Thursday, March 23, 2023


Tour the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in southern Nevada

In this month’s edition of Ghost Town Trails, we will travel to the Techatticup Mine about 45 minutes south of Las Vegas, Nevada. As were our last two featured towns of Ruby, Arizona, and Castle Dome, Arizona, the Techatticup Mine is also privately owned by individuals who understand the importance of preserving Western mining history.

The oldest, richest, and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada, the Techatticup Mine awaits photographers and history buffs in stunningly scenic Eldorado Canyon, just 45 minutes outside Las Vegas. Per Travel Nevada  

The Techatticup Mine was once the richest gold-producing mine in southern Nevada. At the conclusion of World War II, the mine was shut down and left to the mercy of the harsh desert elements and vandalism for the next 50 years. Then, in 1994, Tony and Bobbie Werly bought the mine, restored it and created the surrounding exhibits and activities that exist today.

History of the Techatticup Mine and surrounding Eldorado Canyon

In the late 1700s, Spanish prospectors and Native Americans were living in Eldorado Canyon. The Spaniards found silver, but not the mother lode of gold they were searching for and eventually left the canyon. In the 1860s, the canyon again drew the attention of prospectors. This time Americans worked their way up the Colorado River on steamboats from Yuma. During the same period, Civil War deserters wandered into the area finding the remote canyon a great place to hide.

During this time, nearly 300 hardy souls lived in Eldorado Canyon compared to 40 in the nearby settlement that would eventually become Las Vegas. This new group of prospectors and deserters discovered a rich ledge of gold, which the Spaniards had missed. The mixture of cultures produced a lawless, ruthless environment. Daily fights erupted over gold, women, and mining claims. Claims were jumped, innocents were shot and renegade killings by the natives lead to countless episodes of vigilante justice. The closest sheriff was stationed more than 200 miles away in Pioche, which was a multiple-day ride on horseback. Being too busy (Pioche had its own problems) and too far away for the sheriff to uphold the law in Eldorado Canyon, a detachment of U.S. soldiers was sent to bring order.

Tunnel in Techatticup Mine
Exploring the Techatticup Mine. Photo Cheri Helgeson

Many mines discovered

Many mines were discovered, staked and claimed in the canyon during this unsettled time, making it one of the earliest and richest mining districts in the young state. The Paiute tribe lived nearby in the arid, barren hills surrounding the new mines. They would wander into the mining camps telling the miners over and over, “Techatticup,” meaning, “I’m hungry.” A party of prospectors named their newly discovered mine for the Paiute word.

The Techatticup Mine soon became one of the state’s largest, as miners tunneled farther and deeper into the hills recovering precious metals. As ore in one section of the mine would give out, new deposits would be discovered elsewhere in the mine. After decades of mining, their quest for gold and silver created a mine 12 levels deep with miles of tunnels and half a hillside wide. The ore finally played out and the mine was abandoned after World War II.

Techatticup Mine – The next chapter

Thanks to creative thinkers Tony and Bobbie Werly, activity has returned to the Techatticup Mine and Eldorado Canyon. The Werlys operated a kayak rental business out of Boulder City. Kayak trips launched from below Hoover Dam and exited from the Colorado River at the base of Eldorado Canyon. While traveling to and from the canoe launch and exit points, Tony Werly noticed the neglected buildings of the old mining camp. “When I was growing up I used to dream of retiring to property that included an old country store and gas station,” he says.

In 1994 the Werlys purchased acreage that included several Techatticup mining claims, the company store, the stamp mill, an old bunkhouse and a few small miners’ cabins. Just prior to closing on the property they made a discovery that changed their destiny.

Relics within the mine. Photo Cheri Helgeson

Lower entrance to the mine was unearthed

A long-abandoned lower entrance to the mine was unearthed. Over the years, tons of mine tailings had flowed past and into the mine entrance from the stamp mill, filling the tunnel entrance to within inches of the ceiling. Soon the entire Werly family, including the local football team, were mucking the mine tailings from the tunnel with buckets and wheelbarrows. “It took us three months of Saturdays to clear 80 yards of the tunnel,” Tony Werly states. “We dreamed of being able to open the mine for tours.”

When cleared of tailings and other debris, work commenced bringing the tunnel up to state safety codes. Lighting, metal catwalks, railings, emergency equipment and adequate ventilation were the first improvements. Buildings original to the property were restored and new ones constructed with additional period-appropriate artifacts added. Across from the mine sits the historic 1861 store, which now serves as a museum to Eldorado Canyon and the Techatticup Mine. The Werlys now had Techatticup prepared to begin a new chapter in its history.

Techatticup Mine – Our visit

My wife and I visited in the fall when temperatures are comfortable and boondocking nearby could be accomplished without air conditioning.

Techatticup Mine buildings
Photo opportunities abound. Photo Cheri Helgeson

The historic mining camp is booming once again as news of its revival and underground tours travel far and wide. Today, in place of gold miners, history buffs, tourists and local school children follow the stringers of white quartz underground. For us, one of the best things about Techatticup and the mine tour is experiencing the buildings and mining equipment as they existed decades ago. History comes to life right before your eyes.

During our tour inside the mine, we saw the tools miners used to excavate the tunnels and shafts, historic pictures and other items of interest. With the improvements made by the Werlys, the mine tour is a safe and easy one for children and adults. We didn’t have to worry about falling down a vertical shaft or climbing around rocks or other hazards like the old days when there were rails, ties and ore cars running through the mine.

Plenty to see

There is plenty to see outside the mine, as well. The museum, housed in one of the original buildings, was worth a visit by itself. It is a treasure trove of mineral specimens, mining artifacts and photographs. Many of the pictures portray the claim jumping and murderous deeds that made this canyon legendary. Oddities including a room full of space aliens and other surprises! During our visit, Bobbie Werly was working in the museum (also the Werlys’ home) and showed us the special exhibit kept in the freezer.

The place is a walk-through museum of mining artifacts. Photo – Cheri Helgeson

Then we strolled among the thousands of additional artifacts and items of interest laying around outside that make this special place unique, a must for relic lovers, and very photogenic. That could be why it has become a popular place to film movies, music videos, commercials and, of late, model shoots.

Some of the major motion pictures filmed at Techatticup are: “Eye of the Beholder,” “Breakdown,” “Johnny and the Highrollers” and “3,000 Miles to Graceland.” In one scene from “3,000 miles to Graceland”, Kevin Costner blew up Lucky’s Gas Station. If you saw the movie, it was the place where an airplane served as an awning over the fuel pumps. You can see the plane, or what’s left of it, during your visit sitting across the road from the museum. With so many striking backgrounds, Techatticup is a “gold mine” for photographers.

Getting there

To get to the Techatticup Mine: From Las Vegas, take US 95 south towards Boulder City. Just before Boulder City, US 95 and US 93 split. Continue south on US 95 for 13 miles to SR 165. Turn left on SR 165 (Nelson Road) for about 11 miles to Nelson. Continue on SR 165 through Nelson. The Techatticup Mine is just a few more miles down the road. The entire route to the site is paved. Keep an eye out for Desert Tortoises and Big Horn Sheep along the way.

Closed to visitors on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve at noon and Christmas Day.

Above- and below-ground guided mining tour

Tours are approximately 1 hour 10 minutes in duration. Reservations required.                Tour schedule: 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Four people minimum required. Can go in with other groups to make up the minimum.
Reservations required.
Adults: $15 per person 13 and older
Children 5-12: $10.00 per person (Kids 5 and under are free.)
(Open 7 days per week.)

Call 702-291-0026 to make reservations.

Click here for additional information.


There are no formal campgrounds in the area; however, much of the land is administered by the BLM which allows boondocking (aka dispersed camping) for up to 14 days.

Boondocking near the Techatticup Mine

The closest RV park is located in Boulder City north of the Techatticup Mine.



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Neal Davis
3 days ago

Very interesting and enticing; thanks, Dave! 😎

3 days ago

What was in the freezer?

Neal Davis
3 days ago
Reply to  Drew

Great question, Drew! What Drew said.

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