Candelaria – Columbus, Nevada - Atlas Obscura


Columbus, Nevada

This silver-mining camp has been active intermittently from the 1860s to the present. 


The first strikes were made in 1863 by Spanish-speaking prospectors. Extensive activity didn’t begin until 1873 at Pickhandle Gulch (later Metallic City), a half-mile south of the later site of Candelaria. Candelaria itself was platted in 1876 and reached what, in hindsight, was the peak of its boom in the early 1880s.

The area is dry even by Nevada standards, and dry milling of the ore led to extensive cases of silicosis among the mill workers, although conditions were never as bad as in the notorious Delamar mill in eastern Nevada. The dust, along with the ever-present wind, also made for unpleasant living conditions in the camp.

The arrival of the Carson & Colorado Railroad in 1882 helped both the water supply and living conditions in general. Labor strife and litigation further dampened activity, and even though several later bursts of mining ensued, all activity finally ceased in the early 1920s.

In the latter 20th century, mining in the area got a new lease on life with bulk-mining operations based on open pit excavation. The site of Metallic City has now been completely obliterated by a pit, and two other pits, the Northern Belle and the smaller Georgina, now lie south of the Candelaria townsite. Reclaimed heap leaches from this era are visible as symmetric, rounded hills to the north and east. They have been contoured to encourage revegetation. Currently, there are plans to begin new bulk-mining operations, but at present only exploration is continuing.

At the site of Candelaria itself, the ruins of the stone Esmeralda Bank and Tarpey store were nearly destroyed by the Monte Cristo earthquake (Richter magnitude = 6.5). The Tarpey store, in particular, is now little more than a heap of blocks.

The foundation of the earliest 19th-century mill, constructed completely of stone, is also visible to the south of the main road. Concrete was much too expensive as a construction material when it was built. This foundation also suffered damage during the quake but it is less obvious.

The old cemetery also still exists, although it is not well maintained; please be respectful.

Know Before You Go

Candelaria can be reached by a dilapidated paved road (Candelaria Road) off US 395, some 13.9 miles north of the intersection of US-95 and US-6 (Coaldale Junction). Turn left here; it is about 6.4 miles to Candelaria. The road continues as a rough graded road for about another six miles to an intersection with Nevada State Route 360.

The road south to the old townsite of Metallic City, just east of Candelaria, is private and gated off. That area is the focus of the current exploration activity and is slated for further mineral development.

As of 2022, however, the old Candelaria townsite is still accessible, as are the northern edges of the Northern Belle (just south of the townsite) and Georgina pits, the latter a bit more than a mile west. Exercise extreme caution here, as the excavations are steep, unstabilized, and covered with loose rock.

As with any old mining area, be especially cautious with children and pets.

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February 13, 2023

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