Eldorado Canyon and Nelson Nevada

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This page last updated on 06/06/2018
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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
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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 & Place Cove - Summary Page. 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.
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 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.
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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. 
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Nelson Mine-1
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Nelson Mine-2
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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.
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