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Mines, History & 6 Wheel Drives Inhabit Techatticup Mine

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MINES, HISTORY & 6 WHEEL DRIVES: TECHATTICUP MINE

Owner & Operator Discusses The History, Secrets & Splendor Hidden In A Nearby Desert

The wreckage of a plane on the property of Techatticup Mine. [Courtesy: Travel Nevada]

The West was a place of mystery but the destinations and hidden finds that populate the desert make the voyage all the more interesting. Techatticup Gold Mine in Eldorado Canyon fits the bill…a place of lore that was one the main commerce centers along the Colorado River when Vegas was merely an ant hill. Mine owners Tony & Bobbie Werley have turned this place into a cultural mecca of sorts where stories of Indians, soldiers and gold populate the land just as much as the kind of cool antique junk that they’ve collected every corner of their land. Tony sat down with The Buzz to discuss life on the edge, finding cool stuff and keeping the dream alive.

The Buzz: Techatticup is a destination for sure.

Tony Werley: We’re 44 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada…Southeast. Basically [we’re] the oldest and richest gold mine in Southern Nevada. Before Las Vegas came about, this was a gold mining camp in 1861when the Indians were running through here. We bought it 22 years ago….it had been abandoned for 50 years. [The owners] had just not wanted to do anything with it. The guy who I bought it from…his mother was still alive…she had fond memories of it when she [lived] here. That is why she kept it so long. I kept pestering him a little bit and he finally sold it to us. We’ve just been putting it back together ever since.

The Buzz: What does it take to restore a property like this? Are there certain rules in place?

TW: It’s an old gold mine. There was a lot of old buildings that used to be here. When you look at the old pictures, there was about 20 old buildings that were out here in 1900. A lot of them have been taken away. They had wooden forest tournaments so a lot of people…prospectors in the 1940s and 50s…ended up taking them away up into the back canyons. We actually had to bring 14 of them back in here and put them back up right where they were. It’s  been a big family event…me and my brother went partners in on it. And my boys are all carpenters…so it’s been a big family event.

Miners work at the Techatticup Mine In The Early 1900s.
View Of The Colorado River in Nevada in 1875 [Courtesy: Timothy O'Sullivan - LOC]

The Buzz: The notion of the history of this place and its geographical location near Vegas must make for interesting stories.

TW: There are lots of stories. Even when we go on a mine tour, we can’t tell you all the stories because there are so many of them. It’s before Las Vegas…so 1861. Vegas doesn’t become a town until 1905 and this place was out here in the year 1900 with 144 miners living here at that exact same time where there is less than 30 people living in Las Vegas. [And in Vegas] they’re all farmers. The [only] reason they’re making a living is growing crops and raising cows to feed the miners out here in the canyon. So in the early days, this was Southern Nevada. So the way we got it supplied before that is that the steamers would come up the Colorado River for 40 years in and out of here. They were coming all the way from the Sea Of Cortez...and they came up the Colorado River….400 miles to get here. They went through Yuma, Arizona. Yuma is a little town there. They were the first port and then they would just keep coming. For 40 years they would come up and down into this camp. This was the kind of hub of navigation on the Colorado River back then. You couldn’t believe anything could come up the Colorado River here now but 9 months out of the year, steamboats would come and go. Even the Mormons would come down and pick up supplies from here in the early days.

The Buzz: The water was that high?

TW: There were no dams back then so, during the spring and summer run off, the water was high and these big flat bottom riverboats could navigate it. They were big….33 feet wide in the beam, some of the big ones, and 150 feet long. They could carry 200 tons of supplies, every two weeks. They could come up to the bottom of El Dorado Canyon. Nelson is a little town above me, about a mile and a half. El Dorado is the canyon we are actually in and all the mines are located along it. Down there, where the river is, is where they built the first mill. There was a military base down there with about 50 soldiers for a couple of years protecting the miners from the Indians. Finally the Indians got the memo not to kill the white man so right after the Civil War they got the 50 soldiers in here to protect the miners. After a while, the soldiers were more trouble than the Indians were. [Then] at one point, there was nothing going on here at all…and they were just drinking and partying…maybe not partying [so much] but they would desert on you. [One time] two of them deserted and headed for California. They sent three soldiers after them to bring them back…and when they found the first two soldiers and where they were headed…they deserted.

The Buzz: What can people expect when they come out to see Techatticup?

TW: Well…here’s the other deal. We are kind of hoarders out here so we collect a lot of old junk. It was kind of the right time and right place because now that kind of stuff’s “in”. We turned down “[American] Pickers”, “Rick’s Restoration” and “Counting Cars”…they all want to do photo shoots out here…and we won’t do it. Because…personally…the History Channel…they don’t want to pay you any money to do it…they think you just want to be on television. We do do some shows like “Vegas Hot Rods” and stuff like that…[but] we only let them shoot a little bit at a time so they don’t shoot everything. We have an old Model T out in front of the tower. I think it is a ‘27. It used to be a water truck. We have 60 old vehicles out here that are 1969 or older. We have every style. Most of them, in fact, probably better than half of them, are old trucks. We do three weddings a week. Photo shoots…probably 4 or 5 of them every day. A lot of commercials. Music videos. Magazine covers. Stuff like that. Some people come out here and get married in front of the truck. And  I got a lot of old school buses that we have started to turn into RVs.

Tony's 6 Wheel Drive RV in The Making. [Photo Credit: Jay Halverson]

The Buzz: Do you build the RVs yourself?

TW: I am sitting in the back of an RV I am building right now drinking a Coca Cola. It is a big yellow one and it’s my wife’s RV. It has a toilet and shower and sink and stuff. It’s a 6 wheel drive cargo truck and it has a 42 International front end on it. We took the military cargo truck off of it and made it look like it is from the 1940s. It has a school bus on the back of it but it is 6-wheel drive. It can go anywhere. It’s a monster. I got two of them actually. The other one is called Hyde and we take people on a mine tour in that.

The Buzz: How often do you do that?

TW: We do mine tours at 9, 12 and 2 o’clock every day as long as I have four people to start that tour. Then there are other tour companies who come out. So we average 2-4 mine tours every day. It is mostly a walking tour. You come into the store, we check you in…sometimes there are double tours. If we get too many people, we make it a double tour. You get a lot of history. There is like 60 pictures from the old days which show you what the buildings and miners looked like…the Indians…steamboats…all of that. We’ve had about 12 main movies plus made for television [stuff done out here]…”3000 Miles To Graceland”…”Eye Of The Beholder”…”Breakdown”…lots of zombie movies…vampire movies. We show the people a clip of Kevin Costner blowing a plane up here. There is a military graveyard of T-28 Trojans from the Korean War…we got about 20 of them lying about. There are sitting in a big yard down there. I store them for a guy I go to church with. That might appeal to a lot of RV people. It is about 400 yards down the road.

Tim Wassberg

A graduate of New York University's Tisch School Of The Arts with degrees in Film/TV Production & Film Criticism, Tim has written for magazines such as Moviemaker, Moving Pictures, Conde Nast Traveler UK and Casino Player. He enjoys traveling and distinct craft beers among other things.

Davis Camp Park

Make Sure To Stay At:

Davis Camp Park, a little more than 30 miles away, has a wide variety of visitors and uses whether you are looking for an action packed weekend on the river or seeking a place to relax in the warm breeze through the palm trees. The park within a half mile of casino entertainment in Laughlin, Nevada.

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