Gold in the Southwest: New Mexico (Part 9)

(Old mine workings in the Oro Grande District.)

I now continue with my listings of placer gold districts in New Mexico:

Otero County

Oro Grande District:

This fairly extensive dry placer district is situated primarily along the south flank of the Jarilla Mountains in southern New Mexico's Otero County. Additional but smaller and more limited placers are scattered around nearby, so any drainages should be sampled or tested for the presence of color.

Where to Find Placer Gold

The Oro Grande ("big gold") placers were first worked on a small scale in the early 1900s and not much is known about the production in troy ounces at that time. However, the Great Depression of the 1930s drove many would-be gold miners into the area and quite a bit of placer gold was recovered by individuals and small groups of placer miners dry panning or running crude drywashers.

(Note: The early Spanish used place names that were not only extremely colorful but that were also very descriptive. I suspect that they named this area "oro grande" for a reason; not just for the hell of it. J.R.)

3 Tips for You

Here are 3 tips for you if you head for the Oro Grande District to try your luck:

1) This is NOT an area you want to be in during the summer months...after all, White Sands is not that far away and this is hard-core desert terrain in most areas. Use common sense: bring plenty of water and sun protection, and be prepared in case things go south for any reason.

2) If you want to get the gold at Oro Grande look for evidence of shallow bedrock or layers of false bedrock such as caliche (the so-called "desert cement"). The best gold values here will be found at bedrock or in the top 6-12 inches overlaying bedrock or caliche.

3) Yep, even here there a numerous valid claims dotting the District. Keep an eye out for postings or claim boundary markers and please don't claim jump.

A Few Points to Consider

If you're a novice to working dry placer ground or have limited experience doing so here are a few points to consider:

Working dry placers is nearly always harder and more difficult than working wet placer ground.

Without water your best bets for recovering decent amounts of placer gold will require a good

drywasher, preferably a motorized model (electric or gas driven).

Think outside the box in terms of basic gold deposition physics. Dry placers are notorious for spreading gold around in the most unlikely places and at all sorts of depths and levels.

Wolverine Boots

Watch where you stick your hands when reaching around boulders or rocks or even where you plop your rear end to rest. I've nearly been bitten by rattlers a number of times performing these simple acts when I let my guard down.

Otherwise, have a nice day on your desert gold sojourn!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Common Gold Mining Myths and Misconceptions (Part 1)"

(c) J.R. 2011