Gold in the Southwest: New Mexico (Part 6)

(In the distance: the Jicarilla Mountains, location of the Jicarilla Mining District. In the middle distance, the town of Carrizozo, New Mexico.)

Lincoln County

Jicarilla District:

Lincoln County is home to a number of historic gold placer and hard rock mining districts and still holds good potential for small-scale miners. Unlike other parts of the Land of Enchantment, Lincoln County still has quite a bit of open ground to explore and work due to the presence of large tracts of public lands such as the Lincoln National Forest.

Placer Gold Locations
Tips for Gold Miners

I've actually spent some time on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) GeoCommunicator mining claims website and discovered that there are numerous placer and lode claims that have lapsed (i.e., are considered "closed" by the BLM) in the District and others that will be described in subsequent posts. Any of you who might be looking for your own claim in New Mexico would be well advised to check this area out as I have done.

Small-Scale Dry Workings

OK, that out of the way let me get to the heart of the matter. You're best starting point for reaching the Jicarilla Placer District is the town of Carrizozo which sits astride U.S. Highway 54 just a few miles away from the outer boundaries of the District which can be found in the nearby Jicarilla Mountains.

The Jicarilla placers have been worked on a small scale since the mid-1800s. A few larger-scale operations have been attempted over the years but these essentially failed due to the fact the Jicarilla District is composed almost entirely of dry placer workings (like many of the state's other placers).

Another aspect of the Jicarilla placers that has proven problematic is the depth of overburden, which can reach 35 feet in some places. Here's the bad news: there's no way in hell you or I are going to hand shovel that sort of overburden off to reach bedrock paystreaks. Now the good news: like most dry placers, the gold is erratically distributed throughout the overburden gravels and a savvy miner running a decent dry washer can do well in certain locations.

Locations to Try

Your can try just about any of the gulches or washes near the old gold mining community of Jicarilla but your best bets in the Jicarilla District will be in the following locations:

Ancho Gulch

Warner Gulch

Spring Gulch

Rico (Rich) Gulch

FeS2, Monozite, and Decomposed Bedrock

For those of you interested in the geological formations associated with the District's placer gold please note the following:

Most of the Jicarilla placers were formed from the erosion of numerous sulphidic or pyritic veinlets (FeS2) scattered throughout the area in the country rock, which has been described as a monozite/porphyry intrusion. I've read that the some of the best gold values in the District will be just below these sorts of "hosts" on some sort of decomposed bedrock.

Gold Pans
Gold Panning Kits

(Note: If you're not familiar with decomposed bedrock it is typically highly altered/weathered and can be easily broken up or even crumbled by hand in some instances. J.R.)

The bottom line here is that mining histories and the available mining literature both suggest that the Jicarilla District holds good potential even today for small-scale miners. I'd take note of that if I were you.

Good luck out there!

(c) J.R. 2010

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. thank you for that info.have merry merry xmas.jim

  2. Thanks right back at ya! Have a great Holiday Season as well! J.R.

  3. I lived and Grew up in that region of NM for 21 years and I am 3rd generation gold prospector. If anyone is looking to find some good gold.. Nogal Canyon and the road that winds up to Bonita Lake has numerous closed mines. I have found 1/2 oz nuggets after digging a few feet in a dry stream bed. There is also good water flow up there as well so a sluce or pan is perfect. Remeber most mines are only closed because the miners were not recovering enough gold to make a profit not because they ran out of gold. anyone is welcome to email me for more good info. I also know other great locations in NM for good prospecting. I am happy to share if your looking.

    1. I live in Alto and would be interested in any tips/locations you could give me.

    2. I want to thank for putting this info out to "Bedrock Dreams" readers. Thanks! J.R.

    3. What about above bonita lake?

    4. Please see what oakleyfarran has to say above. Best, J.R.

  4. Thanks for the info. I suspect you'll be getting lots of e-mails! J.R.

  5. I've been there and have worked that area a lot.haven't found much in them washes.but have had a lot of fun doing it.
    But it makes me sad to see people trash,break windows and throw there beer bottles all over.each time I go there I pick up two 33 gallon trash bags full of cans bottles
    I would love to be the care taker of those buildings.we need to preserve it for the future

  6. You know, that's one thing that I really despise as well...the trashing up of this beautiful state and particularly some of the old mining districts. Makes you any rate, I appreciate your comments and efforts to clean things up. Jim

  7. Hello, my name is Arthur Moore. I have been out there once and have had fun doing what I love to do which is prospecting. We also had picked up any trash that was present. Found alot of flour gold. Probably a penny wieght's worth in the dry gulches on top of the sun baked sand with black sands also on top. I would love to go back with my new dry washer. I only panned the last time with the water I had taken. This is a good site, thank you.

  8. Hello Arthur....thanks for commenting. Also thank you for the words of support. J.R.

  9. I don't like them throwing rot gut bottles all over the place its not only bad ,but a like of respect for other people and the land

  10. I hear ya gman. Some folks treat this state like their personal garbage dump. Best, J.R.


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