|"There's a million dollars of gold in there, but it would cost two million dollars to get it out."
So says Tony Werly of Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours. Werly could care less whether he can get the gold out of that mountain or not - Tony and his family have struck gold of another kind. But like so many old-time prospectors who have tramped the canyons of Nevada, "Eureka I've found it," didn't happen over night.
"The whole adventure out here has been restoring this gold mine back to its semi-historical condition," Werly said as he searched his memory banks to trying to figure out how many years it has been.
Even though he had been traveling Eldorado Canyon for half his life, Tony says, he and his wife Bobbie, and brother Kent, took on the adventure and have been working on the restoration for just the past 10 years. But Tony's interest in the property goes as far back as his canoe trips on the Colorado River.
"For the past 27 years we have been running canoe trips and wave runner tours out of Boulder City, Nevada. Eldorado Canyon was one of my takeout places," he says as we take a seat on the couch in their restored office and residence above a unique country store.
"When I'd drive by this place I could only see four little abandoned buildings down here."
Those four buildings must have finally piqued Tony's interest enough to inquire about the property. He tracked down the owner who wasn't interested in selling at the time, but two years after Tony's inquiry the owner must have decided he didn't want to be a miner and was ready to sell.
The Werly's weren't really sure what their long term plan for the property might be. At the time, mine tours had not entered the picture and the only mine tunnel they knew about was the one at the 100 foot level.
"We decided to buy it anyway," Tony says. "There is 51 acres and we thought maybe we would put a couple of RV spaces down here and plan it as an investment for the future."
The future of course is unknown, but the immediate plan became the restoration of the four buildings already located on the site. The brothers Werly, both carpenters, had their work cut out for them.
"We cleaned the buildings up, put the doors and windows back in and scared the pack rats out," Tony says.
During the first year, according to Tony, Kent stayed on the property living in "the front house" which was in the best condition - a house which was built in the 1800's. (Sadly, it burned down four years ago).
"The barn is built out of remnants from one of the old cyanide tanks," Tony says. "The staircase in the barn and even the siding came from those tanks."
Most of their materials are authentic planks and floor boards from other buildings in Eldorado Canyon.
"I probably have six or seven buildings from the Wall Street Mine. They were abandoned and I jacked them up and brought them down here."
Although the Werly's did not know what they would do with the property when their purchase was made, they soon became visionaries as well as historians. They jettisoned the RV park idea early on. That was about the time their restoration vision became a little more clear and more of the mine was discovered.
"We found this old 200 foot hidden entrance which had probably been covered for 80 years. Mud, debris, and old rotted timbers were washed into the mountain and plugged it up," Tony says. "I knew right then, I mean that day, I knew I would be doing mine tours sooner or later."
Certainly Tony was comfortable with canoe tours, but putting together this package would take a bit more - discovery.
"When we bought the place, we started looking up the history at UNLV, the University of Arizona, and Universtiy of California, Berkley," Tony says. "
"We're trying to decorate it like it was in the 1920's. We have pictures from 1900 and 1916, so we know what it was like."
"It was discovered in 1861, but they really didn't start working on the mine until just after the Civil War. That's when the steamboats started running up the Colorado River - up until about 1900.
"We discovered a map of three miles of tunnels in the mountain," Tony continues, "and we found a story that was written in 1912 that talks about one of the oldest ghost stories in Nevada."
In addition, the Werly's uncovered information about claim jumping and killings which took place at the time.
"The history comes with the place," Tony says, "It doesn't look like Disney Land - it's real."
What is also real, is the developing interest in the mine tours which Tony knew he would be doing "sooner or later."
"We're doing 30 schools now," Tony says. "We've only had the tours going for about four years now. The first year we didn't have any schools and we couldn't get anyone to come out here and look at it. We finally managed to drag some of the tour operators down here and it just took off."
The tours come almost every day, as well as people "wandering up" from word of mouth (like this writer).
Things look good now, but Tony had early concerns about moving his family into a deserted canyon of falling down wood with burros, rattlesnakes, and rabbits for company (although that's the way the west was born).
"I love it out here," Bobbie says. "When we moved, I was pushing for it. I actually put our house up for sale and Tony didn't know it."
Bobbie said she found an old 'house for sale' sign, crossed out the old phone number and replaced it with Tony's number in the canyon and leaned it against the house.
"Tony got a phone call that morning. They asked, 'what do you want for it' and Tony said, for what? 'Your house,' and Tony said, "is it for sale?...." That's how he found out."
Although the children are grown and on their own (one daughter-in-law who lives there) Bobbie is not lonely, she has plenty of visitors. She says the business is going well and attracts a lot of people for the tours, people who are traveling through to the river and people who are looking for property.
As for Tony?
"If it's just like this forever and ever, I'm happy. We don't have to build anything else. There are no other big projects. Unless my boys move down here and we build a house." EC