Gold in the Southwest: New Mexico (Part 7)

Here are additional New Mexico placer gold districts for your consideration:

Lincoln County (continued)

White Oaks District:

Although primarily a lode or vein (hard-rock) mining area, the White Oaks District does contain some limited placer ground. The two main placers here can be found in Baxter and White Oaks Gulches, although other drainages nearby carry small amounts of placer gold as well.

Small-Scale Gold Mining Equipment

The White Oaks placers are “dry diggings” and somewhat problematic to work because of this fact. Also note that much of the gold ground here has been claimed up in the past although I was recently able to find a number of lapsed or “closed” lode and placer claims near White Oaks via the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) GeoCommunicator.

The White Oaks District is not far from Carrizozo, New Mexico and can be reached via U.S. Highway 54 and light-duty roads suitable for front-wheel drive vehicles.

Nogal District:

This District is also not far from Carrizozo (perhaps10-12 miles) and just a short distance west of the community of Nogal. Again, these are dry placers and according to one claimholder in the area who contacted me they also have large amounts of overburden to contend with.

Other miners I have spoken with say that the Nogal District holds lots of potential for getting good gold for those who are willing to put forth the effort. One reason for this potential may be the simple fact that the Nogal placers have been pretty much forgotten or “bypassed” in more recent times and were not suitable for commercial placer mining operations.

If you’re in the area try sampling in and around Dry Gulch which drains the northeastern slopes of the Sierra Blanca Mountains. If you can find it, the site of the old Dugan-Dixon claim contains a smaller, localized placer that was considered fairly rich at one time.

Special Problems

As I’ve stated before, many of the placer districts in New Mexico are dry as the proverbial bone (or nearly so). This presents special problems for small-scale miners who have little or no experience working dry placer ground.

Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

My first mining experiences as a novice were in dry placers (where I was lucky enough to be mentored by oldtimers) and the lack of water to sample or run material can be very frustrating at times. This can be amplified in the Land of Enchantment because the ground may be dry the first few inches down and then gets damp the deeper you dig.

The Best Gold Recovery Tool

Obviously a good dry washer or re-circulating water process system is the best gold recovery tool you can use in a dry placer area. However, the former requires completely dry material for efficient processing and the latter requires hauling considerable amounts of water on site or constructing a holding tank or pond nearby.

These are all reasons I recommend that anyone just starting out in recreational or small-scale mining should “cut their teeth” and learn the basics in a wet placer area first. That said, if you do get good at working dry ground you can basically go anywhere (wet or dry) and kick butt.

But dry gold ground presents a very steep learning curve for newcomers to placer gold mining…trust me.

There’s more to come. Until then, good luck to you.

© J.R. 2010

Questions? E-mail me at