Gold in the Southwest: New Mexico (Part 1)

(My mining "pard," Kane Fisher, searching for New Mexico placer gold.)

Small-Scale Placer Mining in New Mexico

I'll be discussing the placer gold deposits of New Mexico in this series of posts, a task that is probably long overdue. Why? Well, I live and work in New Mexico and am intimately familiar with the majority of the gold placers located in the "Land of Enchantment."

If you have any interest in trying your hand at small-scale placer mining here in New Mexico, let me set you straight on a couple of things. First, the great majority of placers here are dry as a bone, or mostly so. This fact can prove to be problematic in some instances since dry placers can be very difficult to work easily or efficiently.

Second, despite the fact that New Mexico is the 5th largest U.S. state in terms of square miles and has a total population of a little over 2,000,000 souls, there are few public mining areas available and nearly everything else is located on private property or is claimed up.

The "Nature of the Beast" These Days

No, I don't tell you this to scare you away or to keep my New Mexico mining activities to myself. It's just the "nature of the beast" here these days just as it is nearly everywhere else in the West and Southwest.

So if you visit New Mexico's gold placers you'll probably find many areas off limits and posted with "No Trespassing" or "No Mining" signs. That, or locked gates blocking access roads, including county roads (as my mining "pard" Kane Fisher and I found out on a recent mining "reconnaissance" mission).

As an aside, just how individual property owners can legally block access to county roads is beyond my comprehension...perhaps you can set me straight on that issue? If so, please tell me what you know about this particular piece of horse poopie. Enquiring minds want to know...

Be Prepared and Be Forewarned

In general it's a sad state of affairs if you love the outdoors and small-scale gold mining my friends, but it's the trend these days. The only way around these sorts of difficulties and obstructions is to get your own gold ground via the claim or private property routine(s).

I hate writing a prelude to the placer districts of New Mexico that sounds so negative, but I owe it to those of you who live here or are thinking of a mining excursion out this way. Be prepared and be forewarned.

Not All "Gloom and Doom"

These things said, it's not all "gloom and doom" here from a mining standpoint. There are some areas to work and the overall diversity and stunning beauty of New Mexico's landscapes will stay with you long after your mining activities have ceased. You'll be hard pressed to find prettier country anywhere, and that's a fact.

In my next post I'll start cluing you in on where the gold is in the "Land of Enchantment" (Tierra Encantada). Until then stay safe and keep smiling.

If you liked this post, you want to read: "More on Gold Prospecting: Sulphides and Gold"

(c) J.R. 2010

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. JR,

    you might remember that I commented on another blog entry recently. I have a question about what I'm seeing when I look at known placer areas in NM via google earth. I see terraces carved into the hillsides in placer areas. they follow the contours like you'd see in a TOPO map. is that from mining or some other activity?


  2. Hi Bo, thanks for your comments and query. Without seeing exactly what you are talking about it's hard to say...but in the larger placer districts (like the Old Placers near Santa Fe) here in NM open-pit mining methods were often used to mine low-grade ores above existing drainages. This may be what you are seeing... Jim Rocha (J.R.)

  3. I didn't do a very good job of describing the feature I'm asking about. here's a link to a screen shot from my google earth.

  4. I truthfully have no idea what created those contour lines. Definitely NOT open pit mining operations, past or present. Perhaps one of the readers out there can tell us what this is. Thanks for posting this. Jim Rocha (J.R.)

  5. Well, a mystery it is then! I had thought it might have been a methodical search for hillside placer deposits. I'll keep researching. thanks for your input.

  6. Not placer mining either Bo. Only thing that might create something like that would be bucket dredge tailings..and they look different still...only place I know for sure they used one of those (bucket dredge) in NM is in the Moreno Valley (Elizabethtown District). Got me stumped, that's for sure. A mystery for me anyhoo... Jim (J.R.)


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