Gold strikes, claim jumpers, renegades and posses are things you find in a Wild West movie. In Nevada’s Eldorado Canyon, it was real life. On a recent visit to Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours near Nelson, Nevada, our guide related captivating stories of the ghost town’s past and led us on a tour of the abandoned Techhatticup gold mine.
- The mine was discovered in 1861 by John Moss, who also claimed the Queen City mine. The Queen City mine was subsequently sold to Senator George Hearst, father of publisher William Randolph Hearst.
- The name Techatticup comes from the Paiute word meaning “food” or “hungry.” Moss showed the natives a rock with quartz in it and asked if they had seen rock like that in the area. The Paiute natives used the word “techatticup,” indicating they were bartering for food.
- A few years after its start, John Nash and two partners purchased the Techatticup mine. When a vein of gold and silver known as the “bridal chamber” was discovered in the mine, Nash knew the vein extended to Hearst’s Queen City mine. He sent gunmen to run off the mine workers from the Queen City mine so they could take it over for a period of time. The story continues to unfold with Nash poisoning his partners, more murders and a ghost, but I’ll leave that for you to find out on the tour.
- Queho, a former mine worker, was a serial killer, murdering about 20 people over time. They knew it was Queho from the footprint left in his tracks. He had a crooked foot as a result of a broken leg that was set incorrectly. A large reward was set and three different posses went after him, but he was never found. In 1940 his body was found inside a cave, preserved from the hot, dry air. They estimated he had been dead six to eight months.
- Civil War deserters often made their way to the area. Two camps were set up: one for the deserters from the North and the other for deserters from the South.
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- The original mill that crushes the ore was located at the river about five miles from the mine. Later, a new mill was built near the mine. The original mill site was buried under water when Davis Dam was built, forming Lake Mohave.
- The mine ran from 1861 until World War II, when the government shut down mining operations.
- At one time the mining camp, with 144 men work there, had the largest population in southern Nevada. Las Vegas had only 33 residents, and they were mostly farmers.
- When the current owners purchased the mine and surrounding land, very few of the original buildings remained. Only the foundation of the camp store was left. A new building, modeled after the original but with additions, was built on the foundation.
- The gold that’s left in the cave is known as “flour gold.” It would cost more to get it out and refine it than it’s worth. The ore must be crushed to a find powder and then processed to extract the gold. The gold is just tiny flecks.
- Besides mine tours, today the location is popular for photo and movie shoots. Gabe showed us album covers with photos of celebrities like Donny and Marie Osmond and Journey. The most popular movie that was shot there was 3000 Miles to Graceland, starring Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell. Gabe showed us a clip of the movie in which a small plane is blown up. The plane is still on site.
Techatticup Mine Tour
The entrance that we went into had been filled with tailings and covered at least three feet over the top of the tunnel. It took a year of digging to get the dirt out to start exploring and preparing the mine for tours.
He explained how it took a miner a full day to hand drill one hole, pounding the drill bit, turning it, and pounding again to ensure the hole was round. The hole was then filled with blasting powder and fuses and packed in with a wooden tamping rod in preparation for blasting.
One poor soul made a huge mistake according to a journal another miner left behind. The man couldn’t find his wooden tamping rod, so he used his iron drill bit to tamp in the blasting powder. It sparked, blew, and the drill bit drove right into his skull. The man is buried in a nearby old graveyard, but a mannequin is set up as a demonstration of what happened.
Exploring the mining camp
After the tour, guests are invited to wander around the grounds. A few old buildings still stand, and a few have been added. Old rusted mining equipment and several vintage vehicles are scattered about the property.
If you visit Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours
El Dorado Canyon Mine Tours is located about an hour south of Las Vegas at 16880 State Highway 165 in Nelson, Nevada. Check the map on the web site to get a good idea of how to get there and for tour details.
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