Anasazi Indians, and later the Paiutes and Mojave tribes. Living peacefully for hundred of years, the Indians were intruded upon in 1775, when the Spaniards arrived in the canyon 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.
In addition to the canyon’s numerous rowdy miners, two of Nevada’s most famous renegade Indians lived in Eldorado Canyon, the first of which, a man named Arvote, was said to have killed five area settlers. At about the same time a Cocopah Indian named Queho, was terrorizing the area and was reportedly Nevada’s first serial killer. He was said to have murdered 23 people in the early 1900s. The last person Queho killed was Maude Douglas near the Techatticup Mine in 1919. Having already become Nevada’s Number 1 Public Enemy, the Indian was relentlessly pursued by sheriff’s posses but was never captured. What was thought to have been his remains were finally found in a cave in Eldorado Canyon in 1940.
The posse that recovered Queho’s remains stands at the mouth of his cave hideout. In the early 1900s Nelson’s Landing was one of the largest ports on the Colorado River and became even more important in the 1920s for two reasons.
The first was prohibition, enacted on January 16, 1920. On the Arizona side of the river in Mohave County, prohibition was strictly enforced and moonshine sold for as much as $50.00 a gallon. However, in Clark County on the Nevada side, prohibition was not enforced and homemade liquor sold for as low as $1.00 a gallon. This created a brisk trade along the river as bootleggers ran their white lightning into Arizona.
The second was the preliminary work required for the building of the Hoover Dam. Dozens of surveyors operated small boats from Nelson’s Landing, while many others were ferried across the river to complete their work. When the dam was completed, the area became one of the first main tourist sites as visitors were guided to the best fishing areas and taken on tours of the dam. Before long, Nelson’s Landing prospered as a resort, where boats, bait, gasoline, food, and cabins were provided.
The Techatticup Mine remained active until about 1945, producing more than 2.5 million dollars worth of gold, silver, copper, and lead, after which, it sat abandoned for almost five decades. In no time, the town of Nelson dwindled leaving little more than the remains of mine works and tailings among the scorpions and rattle snakes.
Following the completion of Davis Dam in the mid-1950s, Lake Mohave began to fill up, drowning the old stamp-mill site, the steamboat landing and the remains of the Eldorado Camp.
The Nelson District yielded more that 500 million dollars in ore in its almost 100 years of mining. A tour of Eldorado Canyon begins by accessing Nelson Road (Nevada Highway 165) from I-95 south of Boulder City. Traveling southeast, the highway gradually climbs through about 11 miles of desert hills before reaching the old mining community of Nelson, Nevada. During the spring, this part of the drive will provide numerous picturesque views of desert wildflowers. Nelson is entirely surrounded by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) property, where you might also see big horn sheep and wild burros roaming among the hillsides.
Today, Nelson is all but a ghost town with a population of just about twenty people. With no open businesses, the town marks its past with a few weathered sheds, small shacks with corrugated metal siding, and rusting machinery parts. Those few residents that remain mostly live in a smattering of modern buildings and mobile homes. On a hillside above Nelson is a small overgrown cemetery and though it has some fairly recent graves, they can barely be seen through the brush. 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.
During mining heydays, prospectors would build a shack to live in with whatever was available. This old house in Nelson, sided with corrugated metal still stands, As you leave 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. After having sat abandoned for five decades, Tony and Bobbie Werly purchased the mine and 51 acres of surrounding property. Prior to purchasing the mine acreage, the pair operated a river adventure outfit in nearby Boulder City.