Eldorado Canyon is an inspirational desert landscape and plenty of old wild west history happened in this majestic place. For those who yearn to experience the rough and tumble days of the early Nevada gold rush era, Eldorado Canyon is the place to go. Eldorado Canyon is the home of the largest and oldest gold strike in southern Nevada and the fortunes made came at a time when the American Civil War was going full tilt. The Eldorado Canyon gold actually fueled the confederate war effort, so it made this mine a strategic target to be overtaken. This was nearly impossible to do because Eldorado Canyon was in a very inhospitable location far south of the Union Army strongholds. Therefore Eldorado Canyon was a lawless rebel territory where a person could expect a dramatically shortened lifespan.
The Eldorado Canyon mine site that was established way back in 1861 was called Techatticup, which translates to “I am hungry” in the native Paiute language. The natives that were forced out of their farmland by the lawless miners were dealing with starvation everyday, so the name of this mine is a reminder of America’s very dark past.
The mother lode gold strike at Eldorado Canyon was huge by any modern standard. This fruitfull canyon was bypassed by the Spaniards, because they simply could not thoroughly explore every canyon that branched off of the Colorado River. It was not till the 1849 California Gold Rush started to decline that the Nevada territory started being explored by prospectors that had gold fever. Eventually a prospector followed the colors in the pan all the way up Eldorado Canyon to the mother lode.
As mentioned earlier, the Techatticup ended up under control of the Confederates and the ore funded the rebels. This all came to an end when the gigantic Virginia City, Nevada silver and gold strike was made, which made the big gold strike at Eldorado Canyon look small by comparison. Needless to say, the Union Army had plenty of money after this and they won the war. Mining did continue for many more years in Eldorado Canyon, but the bulk of the very rich vertical stope in the Techatticup Mine had already been depleted.
During the peak mining years, Eldorado Canyon was a haven for outlaws and everybody was taking potshots at each other. Eldorado Canyon was once one of the wildest and most dangerous places in the old wild west and many prospectors met there untimely end in this desolate place. The outlaw days of this canyon are what legends are made of and this just might be a good spot for some paranormal tourism.
For visitors that have gold fever, panning for gold anywhere out west does require researching claims. Nearly all of Eldorado Canyon is still an active gold mining site, so only a little bit of panning off the bedrock can be done down by the Colorado River. I swept up a panful of bedrock dirt just to check it out one time and I got several interesting tiny silver color lumps out of just one shovel full. The silver pieces were actually mercury coated gold, which is something that should be avoided at all costs, because it is a deadly toxin. In the old days of Techatticup, mercury was used to extract gold from the rich ore and the entire Eldorado Canyon is loaded with this deadly contaminant. Burning off the mercury is how the gold is recovered and this produces a deadly gas that is an environmental hazard. For this reason, casually panning in Eldorado Canyon simply is not worth the risk.
The Techatticup Mining Town is currently occupied and it is listed as a living ghost town. This mining site is privately owned and it is not a public BLM property. If a sign says no trespassing, then it would be wise to heed the warning, because the land is privately held and more than likely a staked claim is in the area.
The owners of the Techatticup Mine are hospitable friendly people and visitors certainly are welcome. Canoe rentals and horseback rides are available, so the Techatticup Mine is a nice choice for a day trip excursion. What the owners of Techatticup are most famous for is providing guided tours of the old gold mine. Group tours are also offered and it is always best to make reservations ahead of time. One interesting fact that a visitor will find out during the tour is that temperature inside the mine is cool and comfortable even on days when it is 120ºF outside. It is easy to see why the miners slept in this mine back in the old days!
Anything and everything that prospectors and miners could possibly leave behind when abandoning a spent claim can be found in this old ghost town. There is a lot of old rusty memorabilia to be seen in this place and for fans of the old west, Techatticup definitely is eye candy city! There are even a few old junk Navy training aircraft amongst the ruins, which are kind of unusual to see in a remote desert canyon.
The road to Eldorado Canyon is about 45 minutes south of Las Vegas on Highway 95, so this destination is perfect for a day trip! The road to look for is State Road 165, which goes through the entire length of Eldorado Canyon all the way down to Lake Mojave, which is the Colorado River. Swimming in Lake Mojave at the end of the canyon on a hot day might seem inviting, but this section of the Colorado River does have brain eating amoebas, so care must be taken. The very small community of Nelson is also located in Eldorado Canyon, but do not expect to find goods or services here. The closest towns are Searchlight and Boulder City, which are both nice basecamps for adventures in these parts.
I have not been back to Techatticup for quite a while and I am sure that many changes for the better have been made. The owners had big plans to turn the old historic mine into a prime tourism destination and they were working on a bed & breakfast facility at that time. For those who are interested in the mine tours and all that this place has to offer, visiting the Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours website will provide a wealth of information that covers everything from weddings to filming Hollywood movies. Eldorado Canyon is a majestic place to be and the legendary history of the Techatticup Mine is why this wild west destination belongs high on the lifetime travel bucket list!
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