Gold in the Southwest: New Mexico (Part 8)

(View of the Mora Valley.)

Here's the 8th installment (and my first post of the New Year!) in this series on placer gold in New Mexico:

Mora County

Mora River Placer District:

The area encompassing these very limited and fairly hardscrabble placers was known to the oldtimers as the Rio La Casa District. There are a couple of main approaches to the District, one bearing south/southeast from Taos and the other from the south bearing north/northeast from Santa Fe along Interstate 25 to Las Vegas, New Mexico and from there on to Mora.

Where to Find Gold

Small amounts of placer gold have been mined sporadically in the District since the 1800s. Most of the gold recovered (and very little has been recovered here, by the way) has been the result of individual or small-scale placer operations along the Mora River and some of its tributaries. Very little is really known about the placer gold in the District and most historical accounts are pretty tight lipped about who, when, where, and how much.

Your Best Bets

Your best bets (at least in my view) for hitting a small pocket placer or two will probably be far upstream at or near the headwaters of Lujon (Lujan?) Creek or the Rio La Casa itself. Why do I say this? Many small gold-bearing quartz stringers and veinlets can be found in these locations and any gold eroding out of those stringers and veinlets will be found nearby in some sort of quantity or another.

I wouldn't put the Mora River Placer District high on my mining "to do" list, but I do think it may hold promise as one of those lesser-known or "dismissed" placers that everyone else ignores. That alone may make it worthwhile to do a bit of prospecting in the area...something that's been on my mind for a while now since I'm only about 90 minutes away from the District.

A Note and a Hint

Note here that one major advantage this District has over many of its brethren here in the Land of Enchantment is the fact that running streams criss-cross much of the area so water is reasonably plentiful for panning or running gold-bearing material. Here's a hint for those of you who may be interested in checking things out in the Mora River Placer District:

Gold Panning Kits
Mining Equipment

Much of the gold recovered around Mora has not been from the major streams themselves as much as it has been from nearby terrace gravels and smaller, sometimes inconspicuous gulches that may or may not hold water. So, if you get no color lower down, look higher up.

Also remember this: you probably won't be placed off limits by claim postings in the District but you may run into private property/private land issues. Although decent people by and large, the locals can get pretty upset with trespassers and that's putting it mildly.

That's it for this round. I hope this New Year puts lots of yellow in your pan.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Hard Lessons: What I've Learned in 30+ Years as a Small-Scale Gold Miner (Part 3)"

(c) J.R. 2011

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. I am the one that owns the property below the lake where the canyon starts. Has no fishing, hunting, trespassing on property. We allow people to pan the river that goes through the property ONLY if they ask permission. If you are caught without permission you will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Rarely do we deny access if asked.

  2. Thanks for the input Mike. Asking permission FIRST should be the only way of trying to enter private lands. You're a good guy to allow those who ask access...


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