Friday

Daytrip – Shooting Gallery Rock Art Site

EP-P1090107Located in the middle of the Pahranagat Valley just 90-miles north of Las Vegas, the Shooting Gallery Rock Art Site derives its name from archeological evidence that early pre-historic inhabitants created a system of rock arrangements and hunting blinds to channel game towards hunters. The rock art found here is representative of the three distinct styles found within the Pahranagat Valley. Click here to view this page … Shooting Gallery Rock Art Site. In addition I also added two more pages with more pictures and information about petrogrlyphs in the area: (1) Shooting Gallery Petroglyphs, and (2) Understanding Nevada Rock Art.

Sunday

NEW–ebook Version for I-Pad

I recently converted my new book, Nevada Rock Art, into an ebook for I-Pad. Even though I highly recommend the large 13x11-inch “coffee-table” Hard Cover w/Dust Jacket version, this $14.99 I-Pad version makes a great alternative for those who may not be able to afford the $75.79 hard cover price. Clicking this link [http://store.blurb.com/ebooks/511026-nevada-rock-art-petroglyph-sites-in-around-clark-county] will take to to the Blurb site and the page shown below, where you can preview the ebook and make a purchase.
                                           
Blurb Petroglyph Book

Monday

Shooting Gallery Petroglyphs

Shooting Gallery Rock Art Site 1
(Fig. 01)
Great Basin
(Fig. 02)
Located inside the Pahranagat Range alongside the Pahranagat Valley on the eastern side of Nevada (Fig. 01), the Shooting Gallery petroglyphs falls within an area known as the Great Basin. Lying mostly in Nevada, the Great Basin is bordered by the Sierra Nevada on the west, the Columbia Plateau on the north, the Rocky Mountains on the northeast, the Colorado Plateau on the east, and the Mojave Desert on the south (Fig. 02). Over a thousand years, several distinct tribes have historically occupied the Great Basin; the modern descendants of which are still here today. They being the Western Shoshone, the Goshute, the Ute, the Paiute (often divided into Northern, Southern and Owens Valley), and the Washoe.
EFP-P1090129
(Fig. 03)
Even though many panels at this site show evidence of the effects of natural destruction; surface spalling (the flaking of surface patina) (Fig. 03), lichen growth, weather-related exposure and infrequent displacement and damage of images on boulders that have tumbled down the talus slopes from their original position, the majority of petroglyphs at this site remain in remarkable condition considering their age.


EFP-P1090187
(Fig. 04)
The centuries old pecking's and carvings found here include human stick figures, geometric shapes, animal symbols, circles, and seemingly random lines and squiggles (Fig. 04), that even the most brilliant archaeologists have been unable to decipher, and are a challenge to all who try to read them. These symbols, classified as Great Basin Abstract, consist of Curvilinear and Rectilinear Styles similar to Anasazi and Mogollon geometric designs, but different than the less complex, simple Archaic style. The meaning of Great Basin Curvilinear images is difficult to determine because each element may have a subjective meaning known only to the person or shaman who made it. Curvilinear and Rectilinear Motifs are the two most common abstract styles and are widely distributed throughout the Great Basin culture area.
              
EFP-P1090126
(Fig. 05)
Curvilinear Symbols: These are complicated abstract motifs consisting of rounded interconnected geometric shapes, spirals, concentric circles (Fig. 05), zigzags, meandering lines. These motifs are believed to be the oldest rock art in the southwest and may date to 8,000 BC. The circle in one form or another is the most common element.
EFP-P1090125
(Fig. 06)

Rectilinear Symbols: – These include abstract motifs similar to curvilinear except the elements are more square and rectangular, grids, rakes, dots (Fig. 06), cross hatches, zigzags, diamonds. It has been determined that these are younger than curvilinear, dating back to ca. 5000 BC.
Much of the abstract rock art here is attributed to the peoples from the Middle Archaic Period, from 4000-1500 BC, to the Late Archaic period, From 1500 BC to the period of contact with Euro-Americans in the nineteenth century, and primarily include the Anasazi and Freemont peoples, the ancestors of most modern Indian Peoples, the Utes and Paiutes, AD 1200 to AD 1880. Rock art created by the Anasazi also depict anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, spirit figures and symbols. The Anasazi petroglyphs exhibit a different style than the Fremont petroglyphs, and are quite different from each other. Many Fremont Style panels contain many of the most prevalent motifs: trapezoidal anthropomorphs, dot patterns, bighorn and spirals, as well as other unique elements.
                                     
When it comes to less common schematic and naturalistic depictions of humans (anthropomorphs), animals (zoomorphs), tools, weapons, and hunting scenes, these designs have particular resonance for contemporary observers as their “meaning” can, at one level, be inferred from simply identifying their subject and themes.
EFP-P1090142
(Fig. 07)
EFP-P1090167
(Fig. 08)
Zoomorphs: Bighorn sheep are by far the most common animal species depicted in Nevada rock art (Figs. 07 & 08). The distribution of bighorn sheep motifs is more pronounced in eastern and southern Nevada and, although present throughout the state, seems less common at sites in the north and the west. Other animals portrayed in rock art include deer, elk, lizards, coyotes, and mountain lions.
The prominence of bighorn sheep in rock art perhaps attests to this animal’s symbolic importance in prehistoric cultural thought as it was not a staple of the prehistoric diet. Small mammals (rabbits, marmots, ground squirrels, etc.), were probably more important sources of meat and deer and antelope were also hunted. Plants, which at all times, made up the bulk of prehistoric diets, are very rarely identified in Nevada rock art.

(Fig. 09)
EP2-P1090160
(Fig. 10)
Anthropomorphs: Some stylized depictions of the human form are found that are regionally restricted in distribution and are formally distinct styles of anthropomorphs. In southern and eastern Nevada these are associated with archaeological remains of Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan cultures (ca. 1500-800 BP)-semi-horticultural cultures with variable reliance on harvesting of wild plants and animals.

The rock art of these cultures portrayed the human form variously as stick figures (Fig. 09), hourglass shapes, rectangular shapes, or as triangular bodies lacking legs. Often these forms have bodily adornment (headgear, “horns,” or jewelry), or internal decoration that might represent clothing. Uncertain in its age and cultural affiliations is the Pahranagat anthropomorph style, which is only found here in the Pahranagat Valley area of southeastern Nevada. Traditionally the style is dated to the late Middle and early Late Archaic based on associated archaeological remains and the fact that some figures wield atlatls. This style comprises two distinct types of anthropomorphs. One is a rectangular form internally decorated with grids, dots, or geometric motifs, “fringed” by short vertical lines. It often lacks a head but has stick-figure legs and short arms (Fig. 10) sometimes bearing an atlatl-like object. The second type has a solid-pecked ovoid or rectangular body, large eyes (indicated by using negative space), and a line protruding from its head; their arms are portrayed down-turned and with long fingers (Fig. 11).

EFP-P1090180
(Fig. 11)
Overall, based on the themes and subjects that can be identified in Nevada rock art, many have concluded that prehistoric artists were not trying to provide a simple reflection of their daily lives or the content of the natural worlds in which they lived. Nevada rock art is not “representational” in the sense that it is an art of the everyday; instead, it is an ideological presentation of how prehistoric peoples perceived their social and natural worlds, and presenting an imagined, idealized worldview that served the social needs of these cultures. It is commonly believed that many panels are spiritual in nature and represent the result of a Shaman’s vision quest in trying to find spiritual guidance and purpose as well as acting as a conduit to nature to bring rain and game during dry seasons. For even more information on the history of rock art in this geographical area, click the following link ... Understanding Nevada Rock Art.
                       
EFP-P1090179
(Fig. 12)
EFP-P1090144
(Fig. 13)
EFP-P1090186
(Fig. 14)
EFP-P1090163
(Fig. 15)
EFP-P1090133
(Fig. 16)
Click here to return to [Shooting Gallery Rock Art Site Page]

Understanding Nevada Rock Art

image_thumb1
What is Rock Art? There are two basic types of rock art. The first being petroglyphs; motifs that are pecked, ground, incised, abraded, or scratched on a rock surface. The second being pictographs (sometimes called rock paintings); motifs in one or more colors using mineral pigments and plant dyes that have been drawn, daubed, spattered or painted onto the surface of rock found in the walls of caves, canyons, on boulders, in bedrock and sometimes on the floors of caves. Although sometimes images may have originally been executed as a combination of both techniques, most now appear only as a petroglyph because the painted material has faded or washed away over hundreds if not thousands of years.

Dating The People & Cultures: Nevada rock art was produced by a number of prehistoric and historic peoples over thousands of years, making the history of the area very complex. Peoples first entered Nevada and the Great Basin some 12,000 to 10,000 years ago as the Ice Age ended and glaciers across North America finally receded (Fig. 01). Although it is difficult to establish an exact age of rock art, some dating clues are easily identified. For example whenever a horse and rider is depicted, we know the date to be after AD 1540 when the Spaniards reintroduced the horse to the New World. The presence of bows and arrows is presumed to indicate a date after AD 500, the generally accepted time period for their appearance in this region. For identification purposes, the time periods below are broken into generalized categories relating to the people believed to have made them.
image_thumb4
(Fig. 01)
The Paleoarchaic Period. During this period, between 10000-7000 BC, the region was wetter than today’s climate, with residual Pleistocene lakes, marshes, and wetlands that slowly dried up as the climate changed to a warmer and drier regime. During this time Nevada was only sparsely settled with early hunter-foragers known as Paleo-Indians. They focused on big-game hunting and harvesting the resources of wetlands; settlement appears concentrated on lakes and wetlands. Many parts of the state appear to have only been used for sporadic foraging expeditions and population densities were probably very low. Most archaeological remains are of hunting and foraging sites, and a variety of hunting tools.
The Early Archaic Period. During this period, between 7000-4000 BC, the environment began changing to more arid conditions. Many lakeside marshes disappeared and desert shrubs expanded into lower elevations. Settlement became more permanent and repeated throughout the region and economic strategies diversified according to regional environmental variables. During the winter, populations concentrated in valley floors or near permanent water sources. Use of the spear for hunting appears to have been replaced in favor of large dart points hurled from atlatls or spear-throwers. Milling equipment (manos and metates) become more common, indicating that seeds, tubers, and other plants were harvested.
The Middle Archaic Period. From 4000-1500 BC, it appears that a wider variety of plants and animals were harvested as natural resources were more intensively exploited as populations increased and seasonal rounds became more territorially established. A wider range of milling tools appears in the archaeological record. Caches of artifacts and other materials indicate that storage at times played an important role in decisions about residential mobility, with preferred places repeatedly revisited. Exchange in marine shell and obsidian becomes evident and mastery of textiles is displayed in surviving baskets and other tools made from cordage.
The Late Archaic Period. From 1500 BC to the period of contact with Euro-Americans in the nineteenth century, significant environmental, settlement, and technological changes are witnessed, with regional semi-horticultural economies emerging in eastern and southern Nevada. The climate changed toward much warmer and drier conditions that characterize today’s modern climate. Bow and arrow technology was introduced from the west, evidenced by smaller projectile points. Economic practices relied on hunting small mammals and harvesting plants and seeds; milling equipment becomes more elaborate and more frequent at Late Archaic camp sites. Pottery begins to be made around 900 years ago.
 
In southern and eastern Nevada, economies with variable reliance on horticulture (maize cultivation) and harvesting wild resources began to develop. The Anasazi, AD 1 to AD 1275, whose culture centered south of Moab in the Four Corners area, eventually spread into the south eastern areas of Nevada mixing with the Freemont, AD 450 to AD 1250, peoples to the east in Utah, marking an Ancestral Puebloan presence. This is evidenced by distinctive pottery, pit-houses, and above ground architecture. These are also characterized by distinctive domestic architecture (pit houses and above ground structures) but harvesting wild resources seems to have played an important role in their economic practices in addition to horticulture. Both the Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont presences in Nevada are associated with distinctive rock art portrayals of the human form. They concentrated much of their subsistence efforts on the cultivation of corn, beans and squash. These sedentary people also harvested a wide variety of wild resources such as pinion nuts, grasses, bighorn sheep and deer. The Fremont, who were contemporary with the Anasazi people, also grew corn and were apparently more dependent on hunting and gathering wild resources than were the Anasazi. Their territory was mainly in the Great Basin north of the Colorado River but overlapped with the Anasazi at Moab. Both cultures had a complex social structure and were highly adaptive to the extremes of the environment. The Anasazi and Fremont are classified by scientists as "Formative" cultures.
 
Around 700 years ago, the Ancestral Puebloan and Fremont economies are replaced by economies focused on hunter-foraging. Some Great Basin archaeologists have suggested that this is when the ancestors of most modern Indian Peoples, the Utes and Paiutes, AD 1200 to AD 1880, settled Nevada. It is equally possible that changes in material culture recorded in the archaeological record reflect endogenous social and economic changes in response to climatic fluctuations, shifting distributions of animal and plant species, and influences from neighboring cultures. They were a very mobile hunting and gathering people who roamed the Great Basin. They used the bow and arrow, made baskets and brownware pottery, and lived in brush wickiups and tipis. These people lived freely until the late 1880’s when they were forced onto reservations.
 
Categories of Rock Art: Found on rock surfaces all over the Southwest desert, southwestern rock art generally depicts people, animals and other shapes and forms. It is basically divided into two categories known as representational and abstract.
EFP3-P1080918_thumb2
(Fig. 02)
Representational Rock Art: Elements within the representational can include: Anthropomorphic (human-like) figures (Figs. 02 & 03). These figures usually have trapezoidal shaped bodies with arms, legs and splayed fingers and are sometimes elaborately decorated with headdresses, ear bobs, necklaces, clothing items and facial expressions.
EFP3-P1060323-2_thumb2
(Fig. 03)
A wide variety of zoomorphic (animal-like) figures include bighorn sheep, deer, dogs, birds, snakes, lizards and other creatures (Fig. 04). Other elements may include hand prints and plant-like images.
EFP3-P1080191_thumb1
(Fig. 04)
Abstract Rock Art: Abstract designs and geometric shapes include spirals, dots, circles, ladder-like forms, sunbursts, “squiggles”, “wheels”, and mazes just to name a few, are quite common (Figs. 05, 06 & 07). Many times these designs have been used to record religious or mythological events, migrations, hunting trips, resource locations, travel routes, celestial information and other important knowledge. Often they were created by a shaman (an intermediary between this world and the spirit world.) during vision quests. Individual panels, or rock art sites, can be comprised solely of elements from one or the other categories or a mix of both depending upon how many different cultures lived in the area over time.
                                   
EFP3-P1080901_thumb4
(Fig. 05)
EFP3-P1070782_thumb6
(Fig. 06)
EFP3-P1100029_thumb3
(Fig. 07)
Identifying Rock Art Styles and Themes: Nevada’s rock art offers a wide variety of themes and subjects and has been divided into several "styles" based on cultural phase or time period, geographic region, method of execution, subject matter and attributes. Bearing in mind that any one, or sometimes more, of these components may overlap other style boundaries, i.e. hand prints may appear in both Archaic and Anasazi sites, one can visit a rock art site and approach it with a basic understanding of when it was made and who made it. Rock art was created for many purposes by the indigenous people who lived in the area. All that being said, applying a style to one rock art site is not always a simple task. Sites dating from the Archaic hunter-gatherer peoples to modern Native Americans can be found across the state. Rock art may have served to identify cultural differences, record celestial events, or was used as a form of communication. Though certain rock art sites are known to have been used for seasonal time-keeping, many archaeologists are confident that there are rock art sites where the elements reflect a religious or spiritual purpose, or have symbolic meaning. However, when it comes to definitively interpreting prehistoric rock art images archaeologists, historians and even modern Native Americans can only speculate as to what they mean because prehistoric rock art exists outside of living cultural context.
Abstract motifs that are highly ambiguous in meanings and references are the most abundant motif types portrayed. Most of the themes and subjects of prehistoric Nevada rock art are not directly apparent to external observers. Though it is believed that much of this rock art portrays important social and religious themes, or significant scenes from everyday life, without insider commentary it is impossible to really know. This may have been a meaningful, deliberate choice on the part of Nevada’s prehistoric artists; by choosing ambiguity, prehistoric artists would have made information about rock art's meanings the subject of a special knowledge. This highlights that rock art’s symbolism was culturally significant and mostly not intended to simply depict events in daily life.
Identifying regional and chronological differences in rock art styles may eventually allow archaeologists to identify differences in cultural uses and cultural affiliation. The broad cultural context of Nevada is generally a long continuum of hunter-forager groups practicing varying economic and settlement systems, punctuated in eastern and southern Nevada by a period of semi-sedentary horticulture. Stylistically distinctive portrayals of the human form (anthropomorphs) and animals (zoomorphs) appear to accompany these changes in economic and settlement practices in southern and eastern Nevada. Similarly, archaeologists have attempted to find whether rock art can be related to changes in hunter-forager practices.
EFP-P1070784_thumb4
(Fig. 08)
Curvilinear and rectilinear motifs are the two most common abstract styles and are widely distributed throughout the Great Basin culture area. Curvilinear Symbols: These are complicated abstract motifs consisting of rounded interconnected geometric shapes, spirals, concentric circles, zigzags, dots, “starbursts, wavy lines, and meandering lines (Figs. 08, 09 & 10). These motifs are believed to be the oldest rock art in the southwest and may date to 8,000 BC. The circle in one form or another is the most common element.
EFP2-P1080308_thumb6
(Fig. 09)
EFP-P1100211-2_thumb2
(Fig. 10)
EFP-P1070567_thumb1
(Fig. 11)

Rectilinear Symbols: These include abstract motifs similar to curvilinear except the elements are more square and rectangular composed of straight lines, angular designs, and perpendicular forms, such as grids, rectangles, squares, triangles, lines, cross-hatching, rakes, zigzags, diamonds, etc. (Figs 11, 12 & 13). It has been determined that these are younger than curvilinear, dating back to ca. 5000 BC
EFP-E-IMG_2107-2_thumb2
(Fig. 12)
EFP-P1040578_thumb4
(Fig. 13)
Naturalistic Depictions: Less common are schematic and naturalistic depictions (Fig. 14) that sufficiently resemble real-world objects. These designs, representing humans (anthropomorphs), animals (zoomorphs), tools, weapons, and hunting scenes have particular resonance for contemporary observers as the “meaning” of this class of rock art motifs can, at one level, be inferred from simply identifying their subject and themes. Most common are humans portrayed as stick-figures and bighorn sheep depicted with curved horns. These are sometimes combined as hunting scenes where a human bearing a bow and arrow is placed beside a bighorn sheep motif. Interestingly, hunting scenes where atlatls are portrayed (Figs. are virtually unknown in Nevada and very rare in general. Atlatls, when they are portrayed with anthropomorphs, are usually shown being held but not being used. The atlatl is seen in both (Figs. 15 & 16).
EFP-P1040083_thumb3
(Fig. 14)
EFP-P1080896_thumb1
(Fig. 15)
EFP-E-IMG_3279_thumb2
(Fig. 16)
Zoomorphs: Bighorn sheep are by far the most common animal species depicted in Nevada rock art (Figs. 17 thru 19). The distribution of bighorn sheep motifs is more pronounced in eastern and southern Nevada and, although present throughout the state, seems less common at sites in the north and the west. Other animals portrayed in rock art include deer, elk, lizards, coyotes, and mountain lions. The prominence of bighorn sheep in rock art perhaps attests to this animal’s symbolic importance in prehistoric cultural thought as it was not a staple of the prehistoric diet. Small mammals (rabbits, marmots, ground squirrels, etc.), were probably more important sources of meat and deer and antelope were also hunted. Plants, which at all times, made up the bulk of prehistoric diets, are very rarely identified in Nevada rock art.
                         
EFP2-P1080229_thumb1
(Fig. 17)
EfP-P1080832_thumb6
(Fig. 18)
EFP3-P1080232-P1080233_thumb4
(Fig. 19)
Anthropomorphs: Some stylized depictions of the human form are found that are regionally restricted in distribution and are formally distinct styles of anthropomorphs. In southern and eastern Nevada these are associated with archaeological remains of Fremont and Ancestral Puebloan cultures (ca. 1500-800 BP)-semi-horticultural cultures with variable reliance on harvesting of wild plants and animals. The rock art of these cultures portrayed the human form variously as stick figures (Figs. 20 & 21), hourglass shapes, rectangular shapes, or as triangular bodies lacking legs. Often these forms have bodily adornment (headgear, “horns,” or jewelry), or internal decoration that might represent clothing.
                                     
EFP3-P1100231_thumb3
(Fig. 20)
EFP3-P1100210_thumb2
(Fig. 21)
Uncertain in its age and cultural affiliations is the Pahranagat anthropomorph style, which is only found in the Pahranagat Valley area of southeastern Nevada. Traditionally the style is dated to the late Middle and early Late Archaic based on associated archaeological remains and the fact that some figures wield atlatls. This style comprises two distinct types of anthropomorphs. One is a rectangular form internally decorated with grids, dots, or geometric motifs, “fringed” by short vertical lines (Fig 22). It often lacks a head but has stick-figure legs and short arms (Fig. 21) sometimes bearing an atlatl-like object (Fig. 22). The second type has a solid-pecked ovoid or rectangular body, large eyes (indicated by using negative space), and a line protruding from its head; their arms are portrayed down-turned and with long fingers (Figs. 23 & 24). Click the following link for more detailed information on Pahranagat Valley Rock Art ... Black Canyon Petroglyphs.
EFP3-P1080896_thumb4
(Fig. 22)
EFP3-P1080951_thumb7
(Fig. 23)
EFP3-P1080918_thumb6
(Fig. 24)

Summary: The life of desert archaic peoples who created Nevada’s rock art was extremely hard and difficult. Eight and a half thousand years ago in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, the time had come for change. A 2000-year period of cool, wet weather was giving way to a time of heat and drought. Playa lakes, once filled by rainfall, had begun to evaporate. Lower elevation forests, previously nurtured by the rainfall, had begun a retreat into the mountains. Basin grasslands had begun to wither. Many large game animals had begun a migration to more favorable areas. The onset of a prolonged drought meant that the Paleo-Indians of the region had to redefine themselves, following a more diversified life based on desert hunting and gathering at the expense of ancient traditions rooted in wood and grasslands big game hunting. While a new life arrived gradually, it would take deep root, evolving into the culture which many archaeologists now call the Desert Archaic period. Over some six and a half millennia, the Desert Archaic peoples would have to adapt successively to the onset of a hot dry desert climate, the "Great Drought," which would last from about 8400 to 5000 years ago; the return of a cooler and moister climate, the "Sub-Boreal Period," which would last from 5000 to 2800 years ago; and, finally, the return of a desert climate, the "Sub-Atlantic Period," which would last – with some interruptions – from 2800 years ago into modern times. Ultimately, their adaptations, seasoned by influences from peoples far to the south, would become the foundation of the Pueblo cultures.
The beginnings of the Desert Archaic culture is cloudy to say the least. Some archaeologists suspect that the Desert Archaic culture of the southwestern U. S. could have originated in the deserts of southern California, southern Nevada and western Arizona, a region which has yielded some of the earliest evidence. If so, the Desert Archaic peoples would have spread new ideas and innovation eastward slowly, piecemeal and irregularly, gradually introducing change across Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, southern Utah, southern Colorado, northern Sonora and northern Chihuahua. Over time, they left a ragged cultural mosaic, one now marked by large gaps in the archaeological record and by poorly understood regional similarities – and differences – in community relationships, band structures, technology, subsistence, outside influences and spiritual beliefs.
They had made the long leap from big game hunter to village dweller, but they left an archaeological record cloaked in riddles. During their 6000 to 7000 year odyssey from nomadic big game hunter to sedentary villager, the peoples of the Desert Archaic period manufactured and used assemblages of artifacts which were similar in function but often different in detail and relative abundance. For poorly understood reasons, bands in the desert lands of Nevada never adopted agriculture at all. Probably all the bands used grinding stones for milling, but the forms may have been different depending on traditions of the band, types of available rock materials, and the size and hardness of the wild or domesticated seeds. All used stone-point-tipped spears and the atlatl in big game hunts, but they often used different flint knapping techniques and manufactured different shaped points. Some bands wove plant fibers into baskets, matting, nets, cordage and sandals, but they frequently used different weaving techniques and produced different styles. The relative abundance of artifact types differed depending on the band’s emphasis on gathering, hunting and agriculture. Based on what they know so far, archaeologists can paint the Desert Archaic culture only with a broad brush. As evidenced by the varying examples in the pictures above, which come from more than a dozen sites in south east Nevada, each site is unique. The patterns and motifs may be similar but are never quite the same. Styles vary from place to place, and from people to people.many diverse cultures inhabited this area over a period of more than 10,000 years each leaving a “piece” of their life and culture for others to see.

Eldorado Canyon and Nelson Nevada

               {Click on an image to enlarge, then use the back button to return to this page}
EFPP1090020P1090021_thumb19
(Fig. 01)
Directions: Take I-93 from Las Vegas towards Boulder City. Take the exit for I-95 south and continue for approximately 10 miles and turn left (east) onto NV SR-165. Continue for approximately 3.6 miles and turn right (south) onto a power lined dirt road. There will be a gate, which may be closed but not locked. The are several OHV dirt roads that lead from this parking/staging area in various directions (Fig. 02). The main ATV trail to Nelson heads south, somewhat paralleling NV-165.
                                         
Nelson Topo-2
(Fig. 02)
NelsonNevada2_thumb5
(Fig. 03)
Area Description: Eldorado Canyon is one of the most accessible scenic areas in Southern Nevada. After turning onto NV SR-165, the road climbs about 11 miles into a little pass at Nelson (Fig. 02). Following a major wash with unusual eroded rock monoliths as it winds down through Eldorado Canyon another seven miles to a viewpoint (Nelson’s Landing) overlooking the Colorado River. Nelson's Landing once served the sturdy little steamboats that plied the river. For some 40 years, steamboats putting in at Nelson's Landing provided a lifeline for the remote mining camp and surrounding mines before there were highways and long before dams harnessed the river's flow. Click here for pictures and more info on ... Nelsons Landing. As the road nears the river, it enters the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The desert area west of NV SR-165 (Fig. 02) offers endless ATV trails with plenty of steep and challenging hill climbs (Figs. 01 & 04), some dry river washes, twisting rock formations and several small canyons. Once you reach Nelson, a tiny remnant of a once-thriving boomtown, you are immediately transported back in time.
             
EFP-P1090011-P1090012
(Fig. 04)
 Area History: The area surrounding Nelson and Eldorado Canyon was first home to the ancient Ancient Puebloan Indians, and later the Paiutes and Mojave tribes until they were intruded upon in 1775 by the Spaniards in their constant quest for gold. Founding a small settlement at the mouth of the Colorado River, they called it Eldorado. However, these early Spaniards somehow missed the rich gold veins just beneath the canyon’s flanks, finding silver instead. They soon found that the silver was not in high enough quantities to justify their operations, and moved on. When American explorers finally reached the area, prospectors soon followed. By the 1860’s, promising claims drew many miners to the canyon. Soon the Techatticup Mine and other nearby mines employed about 300 men in unruly camps that were far from the reach of the law. In the years prior to 1909, the district was part of Lincoln County, whose sheriff was headquartered at Pioche, nearly 300 miles away by horseback, and offered no protection. As a result the town of Nelson was a quite lawless. Eventually, order had to be kept by federal troops, who came up the river from Fort Mohave in Arizona Territory and deployed for a while at their own camp. Discoveries in the late 1850’s to the mid-1860’s led to a mining boom that resulted in the removal of millions of dollars in gold, silver, copper and lead ore over the next century. Nelson grew up during these boom years. It is named for Charles Nelson, a prospector who was killed by the renegade Avote, one of two native murderers who preyed on lone victims over a period of years. The fear-inspiring outlaw in the area was named Queho. Today, Nelson is all but a ghost town with a population of about thirty-seven people (2010 census). With no open businesses, the town marks its past with a few weathered sheds, small shacks with corrugated metal siding (Figs. 05 & 06), and rusting machinery parts. Those few residents that remain mostly live in a smattering of modern buildings and mobile homes. 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 drive south from 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. Within just a few miles you will come to the infamous Techatticup Mine. Click here for pictures and information on this mine … Techatticup Mining Camp.

09/19/2015 Trip Notes: On 09/19/2015 I decided to rent a jeep and drive to Eldorado Canyon and the town of Nelson in search of old gold and silver mines. After reaching Nelson we proceeded to the area behind the town to the Black Hawk and Carnation mines. After exploring the various mines, shafts and audits in this area we ended up at the Techatticup Mining Camp for a tour of the old Techatticup gold mine. Click here for pictures of today’s trip … Nelson Nevada Mines.
                                 
EFP-P1090030
(Fig. 05)
EFP-P1090031
(Fig. 06)
11/28/2014 Trip Notes: After unloading the quads at the parking/staging area (Fig. 02) near the power lines off NV-165, we picked a trail and headed out across the desert in the direction of Nelson (Fig. 07). As you can see from our route in yellow on (Fig. 02) we ended up doing a lot of “zig-zaging” and backtracking (Fig. 01 and 08) due to the fact that we reached a couple of steep hills that we could not maneuver because one of the quads did not have 4WD. After nearly two hours of riding, including some stops for water and snacking (Fig. 09), we entered the large sand wash just north of Nelson (upper right of (Fig. 03)). While driving down this wash I spotted a large sandston outcrop on its eastern ridge that contained a small arch (Fig 10). Upon reaching the town proper, we drove through slowly taking in some of the properties (Figs. 06 & 11) that lined Eldorado Street, the town's main drag. Heading west, out of town, we came to what was the main mining area that made up the Eldorado Mining District. (see the section below titled, Background on the Eldorado Mining District) This general area contains no less and a dozen mine sites; some which appeared to be still active. One could literally spend an entire day here hiking around and exploring these many sites. We decided to stop here for lunch as we explored two of the larger mine sites (refer to Fig. 03); the Black Hawk Mine (Fig. 12) and the Carnation Mine (Fig. 13). After spending a couple of hours here we followed a wash trail (refer to Fig. 02) back to the power line road and eventually back to our starting point. Once we reached the power lines (Fig. 14), we were afforded a views of the 10-megawatt Sempra Generation Energy plant (Fig. 15), the largest solar photovoltaic facility in Eldorado Valley and the largest thin-film solar-powered project in North America. The El Dorado Energy Solar project, located adjacent to the company’s existing 480-megawatt, gas-fired El Dorado Energy power plant, involved the installation of more than 167,000 solar modules on 80 acres of leased desert property designated as part of Boulder City’s energy zone. Sempra Generation has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Pacific Gas and Electric, the utility serving northern and central California, for the new project’s entire output. 
                                       
EFP-P1090016
(Fig. 07)
EFP-P1090023
(Fig. 08)
EFP-P1090008
(Fig. 09)
EFP-P1090028
(Fig. 10)
EFP-P1090032
(Fig. 11)
Nelson Mine-1
(Fig. 12)
Nelson Mine-2
(Fig. 13)
EFP-P1090101
(Fig. 14)
EFP-P1090105
(Fig. 15)

Background on Eldorado Mining District: Originally called the Colorado Mining District, it was later referred to as the Eldorado Canyon and Nelson District. The first real discovery in the area was at the Honest Miner, a small deposit about two miles west of Nelson. For a few years, the miners were able to keep their gold find a relative secret due to the remoteness of the area. However, this all changed in 1858 when the first steamboats began to make their way up the Colorado River from Yuma, Arizona. Before long, word spread and miners began to flood the area. The early history of the district saw construction of a mill at Nelson’s Landing where steamboats provided access for supplies and communication with the world. In the early 1900s Nelson’s Landing was one of the largest ports on the Colorado River and became even more important during prohibition in the 1920’s as bootleggers ran their white lightning into Arizona.
At the time of the Eldorado mining District's organization this area was in New Mexico territory, later to become part of Arizona territory and eventually part of Nevada. It has been estimated that production of the district prior to 1897 may have been over 100,000 ounces, most of which came from the Techatticup Mine, just a few miles south of Nelson, where ore grades were several ounces of gold per ton. At today's prices that would equate to nearly $5,000,000 dollars. The principal mine producers have been the Techatticup, Duncan, Wall Street, Rand and Carnation mines. Other smaller producers included the Magnolia, Poppy, Jubilee and Crown mines. Vanderburg reported that production from El Dorado from 1907 to 1935 was $1.6 million, nearly all from lode gold and silver mines. Bullion shipments from El Dorado were not well recorded. As might be expected, shipments were not made by the normal express company system that was typical of the Mother Lode and Comstock regions. They were made privately, hence a distinct lack of reporting. At least two early shipments were recorded. In June, 1864, it was reported that 101 pounds of bullion went to Los Angeles, and in December, 1865, it was reported that $20,000 in bullion had arrived in San Francisco creating quite a stir. At today’s prices that one shipment would have been more than $270,000. In recent years there has been steady production from the Mocking Bird mine and significant "heap leach" production from the Wall Street mine from 1974-1984 by Consolidated Eldorado Mining Company and Intermountain Exploration Company.
                                      
EFP-P1090080
(Fig. 16)