Leaving Las Vegas: Nelson, Nevada the Ghost Town

Written and photography by Jake Conlee

It is no surprise that Las Vegas was born of transportation, due in part to it’s idyllic location as a thoroughfare between Salt Lake City, Denver and the West Coast. Las Vegas Valley wasn’t a prosperous mining area including the small towns and  hovels in the mountains and hills of the surrounding areas. In any direction from The Strip you can travel and find remnants of a mining town, or even a ghost town. I have found that in our searches for Ghost Towns, that sometimes, they can be very sparse and disappointing. If there are even a pair of foundations with no standing buildings, it may still qualify as a Ghost Town. This wasn’t the great historical treasure that I was hunting for; some graffiti on concrete and some broken bottles?! No thanks.

But in my family’s exploring, we have stumbled across Nelson, Nevada. This place is one of the aforementioned mining towns, and one group of people has kept a portion of it very true to form. Nelson is the real deal. Founded around 1775 by Spanish explorers, it was previously called Eldorado, due to it’s yield of gold in the area known as Eldorado Canyon. It was taken over by prospectors of the area, and known to be developed by deserters of the Civil War. The area not only held gold deposits, but millions of dollars in copper, lead and silver as well. There, is that authentic enough for you?

One the eastern end of town, towards the slopes leading to the former site of Nelson’s Landing, the site of the former Texaco Gas Station, General Store and Café are the remnants of what Nelson may have looked like many years ago. At the mouth of the Eldorado Canyon, there is a collection of antique buildings, relics, buses, tractors, and even pieces of Korean War era Aircraft. Even though it isn’t actually the original site and structures that were in the original Nelson, some of the buildings date back to the early 1900’s, as the mine was officially deactivated in 1945. The area is very lightly traveled, and due to the geographic layout of Nelson itself, it is very susceptible to flash floods. In 1974, the wharf known as Nelson’s Landing, which is 5 miles directly downslope from Nelson itself; was washed away in a wall of water, reportedly as high as 40 feet, resulting in total devastation and loss of nine unsuspecting lives. The only two warnings I will offer when exploring Nelson, is check weather conditions and watch out for open mines and ventilation shafts.

I would recommend that you check Nelson out, and if you are there at the right time, go on the Eldorado Canyon Mine tour, and they will tell you about the infamous Tehatticup Mine and the notoriously dangerous history that came with the miners and the greed. Nelson itself is only 35 miles of a really neat and unexpected drive. Head towards Searchlight, and hang a left on NV-165. The road climbs a gradual grade, to above 3,000 feet in sea level and then winds down the canyon toward Nelson’s Landing at the Colorado River. Nelson itself  is eight miles from the US-95 junction and Nelson’s Landing is another five miles down the road.

This is another great escape that Las Vegas has in it’s chest of local treasures. I recommend going and bringing a camera with plenty of memory and battery. You will not be disappointed.

Jake ConleeJake Conlee is a California native that has been blessed with the gift of restlessness. With an undying fervor and passion for what he does not yet know, life is a constant adventure. Truly fearless in implementation of wandering down less trafficked roads, this has led to many ordinary days turning into a treasure hunt. Emblazoned on his arm, the self photographed sign of this incredible City of Sin. He loves this city so much, a mural of Las Vegas is currently under development on his arms. If you need to know about anything in Las Vegas, if he doesn’t know the answer, he will find out for you. He loves Las Vegas, the good, the bad, but mostly the nostalgic. He’s also a sucker for a good hunk of meat. He is, most of all, a father of two girls, 12-year-old “Vern” and 2-year-old “Chuck”

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