Gold in the Southwest: New Mexico (Part 4)
Here are more New Mexico placer gold districts for your consideration:
Colfax County (continued)
This placer gold district is a bit farther east and south of the more notable Colfax County placers. The Cimarroncito placers are fairly small and localized, with little in the way of historical production even though the placers of the District have been worked off and on since 1898.
Your best bets for finding color in the Cimarroncito District are along Urraca Creek and its forks and tributary or "feeder" streams and washes. However, reaching the Cimarroncito placers may prove problematic since a good part of the land around them is private property (much of that belonging to the Philmont Scout Ranch).
White Signal District: The majority of the gold placers in the White Signal District are found along the southern slopes of the Big Burro Mountains. Sometimes known as the Big Burro District (for obvious reasons), these placers are located in southwestern New Mexico about 30 miles northeast of Lordsburg.
Like most of the Land of Enchantment's gold districts, the White Signal placers are dry and require a drywasher or some sort of recirculating water set up to process gold-bearing gravels effectively. The best areas to prospect or mine are in Thompson's Canyon and the aptly named Gold Gulch.
Additionally, any smaller washes that cross or feed into Gold Gulch should contain color as well. I've also heard reports from small-scale miners that a number of the small washes higher up in the Big Burros carry placer gold in varying quantities and that a smaller, more isolated placer (pocket placer?) exists about 10 miles east of Gold Gulch
(Note: This may be an area that oldtimers knew as Gold Lake, but I am not 100% certain on that point. J.R.)
Pinos Altos District: I've spent a bit of time in this southwestern New Mexico placer gold district which begins about 8 miles north-northeast of Silver City. Many of the creeks and washes in the area carry decent placer gold values and I've always done quite well along stretches of Bear Creek
(Note: I'm sorry to say that much of Bear Creek is on private property these days. J.R.)
Most of the placer gold in and around the Pinos Altos District eroded out from numerous sulphidic gold and silver veins. If you can access any low-laying location below one of the old lode mines here or any of the smaller veinlets locked into country rock, you should be able to recover some nice gold.
Some of the best locations for placer gold in the area are along Bear Creek (which holds intermittent water flow depending on the time of year), Rich Gulch (note the name here), Whiskey Gulch, and Santo Domingo Gulch.
Personal Tip: For those small-scale or recreational miners who are savvy, I recommend Bear Creek, providing you can access it these days. Although stretches of the Creek are covered in fairly deep overburden, other portions contain visible bedrock or bedrock that lies just under the surface.
I've taken quite a bit of coarse flakes and a number of very pretty small nuggets from bedrock "potholes" that lie just off to the sides of Bear Creek proper. You have to have sharp eyes to spot these depressions or "potholes" since they are often overgrown by weeds and grasses. A dead giveaway, however, is the presence of oxidized iron in the form of old rusty bits of metal (nails, iron scrap, etc.).
If you come across a slight depression like this containing rusty metal, CLEAN IT OUT THOROUGHLY. Bucket the material up and pan it out or run it through a rocker or sluice (if water is available). If you find the right spots as I describe them and clean them out well, I GUARANTEE you'll get some very nice gold, including a few nuggets.
Remember that the presence of placer gold in the Pinos Altos District is failry widespread and that the other locations mentioned also contain good gold values. Do a bit of research before you drive up to this scenic gold area and understand that access is probably going to be limited.
However, it never hurts to ask a property owner if you can do a bit of panning...all they can say is no. Quite a few homes are located directly adjacent to Bear Creek for example, and this may be a good starting point. If you are granted private access then it's up to you to comport yourself as any decent miner should....stay cool, be polite and courteous, and clean up after yourself.
Good luck out there!
(c) J.R. 2010
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org