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Field Trip to New Mexico

I will be going to New Mexico in a couple of weeks for a rock
hounding field trip. We will be in the area around Alamagordo. Does
anyone have any places I need to check out while I am there?


I will be going to New Mexico in a couple of weeks for a rock
hounding field trip. We will be in the area around Alamagordo.
Does anyone have any places I need to check out while I am there? 

I was in much the same situation a couple of years ago-- you might
want to check the archives. I bought a book called “Rockhounding New
Mexico” (I gave it to someone local at the end of my trip…
shortsighted of me) and found some sites. My daughter and I spent an
afternoon picking up beautiful, if small, pieces of petrified wood
off the ground. It was a lot of fun. There were ant hills made from
gem sand!


I will be going to New Mexico in a couple of weeks for a rock
hounding field trip. 

Well, Bobbie, you are heading into a geological paradise. It’s been
so long since I was there (I lived in Las Cruces…) I can’t say a
lot about detailed, exact locations, but I can offer some of the big

The book “Gem Trails of New Mexico” (and other states) has been
around since forever - some say it’s outdated even though it’s been
revised, but it’s at least helpful to point the way to rockhounding
places in general. There’s a GPS version now…

By Alamagordo is White Sands. Trinity Site (first A-Bomb) is
off-limits, but the park is cool to see - pure white sand for miles
and miles (actually gypsum). Ruidoso is in the mountains east of
Alamagordo - nice place and cherries in the summer. Carlsbad Caverns
is pretty far, but worth the trip if you can do it. Southeast…

West you’ll find Las Cruces, on the Rio Grande. Billy the Kid
territory, Hatch, to the north, grows the best green chile in the
world. You’ll never think of Mexican food the same after southern
NM. Organ mountains are interesting basalt cliffs. There are marine
fossils all over, but Picacho peak (west) is a choice spot for
finding them. Southwest of there is an old volcano I forget the name
of, where there is peridot. Even farther west (but not so far) is
the Gila Wilderness - the first wilderness area designated by Teddy
Roosevelt. That’s a fine place, but also has the Gila Cliff
Dwellings. By Silver City is the El Chino copper mine, which is a
sight to see - a gigantic blue-green hole in the ground. The other
thing you will notice, if you care and pay attention, is cactus -
all kinds, all sorts, all over. Not rocks but it’s like a cactus
garden, out in the wild. There used to be a rock shop at Organ Pass -
if it’s still there it would be a good place for local direction.
There are others, too - many, many rockhounds in the area.

The area, and the whole Colorado Plateau, was ocean bottom in
Paleolithic times - there is much to see and much to do there
relating to rocks and geology… No offense to Alamagordo, but it’s
not exactly a hub of the universe, BTW… Las Cruces is on the
old King’s Highway, which was the Spanish road from Mexico City to
Santa Fe in the 1600’s… Mostly Apache country…

And on the subject:

My haunts are to the north of Santa Fe…Ghost Ranch, (13 miles
north of Abuquiu - not to be confused with Albuquerque), where there
is a wonderful Museum at the location - Alex is the director where
they are picking new stuff out of a dino “pack”. The New Mexico State
Dinosaur, Cilophysis (SP) was found at Ghost Ranch. There is a new
Dinosaur dig also, which I believe has been featured in a new IMAX.
You won’t find any rocks for jewelry, but you will never see more
picturesque locale. Georgia O’Keefee did her painting at Ghost Ranch.
Oh, look at Ghost Ranch catalog - you will see that I will be
teaching a Precious Metal Clay class July 20-27 this summer!

You could go to the Rio Grande Supply House in Albuquerque -
possibly they could give you a tour - it is built on a HUGE area. I
have had a tour - it was incredible.

Between Albuquerque and Santa Fe on the lower road, Highway #14, is
an interesting old town named Madrid. I am not sure if there is any
place for hunting rocks, but historical.

A must see is Gallup in the heart of Indian Country. I’ve been there
when there are performances (Indian Dancers) each evening. The supply
stores, Indian Jewelry Supply and Thunderbird are there also,
possibly others, but I’ve only shopped at those two.

Silver City is also a good place to visit! And if possible, try to
visit as many Indian Pueblos as you can. Around Memorial Day there is
a big “fair” north of Albuquerque at the RED ROCK STATE PARK. Many
Indian artists are selling fabulous wares. Acoma is south of
Albuquerque - a very unique place.

You can’t go wrong in a trip to New Mexico. Try Mexican Fry Bread!
Any of their food is to die for - I am salivating already and haven’t
even had my first cup of coffee!

Good Luck,
Rose Marie Christison

Bobbie; Go to the yahoo group New_Mixico_ Rockhounding you may have
to join the group but lots of info there.

Dave Owen

A must see is Gallup in the heart of Indian Country. 

Rose Marie’s enthusiasm for NM is a force to be reckoned with, I
gather ;<}

Be aware, though, that Gallup is a good 8 hours from Alamagordo -
Santa Fe and Ghost Ranch are the same or almost. It’s a big state,
and trying to do the north AND the south in a trip is pretty
ambitious…North is the VLA, Bosque Del Apache preserve, Los
Alamos, by Madrid is Cerillos - an old turquoise mine, hot air baloon
festival. South is the best geology, most people think. I was born
there, BTW…

Oh, you lucky lucky person - you’ll have so much fun!! On the old
Highway 14 from Santa Fe to Alburquerque, is what is touted as “the
oldest Turquoise mine in North America”. It’s called ChachaWEEdle
(haven’t learned to spell that), outside of Cerrillos, about 20
minutes south of Santa Fe. It’s a big hole in the ground, and the
area is now a “park”, but you can hike or rent Tennessee Walking
horses at the Broken Saddle Riding Stables and view it, maybe pick up
some stray bits of “sky which have fallen to the ground”. It’s worth
seeing - there’s a piece of Cerrillos turquoise in the Natural
History Museum in Manhattan. You can find local turquoise in various
shops - check out Madrid, a sweet little hippy town 3 miles south of
Cerrillos. I lived there for 7 years and I never learned to look up
when I walked - always obsidian, quartz, turquoise chips, sometimes
beads and glass in ant -hills - enjoy. Eat some green chile for me!!

Susan (Sam) Kaffine

Hi Bobbie -

My wife and I own a rock shop (Royal Scepter Gems and Minerals) in
Silver City, New Mexico. Alamogordo is outside my realm of knowledge
regarding rock hounding sites, but I’ll try to help as much as
possible. I have a much better idea of collecting sites from Las
Cruces west into southeastern Arizona. However, I do remember taking
geology field trips in grad school, especially collecting fossils in
the Sacramento Mountains east of Alamogordo and collecting copper
sulfide minerals (chalcocite) that replaced wood in the High Rolls
Mining District near Cloudcroft. I wish I could remember specifically
where those locations are, but 27 years have erased a lot of the
details. I have a feeling that this post will be pretty long, so my
apologies up front.

There are some sites outside of the rock collecting realm that you
might also visit. I would suggest that you take time to explore
White Sands National Monument. Also, Three Rivers is a great
ancestral Native American petroglyph site, well worth the time and
relatively close to Alamogordo.

My first suggestion is that you look at some rock hounding books for
New Mexico. There are four books that I’m aware of:

Gem Trails of New Mexico by James Mitchell - This is one of the more
popular and relatively current publications. It lists four sites
near Alamogordo, including:

Bonito Lake Minerals close to Capitan - minerals of barite, quartz,
pyrite, galena (lead sulfide); Capitan fossils; Cloudcroft fossils;
and Orogrande minerals - copper minerals of azurite, malachite,
chrysocolla. Turquoise was also found in this area many years ago.
Other minerals include epidote, garnet, galena, feldspars and
limonite (iron oxide) The Rockhound’s Guide to New Mexico by Melinda
Crow - It also lists fossils near Cloudcroft New Mexico Rockhounding
by Stephen Voynick - This book is out of print, but it is one of my
favorites. It lists micromount zeolites in Wind Mountain near the
Texas New Mexico state line 75 miles south of Alamogordo; the
Orogrande Mining District and the Sacramento Mining District
(including the High Rolls deposit) Southwest Mineral and Gem Trails
by June Culp Zeitner - An old book (published in 1972) identifies a
number of sites, but unfortunately doesn’t really tell you how to get

There are also a few other books: one by Kimmler that I can’t put my
fingers on, and Minerals of New Mexico by Stuart Northrup (a classic
for New Mexico collectors, but pricey).

I’m not sure how you plan to get to Alamogordo, but assuming that
you are driving south from Albuquerque, I suggest that you stop in
Socorro for a couple of reasons:

First, there is a world class mineral museum managed by the New
Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. Virgil Lueth is in
charge of the museum and he is a treasure trove of information
regarding minerals of New Mexico.

Second, the Bureau has a ton of publications on various areas of
geologic interest. Many of the publications are reasonably priced.
They are written with a technical slant, but have a lot of valuable
regarding many of the historic mining districts in the

Third, the Bureau carries a complete collection of 7.5 Minute
Topographic maps which are a great help. A word of caution regarding
USGS topo maps…many were published many years ago (some as far
back as the early 1960’s) and have not been updated. So that two
track road shown on the map, may no longer exist. Check the lower
right hand corner of the map to get the publication date and use
with caution.

The fourth reason for stopping in Socorro is that you may wish to
stop at the BLM office and pick up a 1:100,000 surface management map
(Las Cruces also has a BLM office). This map is invaluable because it
will show you gross land ownership (i.e., federal, state, tribal and
private lands). This can be indispensable as it will show you whether
a collecting site might be on private land…you will want to get the
landowner’s permission to collect. It has also helped settle disputes
in the field (sometimes you might find yourself challenged by a
would-be property owner, when in fact you are on public lands).

If you continue south from Socorro you can take a couple of routes
towards Alamogordo. One would be to continue south towards Las
Cruces, then east towards White Sands and Alamogordo. If you’ve
picked up a rock hounding book, you might want to check out sites
along the way. There’s a banded ash flow, rhyolitic rock near Truth
or Consequences called candy rock that has some beautiful banding
and that is used to make some interesting cabs. Hatch and Radium
Springs also have some collecting sites.

Another alternative is to proceed 10 miles south of Socorro on I-25,
then east on Highway 380. About 30 miles east of I-25 you will happen
upon Bingham, New Mexico (don’t blink or you might miss it). Bingham
(aka Blanchard claims, aka Hansonburg Mining District) is home of
some gorgeous teal-colored fluorite, with barite, galena and other
minerals. The claim is owned by Allison Nilsen and is a fee-based
collecting site. You should call her ahead of time to make sure she
will be around (Google Blanchard Rock Shop for contact info). After
leaving Blanchard continue to proceed east towards Carrizozo, then
south to Alamogordo. Again check your rock hounding book for other
collecting sites. Valley of Fires State Park ( a 10,000 year old
Basalt lava flow) is located between Bingham and Carrizozo and well
worth visiting.

Finally, I would like to make a few suggestions about collecting in
the southwest. First, make sure you have a lot of water. The climate
is dry and you can get dehydrated fast…even in the winter. Second,
get permission to collect if you find yourself on private land. That
also goes for collecting on a mine site that has a claim on it.
Third, keep the peace with local ranchers by maintaining gates as you
find them (if it is closed before you go through them, then close
them behind you…if it’s open, then keep it open). Third, if you are
collecting in a mine area stay away from shafts and adits. The phrase
of the day here is STAY OUT, STAY ALIVE. Don’t trust the ground
around a shaft, it can fail without warning. There is plenty of
material to collect off of spoil piles. Fourth, be careful about
picking up rocks…there are stinging and biting insects and spiders
around including scorpions, centipedes, black widows and brown
recluse spiders. I generally will roll a rock with my boot, rock
hammer, shovel or stick before picking it up. Be aware that snakes
may be present. If you encounter one, leave it alone. I heard that
statistically most snake bites involve men. The area most often
bitten is the hand…I wonder if alcohol is involved. I wear
padded/insulated work gloves to avoid the bugs. The gloves also help
me because I’m really clumsy. I find that when I’m working on a slope
all the rocks are round a roll out from under my feet. As I fall they
magically turn into angular sharp edged beasts that really chew up
exposed flesh. The padded gloves help soften the blow.

Well, this has been way too long. If you decide to make your way over
to Silver City, stop in and say hello. We could definitely direct you
to some nice collecting spots. If you are a faceter, there is a great
Bytownite location about 90 miles north of here…as long as the
weather cooperates. Hope this helped and happy hunting.

Kevin Cook

Be aware, though, that Gallup is a good 8 hours from Alamagordo -
Santa Fe and Ghost Ranch are the same or almost. 

I think it’s more like five from here (Santa Fe) to Alamagordo…
lots of fun stuff to see along the way!

Wow; thanks John I have lived here in NM all of my life and I have
even learned a few things from your discription,especially around
the LC area where I went to college.

Any way ina nd around Albuquerque there are many rock and mineral sh
ops a great one right on old route 66 (central avenue) is
southwestern minerals its been there forever since I was a kid, they
will be able to steer you in any direction with as much info as you
will need.

Around the canyon from Albq. is a little town called golden with a w
orking gold mine they are very secret about its operation but its one
of the oldest, its a good area to pan for gold.

good luck…Frankenstein

I lived there for 7 years and I never learned to look up when I
walked - always obsidian, quartz, turquoise chips, sometimes beads
and glass in ant -hills - 

Since I probably know as much about New Mexico as anybody…A little
deeper. The Land of Enchantment…

New Mexico has two fairly distinct regions, called Northern and
Southern, naturally. The north is partly the Colorado Plateau, and
the rest of the north is just plain high plateau. Gallup is around
6,500 feet (1971 meters), Albuquerque is about 5,700, Santa Fe is
7,000 feet (2134 meters), and it just goes up from there, into the
mountains. The mountains are the tail end of the Rocky Mountain
range - they’re not called that, but geologically speaking they are.

Just about 1/2 way down the state begins the Chiuahuan Desert, which
goes into Mexico. Southern New Mexico is an entirely different place
than the north. The north is high, temperate desert and mountains.
The south is more of a “true” desert, though Alamagordo is still at
4,000 feet elevation. Cactus, scorpions, rattlesnakes, lots of sand
and hot in the summer. And the geology just pops out of the
landscape. North is the pueblo indians - a generic term for
"town-building" culture. South is Apache and other traditionally
nomadic tribes. The population is not truly 1/3 white, 1/3 hispanic,
1/3 indian, but it is close enough to seem like it is. The general
area of New Mexico was populated by The Clovis Culture, which is
13,000 years ago - there are many ruins and sites from then until

The real reason I say all this is because it’s probably better to
think of them as two different places - a couple of posts - the one
above - refer to Northern New Mexico, which is 300 miles away from
Alamagordo. We drove from Albuquerque to Carlsbad Caverns one time,
and it took 12 hours to do it, one way. And Albuquerque’s in the top
third of the state - it’s still 4 hours to Colorado, from there. My
advice, unless you want to do a “whirlwind tour” is to enjoy the
south, and then enjoy the north another time. Then there’s still
other parts - Roswell, Eagles Nest, Tucumcari… Lots to do and
see… See if Dick’s Cafe is still open in Las Cruces, have a green
chile cheesburger…

Wow, Kevin, Thank you so much. With all of the wonderful information
I will have to plan several trIps to New Mexico. Actually that sounds
pretty good. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all of the
I cant tell you how many times I have started talking
about rocks and noticed peoples eyes glaze over.

I will be traveling from Texas through Roswell and will check some
road cuts along the way, depending on the weather.

I hope someday I get to visit your shop and meet you and your wife.


Bobbie Horn
Brownfield,TX. 79316

right on old route 66 (central avenue) is southwestern minerals its
been there forever since I was a kid, they will be able to steer
you in any direction with as much info as you will need. 

Again, the question was for Alamagordo, which is far south… But
Frank tells of a hidden gem in Albuquerque. Southwest Minerals (I
was there two weeks ago…) is on Central across from the
fairgrounds, by Louisiana… It is THE most fabulous rock and gem
shop I have ever visited - also a lapidary shop next door. Must see
for any slab-lickers out there.

Which reminds me - another cool place in Albuquerque is The Indian
Cultural Center which is always a stop
for us (eat in the excellent restaurant). This time, lo and behold,
there was work from Orchid’s own Pat Pruitt — a nice surprise…

One last thing that occured to me - hopefully I don’t need to say
it, but be sure to go outside at night and look up at the sky if
it’s clear. Some people live their whole lives without ever seeing
the stars like that…

Bobbie -

Now that I know your travel itinerary, I’d suggest you do a Google
search for rock clubs too and try to contact them. I know there is
one in Roswell…you might also check Alamogordo. The clubs should be
able to steer you towards some of the better places to collect. A lot
of other posts have some great suggestions too, like doing some star
gazing at night. The night sky is spectacular! I hope you have a
great trip.

Kevin Cook

Alamogordo is outside my realm of knowledge regarding rock
hounding sites, but I'll try to help as much as possible. 

Kevin’s excellent paper stresses what I said long ago - Bobbi is
walking into a geological paradise. This Xmas Jo-Ann and I went out
for a hike in our usual spot (the end of Indian School Road in
Albuq.), took a side trail and happened on a large outcropping of
serpentine just poking out of the ground - picked up two small
pieces for my brother, the lapidary. My brother rockhounds mostly in
the Gila Wilderness, which is a bit north of Kevin in Silver City.
With Kevin’s caveats about “who owns the property” in mind -
southern New Mexico is pretty much desert, which is to say that
everything is covered with sand. All over the place there are rocky
uplifts that are either just uplifts or they are big enough to be
called mountains - any of those present more or less opportunity for
geological interest, if not actual rockhounding. IOW, it’s all
around you, in the area. Books will certainly help the newbie get

One suggestion for Bobbi, too - Carlsbad Caverns is well worth the
visit, if you have time. It’s not too far from Roswell, or you could
go through Carlsbad, instead… It’s a half-day, at least, but it’s
pretty cool…

I returned from a wonderful trip to Orogrande, New Mexico. It was a
weekend of turquoise, chrysocolla, friends and hard work. The scenery
was beautiful and the Mexican food was good. What a great weekend!
Thanks to all of you who offered suggestions and encouragement. I
will be doing this again.