ATLAS OBSCURA

Nelson Ghost Town - Searchlight, Nevada

Now a popular – though admittedly desolate – tourist spot incredibly popular with photographers and music video directors, this ghost town outside of Las Vegas has a bloody and nefarious past.

Five miles away from the Colorado River, Nelson, known by the Spaniards that discovered it as El Dorado, was the site of the scandalous Techatticup Mine. An area rich in gold, silver, copper and lead, the land was mostly settled by Civil War deserters, and was the site of one of the largest booms the state of Nevada ever encountered.

The mine was understandably in high demand, and labor disputes and ownership disagreements were common; so often ending in bloodshed that murder became commonplace, and even expected. The sinister reputation of the town and its riches that were so often paid for in blood didn’t deter fortune seekers, but Nelson was unfortunately directly downstream of El Dorado Canyon, and flash flooding made the boomtown, once stripped of its precious minerals, practically uninhabitable.

What remains of Nelson lies above the flood channels, a few scattered ranch houses, the remnants of a Texaco station, and the standard weather-torn buildings and machinery. Used as the location for many photo shoots, music videos and several feature films, the site features one unusual spectacle of a small aircraft seemingly smashed nose-first into a dune. The plane is not a true relic, but a fabricated wreck from the 2001 crime film 3000 Miles to Graceland.

Visit the abandoned mining town of Nelson, Nevada on Atlas Obscura…