North America

Las Vegas: Off the Beaten Strip

written by | Posted on July 1st, 2009

Horseback safaris, haunted gold mine tours, ziplining, hiking and jeep tours into the outback—hold on tight as we take you on a journey to the flipside of Las Vegas.

ghostly encounters For all the thrills Las Vegas has to offer, you can now add on a few chills, too. Start with a trip to the dark side—as only a night with Haunted Vegas Tours could offer. The tour runs nightly at 9:30 p.m., costs $56.25 pp, lasts 2.5 hours and takes groups to known haunts in this town. Knowledgeable guides given to a dash of theatrics don black top hats and capes while guests grab (ghost) dowsing rods. They head to places that are either reputed to be haunted or where notorious deaths have occurred and attempt to summon the spirits through ghost hunting tools and cameras. Bugsy Siegel, Liberace, Redd Foxx and Elvis are among the celebrity spirits encountered. A variety of themes are available under this concept: Vegas Mob Tours, seances, even a haunted honeymoon tour.

For a few authentic goosebumps make it the Techatticup Mining Camp in Eldorado Canyon just 40 miles southeast of the modern-day Strip. This is where Vegas’ true gold rush began and churned out fortunes between 1861 and the start of WWII. The ore was melted into gold bars in the camp’s smelter and then hauled to the Colorado River a few miles away to be sent downstream to Yuma and on to San Francisco through the Gulf of California to the Pacific. Hot, dusty, in the middle of nowhere, miners came to try their luck in “chasing the vein” and many never returned. The rock here is pocked with gold to this day, but the mines were closed, up until 1994 that is, when a gutsy family bought the shambles of the old house and lodge, the mine and scads of rusted Jurassic-looking equipment left in the dust. Fifteen years later, the wreckage is now a museum of the history in the area with photos of the miners, the local tribes that hunted them, the claim jumpers that did their share of murdering as well, and the many faces that the mines claimed. The family cleared out the Techatticup mine, boulder by boulder, and restored it enough to give a glimpse of what the conditions were truly like cutting into these tunnels three feet per day and operating only by candlelight.

Eerie sounds can be heard as tour participants quietly traverse the tunnels. Stories are told—sad ones, scary ones—as the group retraces the still visible tracks in the dust. Then the lights go out. Not even a hand at nose distance can be traced. After a few minutes, cameras begin to pop and what they capture can only be considered remarkable. If orbs have weight then these light-driven phenoms will astound. The tunnels are crowded with miners still trying to stake their fortunes, long after they met their fate, whether found on film, sensed on skin or simply understood.

One presence in particular has been mired in the mine for more than a century. The spirit of R.B. Jones, an outlaw who shot a foreman at the mine before being hunted down and killed, has been noted in many historical documents to have bothered miners when the operations were active. The family that owns the mine gives most of the tours and has an extensive collection of documents on hand.

When history is not coming to life in the mine, it is playing to audiences in film. The rambling 51-acre camp has served as set and backdrop for such films as “Breakdown” with Kurt Russell and Kathleen Quinlan, and “3000 Miles to Graceland,” with Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, Courtney Cox and Christian Slater—many of the stunt props remain in place.

The mine tours are offered year-round and that is because the tunnels maintain a temperature of 70 degrees at all times. Onsite tickets cost $12.50 for adults and $7.50 for children, and are limited to 12 people in a group. Pink Jeep Tours, the Sedona favorite that now has a branch in Las Vegas, has a 4-hour tour to the mine and through Eldorado Canyon that includes hotel pick-up and drop-off, comfortable seating in a 10-passenger air-conditioned van, water, stops for desert turtle sightings and notable spots along the way for $103 pp.