Eldorado Canyon – Lawlessness on the Colorado River

Following the completion of Davis Dam in the mid-1950s, Lake Mohave began to fill up, drowning the old stamp-mill site, the steamboat landing and the remains of the Eldorado Camp.

The Nelson District yielded more that 500 million dollars in ore in its almost 100 years of mining.

A tour of Eldorado Canyon begins by accessing Nelson Road (Nevada Highway 165) from I-95 south of Boulder City. Traveling southeast, the highway gradually climbs through about 11 miles of desert hills before reaching the old mining community of Nelson, Nevada. During the spring, this part of the drive will provide numerous picturesque views of desert wildflowers. Nelson is entirely surrounded by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, where you might also see big horn sheep and wild burros roaming among the hillsides.

Techatticup Barn

This old barn across from the Techatticup Mine houses several of the props used in the movies filmed at the mine site. April, 2005, Kathy Weiser.

Today, Nelson is all but a ghost town with a population of just about twenty people. With no open businesses, the town marks its past with a few weathered sheds, small shacks with corrugated metal siding, and rusting machinery parts. Those few residents that remain mostly live in a smattering of modern buildings and mobile homes. On a hillside above Nelson is a small overgrown cemetery and though it has some fairly recent graves, they can barely be seen through the brush. Though it’s hard to imagine today, in the 1880s Nelson and the 10-mile Eldorado Canyon was called home to more people than the entire Las Vegas valley.

As you leave Nelson, the road begins a twisting drive through the canyon, providing dramatic views of rugged rock walls and stone formations, pocked with holes and tailings from its old mining days.

Clearing the rubble from the mine tunnels, stabilizing ramps and ladders, and installing electric lights and emergency phones, the mine soon opened for guided tours. The above and below ground guided mining tour lasts about one hour taking visitors 500 feet into the mine. On this tour, you will receive the history of the mine, Nelson’s landing, and the area’s turbulent past. Mine tours require a minimum of four people (which can be combined with another group) and reservations are recommended.

Over the last decade, the couple has also restored and preserved a number of buildings at the mine site. Across from the mine sits a historic 1861 building which serves as a museum to the area and to the Techatticup Mine.

Here, you will see a display of old photographs, tools and other mining memorabilia. Tony and Bobbie also provide river tours and rent kayaks and canoes for use on the nearby Colorado River. Reservations for river tours are required.

The Techatticup Mine has been the set of two movies. The first, Breakdown, with Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan, was released in 1997 and several artifacts from the movie can be seen at the site. Several years later, the movie 3000 Miles to Graceland, was released in 2001, parts of which were filmed at the mine site. This movie, again with Kurt Russell, as well as an all star cast including Kevin Costner, Courtney Cox, Christian Slater, and David Arquette, shot several scenes here including the scene where the Lucky Strike gas station blows up . Props from the movie, including the crashed airplane, can still be seen at the site.

Nelson Shack

During mining heydays, prospectors would build a shack to live in with whatever was available. April, 2005, Kathy Weiser.

Within just a few miles you will come to the infamous Techatticup Mine. After having sat abandoned for five decades, Tony and Bobbie Werly purchased the mine and 51 acres of surrounding property, and recreated the buildings. Prior to purchasing the mine acreage, the pair operated a river adventure outfit in nearby Boulder City.

Beyond Techatticup, the road continues to wind its way to the Colorado River where it opens up to panoramic views across Lake Mohave into Arizona. On the river below once stood Nelson’s landing, long gone today. Numerous old roads angle down toward the lake where much of the area is administered by the National Park Service. Be aware that severe penalties can be levied for off-roading in National Park areas.

If you travel the outlying land, be cautious as there are many open mines and ventilation shafts. Though most of the mines in the district are no longer active, the majority are on private property and are so posted. Respect these no-trespassing signs as reports have it that local land owners are quick to prosecute trespassers.

To get to Eldorado Canyon follow I-95 south of Boulder City for 13 miles to SR 165. Turn left on SR 165 (Nelson Road) for about 11 miles to Nelson. Continuing from Nelson, the Techatticup Mine is just a few more miles down the winding road, and a few miles beyond that, is Lake Mohave.

It’s been over a decade since we have been here, and we are hearing mixed reviews about the quality of the the mine tours.  We recommend calling ahead to make sure they are available.  We also recommend checking the latest reviews on Trip Advisor HERE.

Eldorado Canyon Store

One of the many buildings restored/recreated by Tony and Bobbie Werly, that now serves as a museum, April 2005, Kathy Weiser.

Contact Information:

Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours

Highway 165 between Nelson, Nevada and the Colorado River

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March 2016

Also See:

Queho – Renegade Indian Outlaw or Scapegoat?

Hell Dogs of Eldorado Canyon – Ghostly Canine Apparitions

Nevada Ghost Towns

Nevada (main page)

Nevada Ghost Towns Photo Print Gallery

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