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About Tecopa


From Mining to Ecotourism

The Gold Rush brought mining towns to California’s and Nevada’s desert regions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. One of these was Tecopa, a rare spot with good water where prospectors found lodes of borax, gypsum, talc, lead, silver, iron, and even gold. Prior to mining, Tecopa was a water stop on the Old Spanish Trail, established in 1829 by Spanish explorers and trade caravans. The Old Spanish Trail was founded on Native American footpaths, which were part of a vast ancient trading network. Today Cynthia’s combines the spirit of this old desert mining town with a 21st century sensitivity to the environment, helping visitors experience Tecopa’s rich history in a new way. 

20th Century – Boomtown

Tecopa: 20th Century – Boomtown

The Tonopah and Tidewater railroad reached Tecopa in 1907, linking the mines to ore processors farther south, and Tecopa grew like a tumbleweed in the 1910s, 20s, and 30s.  Like most mining towns, Tecopa was flush with fresh wealth.  Over the years the Tecopa Consolidated Mining Company shipped over $4,000,000 in silver and lead ores from the town.

Tecopa: 21st Century – Rebirth

Through it all, Tecopa prospered until the mines began to close.  In the 1950s and 60s residents left and business disappeared.  The U.S. government’s Bureau of Land Management promoted homesteading—giving away land in and near Tecopa—in hopes of drawing new, permanent residents.  Nonetheless, by the 1980s and early 90s, Tecopa was nearly abandoned.

But a quiet renaissance is underway in Tecopa.  By the mid-1990s, descendants of some of the homesteaders had begun restoring a few of the abandoned homes.  Retirees and other urban refugees began to find the desert oasis an attractive spot to escape the traffic and hassles of city life.  So, the town has become home to artists, engineers, and poets, living side by side with old miners who never left.

Tecopa Renaissance

Cynthia Kienitz is part of this Tecopa renaissance.  At the turn of the 21st century Cynthia fell in love with the area. She was then the principal of a successful interior design firm with offices in Las Vegas and Chicago, but realized she’d grown unhappy with the pressures of city life and disconnected from nature.  In trips to the beautiful Amargosa canyon, she began reconnecting with herself and the natural world around her.  At 45 years old she abandoned the rat race to become a desert rat. 

So, she found a historic cottage called the “Ranch House” on the verdant China Ranch oasis three miles from Tecopa and opened the Ranch House Inn B&B.  Later she added three 20’ authentic Native American tipis with firepits, heated beds, and luxury furnishings. In 2009 she expanded to a second location in Tecopa. In 2018 she closed her China facility, built Cynthia’s Basecamp in Tecopa, and launched Cynthia’s Safaris – a curated desert immersion experience. In 2020 her son, Matt Kienitz, opened Lost World Tours at Cynthia’s. A guided off-road touring outfitters designed to reach otherwise inaccessible desert wonders.

But through all these iterations Cynthia’s goal has remained constant: to help others rediscover themselves and to connect with nature: where the stars above, the fire below, and your fellow travelers are the evening’s entertainment.

The Old Spanish Trail Leads to Cynthia's

The Old Spanish Trail is “the longest, crookedest, and most arduous pack mule trail in the history of America”. It connected the Spanish Empire’s provinces of Santa Fe, New Mexico with California. From 1829 to 1848 travelers could follow one of four different route variations, one of which crossed what’s now Cynthia’s Basecamp. Today all the routes are identified as the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. You travel on an original segment to reach Cynthia’s Basecamp.

The trail was used by fur and livestock traders, soldiers, merchants, slave traders, horse thieves and settlers. The first documented round-trip trade caravan was led by Antonio Armijo in 1829-1830 consisting of 100 pack animals traveling from Abiquiu, New Mexico, passing through what’s now Las Vegas and Tecopa to its destination – Mission San Gabriel in Southern California. Armijo traded his woolen goods for mules and horses to take back to New Mexico. Over the last 150 years the trail has morphed into state highways and interstate freeways, while other trail alignments lay forgotten, as was the case in Tecopa. 

In 1994, interested volunteers formed the Old Spanish Trail Association to study, preserve and protect the trail. In 2002, Congress added the route to the National Trails System. In 2008, Cynthia founded the Old Spanish Trail Association – Tecopa Chapter. She and other Trail enthusiasts put boots on the ground to inventory the trail and send our collected data to federal agencies to be recorded for posterity.

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