One of the privileges I have as a photographer is discovering rich, authentic remnants of the Old West. Over the years, I’ve developed a penchant for decaying ghost towns and “Americana.” Last fall, I accompanied some photographer friends to a superb site of interest. It is fall again; the scorching summer heat is subsiding. Time for my fourth follow-up visit. The reason I keep returning is that the Eldorado Canyon Mine seems to be bubbling over with visions of history. After each visit, I leave with the realization that so many revelations were left behind and that I need to return to finish up. Then the cycle repeats itself.
Ghost towns have three broad classifications:
- Totally abandoned: Left completely to naturally decay (not much to see but historically interesting)
- Arrested decay: Maintained but kept in original condition (this describes Eldorado Canyon Mine)
- Rebuilt: Reconstructed property. Not necessarily restored, but entertaining (super touristy)
The History of Eldorado Canyon Mine
The Eldorado ghost town (some call it the Nelson ghost town) is based in Eldorado Canyon at the Historical Techatticup Mine. This is the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in southern Nevada. Eldorado is located just 45 minutes southeast of Las Vegas.
Back in 1775, this area wasn’t known as Nelson but was called Eldorado by the Spaniards who made the original discoveries of gold in this area that is now Eldorado Canyon. A hundred years later, the prospectors and miners of the day took over and established the notorious Techatticup Mine. Disagreements over ownership, management and labor disputes resulted in wanton killings so frequent as to be routine and ordinary. Despite the sinister reputation, the mine—along with others in the town—produced several million dollars in gold, silver, copper and lead. From Nelson’s website…
Man per man and mile per mile Eldorado Canyon has a wider range of historical events than anywhere in the Wild West.
The area is accessible through the town of Nelson, Nev., off US 95 about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The mines were active from about 1858 until 1945. Many of the men that created this area were deserters from the Civil War. This was one of the first major gold strike areas in Nevada.
Getting to Eldorado Canyon Mine
From St. George, Eldorado Canyon Mine is located just south of Boulder City. Go southeast as you leave Las Vegas. Just past Henderson and before Boulder City, take a right (heading south) on 95 South. Continue approximately 10 miles, and you will come to the road marked 165 on your left (it is easy to overshoot). At that intersection is a monument, Nevada Centennial Marker #9. That is the road that follows to Eldorado Canyon Mine 1-1/2 miles past the town of Nelson. A few miles beyond that point is the Colorado River.
Information for Visitors
According to Bobbie Werly, one of the owners, “We will take you to places where pictures were taken over 100 years ago. You can stand in exactly the same place the photographer did. This experience will definitely be a unique one.”
There is a tour through the insides of the mines, but that option is hardly needed. You can reach Werly by calling (702) 291-0026 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Eldorado Canyon Mine is open 7 days per week from 9:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Stop by the General Store as you arrive. That is the facilities headquarters. The owners will be waiting for you!