Gold in the Southwest: New Mexico (Part 11)

(Rio Arriba County, New Mexico.)

It’s been a while since I last worked on this series, but here’s my 11th installment on placer gold in New Mexico:

Rio Arriba County (continued)

 El Rito:

This locally confined placer area is accessible by unpaved road from the village of El Rito. Not much is really known about the El Rito placers and the literature that is available gives little indication of any real gold production in the area. What is known, however, is that small amounts of placer gold have been recovered in the past from conglomerates and gravels found between the drainages of El Rito Creek and Arroyo Seco.

Placer Gold Locations

Just recently it was brought to my attention by one of the locals that small placer nuggets can be found on or near bedrock here, but I can’t verify this claim as of yet. However, I am planning on checking this locale out this spring or summer since it is within striking distance of my home outside Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Rio Chama Placers:

Unlike El Rito, there is fairly good documentation on the Rio Chama placers. The early Spanish may have worked placer deposits here as far back as the Colonial Period and in the 1800s mining concerns showed interest in working this area, although nothing much came of these commercial enterprises.

The Rio Chama placers can be found a few miles above the community of Abiquiu, where the late abstract painter Georgia O’Keefe lived and worked for many years. The gold lies within the stream gravels along the Rio Chama and according to historical accounts these placers were once “quite productive.”

Excellent Potential

One good thing about the Rio Chama area is that the river itself carries good water flow. Secondly, neither the El Rito nor the Rio Chama placers have been worked much (if at all) over the past century.

Gold Panning Kits
Gold Concentrators
Metal Detectors

In my view, small, all-but-forgotten gold placers like these can often offer excellent potential for those small-scale miners with experience and a willingness to explore. This is especially true in light of the difficulties nowadays in finding workable ground that hasn’t already been “pounded to death” to some degree or another.

That’s it for now. I’ll have more on New Mexico placer gold in a subsequent post.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: “’Rocks in My Head:’ a Prospector and Miner in the Making”

© Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2011

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