reportedly will take up to 4-5 years to complete.