Gold in the Southwest: New Mexico (Part 5 with Important Update)

Here is the 5th installment in my series of posts on placer gold in New Mexico:

Grant County (continued)

Bayard District:

I don't know if "district" is the appropriate term for the Bayard gold placers since they are pretty much localized in and around the small community of Bayard which lies just 10 miles south and east of Silver City. However, the larger area around Bayard is one of the most highly mineralized zones (often called the "Central Mining District") in the entire state of New Mexico, with much of that mineralization in the form of copper, lead, and zinc.

Tips for Smart Miners

This is a region of very large, open-pit mining operations such as the Santa Rita Mine (one of the largest operations of its kind at one time). As such, you can expect lots of tailings in the area and these may add considerable amounts of overburden to the placer gold drainages that lie below. In most instances, more overburden means more work for you and I.

If you're still interested in prowling the Bayard placers here's where to look for the best placer gold concentrations:

1) Just south of the Copper Glance Mine workings.

2) Down slope of the old Dutch Uncle, Tin Box, and Owl Mines in and along Gold Gulch.

3) Any wash, drainage, or creek along Highway 180 between Bayard and the small community of Central.

Important Update, 01/07/11: I just received the following information concerning Gold Gulch from a claim holder in the area. Here is what he has to say:

"You may want to inform your readers that Gold Gulch is claimed up for nearly 4,500 feet heading east commencing at the old workings located on the south side of the gulch within 1/2 mile from the Gold Gulch Road. I know this as I hold title to the claims and am not too thrilled at people working claims I expend over $1,000 on annually to maintain and keep current."

"There are also valid claims on the old Sunset Gold Field (the dam just west of the junction of Gold Gulch and Gold Gulch Road). There is also a claim called the Pa Chal Ma owned by a family named Wolff between the Sunset Gold Fields and the start of my claims that was still valid several years ago. The owners of this claim once had a 'No Prospecting' sign posted."

(Note: OK, there you have it. Salient info straight from one of the claim holders in Gold Gulch. I ask all of you to maintain the attitude and approach of a "miner's miner" and respect all claims and private property by not claim jumping or trespassing. Thanks. J.R.)

Hidalgo County

Sylvanite District:

This old mining district lies in the extreme southwest corner or "bootheel" of New Mexico about 20 miles southeast of Lordsburg, New Mexico. Be advised this area may prove problematic for some of you for a couple of reasons.

Potential Problems

First and foremost, this area is very hot in the warmer months and extreme caution should be exercised by anyone foolish enough to try prospecting or working this area during those periods. Secondly (and I make no apologies for being "unpolitically" correct here), the Sylvanite District is often used by illegals coming up from Mexico and points south as a transit area.

Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

Why is this problematic? Aside from Mexico's current problems with drug cartel violence I'll paraphrase a dialogue line from the film classic, Treasure of the Sierra Madre:

"You fellers better mind your goods."

Enough Gold to Trigger a "Mini-Rush"

The Sylvanite District's placers were discovered in the early 1900s and there was enough gold to be had in them to trigger a "mini-gold rush" at the time. Although the gold placers were fairly rich they weren't that extensive and were soon worked out (Note: Once again let me remind you that, in my view, no gold area is ever truly "worked out." J.R.).

If you decide to check the Sylvanite District out try sampling any of the washes in the area, no matter how small or shallow those may be. Most will carry some color. One of the richest pieces of placer ground in the District was the Bader Placers so that would be a good starting point as well.

That's it for this round. In my next post on placer gold in New Mexico I'll cover Lincoln County.

Be safe out there.

(c) J.R. 2010

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. I've got to admit that I have a problem with "recreational miners" running around staking every dang historical placer. It doesn't take any real prospecting, effort, or skill to look up a placer in one of the many NMBMMR circulars, and then file a claim and pay the federal fees. All this does is tie up all the land and keep true recreational panners from being able to find a piece of color in a pan. I'm really tired of going to old placers that I used to pan or dry wash for fun over twenty years ago, only to find some clown has "discovered" them and filed a claim. This is a selfish practice, and it ultimately provides fuel to those who would like to get us all off of public lands. It would be much better for all to share these low-grade uneconomic placers, rather than tie up hundreds of acres just for a few families to selfishly use as their personal play ground. Real "miners" now the difference between an economic deposit and one that is better suited as a recreational site open for all in the public to enjoy. Just my opinions.

  2. Well your opinions carry a lot of merit and deserve consideration. Personally speaking, I despise the entire claim routine thing these days...especially the scamming and the "squatting." Thanks for your comments...they're appreciated on this end. J.R.


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