About an hour’s drive from Las Vegas, near the old mining town of Nelson, is the Eldorado Canyon mine. Although the mine is no longer active, the site’s current owners give mine tours, and collect old signs and artifacts. It is an amazing place to visit!
The first thing you notice while driving out here, is how remote it is. The sign for Nelson isn’t even a standard exit off the highway; rather, you have to keep your eye out for the green sign with an arrow pointing to the left that says “Nelson”. You turn left onto the dividing area and wait for traffic coming the other way to clear before crossing onto the 2-lane road that leads up to Nelson and the Eldorado Canyon mine. (Okay, okay, for the more map-oriented sorts: You take Highway 95 south past Boulder City, and turn left on NV Highway 165 E.) You drive on up into the rugged hills until you get to Nelson, a very small town, and then past that on the left is the Eldorado outfit which you can’t miss with the big old barn and the old trucks and various other oddments… Beyond that the road leads on to Nelson’s Landing.
The movie, 3000 Miles To Graceland, was filmed in part here at the Eldorado Canyon site. The place has an off-the-beaten-track, out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere vibe that is irresistible. As mentioned, it’s also on the way to Nelson’s Landing, a popular place where swimmers and boaters go to frolic on Lake Mohave. So of course, there is a canoe rental business up here too! So you have everything you need, except food and drink — those you must supply for yourself. This is not a restaurant or a soda fountain and they don’t have vending machines either. Be prepared with your own good eats and drinks, including plenty of water (you would never, ever take a road trip in the desert without plenty of drinking water in the car with you or at the very least in the trunk — right? Right???).
The mine was one of the biggest in Nevada, and millions of dollars worth of gold was mined here. On the tour we took, we were regaled with stories of miners and their exploits, up to and including mayhem and murder. Ah, gold fever: nothin’ like it. Although this particular mine is inactive, it’s worth noting that most of the gold mined in the U.S. these days comes from Nevada. It’s also worth noting that the mining industry is protected in the Nevada constitution, capping the rate of taxation. In other words, mining has a special place in the State of Nevada, being the second largest industry in the state to this day (behind gaming, of course!).
The mine itself is fascinating, with a steady internal temperature in the mid 70s year round — in other words, very comfortable, even during the hot summers. In fact, the mine tour makes a nice getaway from the Las Vegas heat during the summer months! But there is more that makes it interesting. At one point our guide turned off the lamps inside the mine, and then turned off his flashlight to show us how dark it is inside a mine. I have never experienced anything like it: absolute darkness. It was a little unnerving, even knowing that he had it under control and would be turning the lights back on soon. Another interesting thing about the mine was the breeze. Our guide told us that there is almost always a breeze in the mine, due to the temperature difference between the mine’s constant temperature and the outside. While the paths we walked on were easy to use and we were able to stand up, there were some side paths and deep chasms and little climby-holes going up into the rock that looked very intimidating to say the least! Amazing what some people are able to endure — I don’t think I myself am cut out to be a miner!
My favorite thing about the El Dorado Canyon area is the Americana, from old Chevy and International pickup trucks, to Coca-Cola signs and bottles, to old farm equipment, to stuffed animals (including the infamous Jackalope), well you really just have to see it and take it all in. It’s an homage to both the hard working nature of our forebears, and all their quirkiness that is on display here. Inside and out, the place is full of old mining implements and tools, rough gemstones, old signs, animal skulls, and much more!
My other favorite thing about the El Dorado Canyon / Nelson / Nelson’s Landing area is the wildflowers in the spring. Also the hillsides covered with Teddy Bear cactus, when the late sunlight catches them just right they light up in an amazing display. It really is a different geography than that of Las Vegas and Red Rock Canyon, but it is still rugged that’s for sure! I’ll have to go out there next April and come back with some photos to share.
For more information about Eldorado Canyon, or to call and set up a mine tour, visit the Eldorado Canyon Facebook page at:
Until next time, Good luck to ya!
Psst: Here are some more pics of the mine and environs: