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Gold in New Mexico

New Mexico has nowhere near the gold production of Arizona, its neighbor to the west. Still, New Mexico has produced quite a bit of gold over the past few centuries, including both lode and placer deposits. Although, Spanish explorers and Mexican settlers found gold many centuries ago, the Apache tribes make gold prospecting quite difficult for the earliest inhabitants of New Mexico. The majority of gold production has come since whites settled the state since 1848. Much of the state’s gold has come as a byproduct of mining for other minerals, but plenty of gold has been found in placer and bench deposits.

The extremely dry climate in New Mexico has probably limited its gold production due to the lack of water. This also means that there is likely a lot of gold still available for the prospector to discover. Since water is a limiting factor in this southwestern state, the best tools for finding gold nuggets in most areas will be drywashers and metal detectors. Searching in areas that gold has been found in the past is always a good idea. Here are a few of the most productive gold producing districts in New Mexico.

The Elizabethtown Baldy District was most productive along the west side of Mount Baldy, with paying gravels found in Grouse and Humbug Creeks, as well as the Moreno River. Well over 100,000 ounces came from this area, which included many large nuggets that a modern day metal detector would be able to locate. The Baldy placers occur on the east side of Mount Baldy, with rich gravels at South Ponil, Ute, and Willow Creeks.

The Hillsboro District, located in the southwest part of the state, produced significant gold in cemented and un-cemented gravels. These are dry placers with gold production coming from dryland dredges and drywashing in rich gulches in the area.

The Old Placers are located southwest of Santa Fe. Delores and Cunningham were productive gulches for small scale prospectors using drywashers. Nearby are the New Placers, which was known for producing very high purity gold.

Pinos Altos is a dry placer district just a few miles north of Silver City. Rich, Whiskey, and Santo Domingo gulches were all gold producers. Bear Creek produces placer gold.

Several other districts have produced gold over the past two centuries. More detailed research shows gold throughout New Mexico in smaller deposits scattered throughout the state. The lack of water and extreme summer temperatures make prospecting difficult, but it also ensures that there is plenty of gold still left in the desert to be found by the hard working prospector. Use drywashers and metal detectors is the recommended method for most mining situations in New Mexico.

Be aware that much of New Mexico is private lands, military reserves, and Indian Reservations that are either off limits, or require special permission. Many gold bearing areas on public lands are claimed, so be sure to seek out claim owners for mining access.