Striking Gold

It’s always fun to step back in time and envision a lifestyle far removed from today’s modern conveniences. The pioneers of the Southwest were a hardy group that helped to shape the landscape where we live today.
One big reason the settlers chose to adventure out west was in the pursuit of gold. One of the oldest and richest gold mines in Nevada lies less than 80 miles north of Laughlin in Eldorado Canyon, the famous Techatticup Mine.
Although mining has ceased, the mine is open for tours to visit the once bountiful gold site. Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours is a family company that has been giving tours of the mine for the last 20 years. The guides live onsite in Eldorado Canyon and are immersed in the rich history of the property, which includes a murderous past.
For several hundred years, Paiute Indians and other tribes lived in the canyon and surrounding areas. Two Indian renegades in particular were infamous in Eldorado — Ahvote, who killed five victims, and Queho, who killed more than 20 people in the early 1900s. Despite their murders, both men eluded the law and Queho’s remains were discovered in a nearby cave in 1940. The home site of Queho’s last victim, Maude Douglas, can be seen from the tours.
These dangers were just a sign of the times, and natives were not the only fear. Once mining began in 1861, disputes over ownership led miners to murder as well.
Miners also had to worry about their safety within the tunnels. With only candles to illuminate the pitch-black caverns and dynamite blasting daily, accidents on the job were bound to happen.
Today the mine is lit during tours, but the guides explain the harsh conditions in the 1800s and give visitors a taste of the dark if they are willing to experience lights out for a few minutes. It is amazing to think the difficult work that was completed by hand without electricity or modern machinery.
Not only is the history interesting, but the tours are also a lesson in mining for gold. Between 1861 and 1942, millions in dollars of gold ore was extracted from the mine. The guides explain how miners would follow the quartz veins in the side of the mountains, which were indicators that gold and silver was present. Inside the cave there are still traces of these precious metals.
After explaining the history and mining process, the tour continues through Techatticup Mine. Visitors walk about a quarter of a mile into the mine on a single-level gravel path. It is breezy and much cooler inside the mine versus outside — bring a jacket to slip on for this portion of the tour.
In total, the tour lasts around one hour, however there is much more to see in El Dorado. The property is an antique gem, with all sorts of vintage signs, rocking chairs, equipment, cars, household appliances and more to admire. The owners have acquired an impressive collection, which has led to amateur and professional photographers purchasing photo sessions on the property, as well as celebrities visiting to film commercials, music videos and even movies.
A scene from “3,000 Miles to Graceland” was filmed there, in which a plane blew up in the movie. The remains of that plane can be seen during the tour.
All sorts of oddities are found inside the main building as well, from insects preserved in translucent stones and pickled aliens in a jar. All kinds of agates, jewelry, wooden chests and other treasures are on sale for a souvenir from your trip.
Plan to come early or save an hour after your tour to browse through the merchandise and artifacts.
Eldorado Canyon lies about 2 miles past the town of Nelson, off of US Highway 95 North. The road is paved all the way to the mine, but does narrow.
Tours run daily at 9 a.m., noon and 2 p.m., when four or more adults have booked a time slot. If there are less than four in your party, your reservation will be on hold until at least four have signed up. For reservations, call 702-291-0026. The tour is just $15 for adults 13 and older, $10 for kids ages 5-12 and kids under 5 are free.
The mine tours are a wealth of information on life in the Wild West days, and guests will certainly find more than expected while perusing the property. It’s a worthwhile trip that holds interest for all ages, tourists and locals alike.