Photography Day Trip to the Nelson Ghost Town in Nevada

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While visiting Southern Nevada this winter near Valley of Fire State Park and Lake Mead we were told by some local friends of a really cool ghost town called Nelson home to the old Techatticup Gold Mine in a spot called Eldorado Canyon. It is supposed to be a mecca for photographers because of the scads of neat old vehicles, signs, equipment, and buildings scattered about this unique property. We piled into the car on a sunny, warm late winter day and headed to its location about 20 miles south of Boulder City, Nevada.

The drive took about an hour and a half which went by quickly as we enjoyed the terrific scenery along Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The plan was to arrive a little bit before sunset and spend our time exploring and photographing the interesting scenes and historical artifacts in the late daylight. Once it got dark Anne wanted to try out some night photography with the help of a knowledgeable local photographer (Jim Sage) we were meeting there. Check out Jim’s Flickr pages for some awesome shots around LasVegas.
Nelson Location

The area known as Nelson was originally called Eldorado in 1775, by the Spaniards who made the original discoveries of gold in the area that is now Eldorado Canyon. A hundred years later the prospectors and miners of the day took over and established the notorious Techatticup Mine. Disagreements over ownership, management and labor disputes resulted in wanton killings so frequent as to be routine and ordinary. Despite the sinister reputation of the mine, it along with others in the town produced several million dollars in gold, silver, copper and lead. –,_Nevada

Lake Mead NRA scenery
Taste of the Lake Mead NRA scenery

Techatticup Gold Mine

From Boulder City, we drove down Highway 95 south a little way and turned left onto Highway 165. After climbing in elevation for several miles we descended into the canyon area, through the tiny town of Nelson and about a mile later there it was the Techatticup Gold Mine! Wow, there was so much cool stuff it was hard to take it all in.

On the right were remnants of the original gold mine and to the left a bunch of authentic looking old buildings. Many of the buildings are recreations but man do they look real, so well done. All over the property are old cars, trucks and mine equipment in various states of disintegration. The paint and metal have been weathered by the dust; wind and the hot desert sun making everything look extremely vintage and super cool.

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Photographers Dream Spot

What a special place for photography. In fact, the place is very popular with professional photographers for photo-shoots where they need an old western or vintage backdrop. While we were there I spotted a scantily clad model getting photos taken draped all over a vintage aluminum travel trailer. Yowza! We are close to Vegas. One famous scene from the movie “Three Thousand Miles to Graceland”, the blowing up of an airplane, was filmed right here and the plane is still here. It sits on a sandy hillside looking like it crashed there.

As you explore the place you’ll find new and interesting things around each corner. If you’re a history buff, this place is a bonanza for you. One thing I loved was all the old signs. They are everywhere! I lost count of the neat old Coca Cola signs. Another feature that aids the photographer is the surrounding desert landscape. The townsite is nestled in among craggy hills with views of distant mountains and right next to it is a huge field of Teddy Bear Cholla cactus.

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If you would like to photograph here it cost 10 bucks, just check in at the general store when you arrive. We were lucky and a friend of a friend got us free access to the place and we were even allowed to stay late to do some night photography there. Anne was in heaven as she was able to photograph a vintage rundown looking gas station/garage scene using timed flashes and light painting techniques to create what’s sure to be an incredible photo. Check out her blog in the coming weeks for that.

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More to Do in Eldorado Canyon

We were there to take photos and explore the ghost town but there is much more than that to do in Eldorado Canyon. There are tours of the old mine, horseback and ATV rides, kayaking and more. Heck, there is even a helicopter pad nearby! Many tour companies run excursions out of Las Vegas to the Eldorado Canyon. The whole area is steeped in history from the Wild West days. With the presence of the Colorado River and the silver and gold mining boom in the late 1800’s, a ton of stuff went on in this part of Southern Nevada. Lots of it is still preserved by the dry desert climate.


So if you find yourself in the Las Vegas area and are tired of the glitz and tourist traps of the city I highly recommended a day trip out to explore this (off the beaten path) cool little ghost town. We will definitely be back. In fact, I believe there are some boondocking opportunities in the area as well. Will have to check that out…

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Nelson Ghost Town Photo Gallery

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