Southern Colorado rests at the extreme north-east of the Southwest. This thread defines the Southwest as below the 38th parallel. That line runs through or near towns like Ouray, Moffat, San Gabriel, and Rocky Ford. Most important collecting localities exist above the 38th. Geology
Professor Richard Pearl described Colorado as having more mineralized ground than any other state, save California. Kevin Singel’s 2018 Finding Gold in Colorado is the best and most current writing on finding gold in this state.
Four Corners Gem and Mineral Club
2351 N Main (In Brookside Park)
P.O. Box 955
Durango, CO 81302
Field trips, classes, lapidary shop. Since 1947. Join if thinking about Colorado rockhounding.
Their newsletters keep one informed about collecting localities, local geology, and more. Their
simple mission: “Collect and identify rocks, gems and minerals.”
37°17.360' N 107°52.570' W
The San Juan Mountains
Professor Pearl maintained that not a single acre of tillable land existed in all of the San Juan Mountains. Instead, the mines of the mountains and their dumps yield “All of the important ore minerals of gold, silver, lead, copper, zinc, tungsten, manganese, and others.” The San Juan
National Forest is all around Silverton, Telluride and Ouray and should be investigated.
San Juan National Forest
15 Burnett Court
Durango, CO 81301
37°16.405' N 107°53.591' W
1.8-million-acre forest in Southwest Colorado spread over 10 counties.
Mineral County (Creede)
Last Chance Mine
504 Last Chance Mine Road
Creede, CO 81130
37° 53.035' N 106°56.197' W
The Last Chance Mine is only open in summer when the snow retreats at 10,000 feet and rockhounds can advance. Underground tours conducted and a gift store. Rustic, picturesque property. Surface collecting on dumps allowed in the past but now dependent on the current
owner. Sowbelly agate with amethyst the mine’s notable material. Look at Mindat.org for the mine’s geology. It is several miles north of Creede past the Bachelor Town site. Check road directions at their website.
Wolf Creek Pass, San Juan Mountains
Noted collecting locality of agate nodules and unusual minerals on US 160. This pass is at 10,857 feet, crossing the Continental Divide. Summer travel only.
37°26.976' N 106°52.865' W
Treasure Falls Locality of Wolf Creek Pass is nearby.
37°26.933' N 106°52.766' W
Consult MyLandMatters.org for present land status. Check Mindat.org for known minerals
Montezuma County (Cortez)
San Juan Gems (Rock shop and more)
11523 Highway 145
Cortez, CO 81321
37°22.771' N 108°33.293' W
Larry Sanchez, G.G., is the principal here, a lifetime with rocks and gems and lapidary. Larry is a master silversmith as well as an accomplished cutter and polisher. Dino bone authority. San Juan Gems is the most important rock shop in the Four Corners area and in Southern Colorado overall. Over 40 years in business.
Gem Village – Only a memory, on the road to Durango
America’s first organized rock colony. Today, only Tucson in winter can compare to the spirit and camaraderie that existed at Gem Village sixty years ago. Gem Village sat on US 160, 18 miles east of Durango. Beth Simmons wrote a nostalgic piece on it in “America’s Only
Rockhound Colony,” which appeared in the August, 2016 issue of Rock&Gem Magazine. Still listed on many maps.
Saguache County (Saguache)
The ghost settlement of Beidell, as Richard Pearl described it, is for the adventuresome only. I have not been there. Pearl described its location by starting from La Garita and then proceeding some nine miles from there. He thinks the location is also called the Carnero Locality. It may now be accessible only by hiking trail.
Amethyst was noted in the area well as fluorescent aragonite and other interesting minerals. Get his Colorado Gem Trails and Mineral Guide which was published in 1972 by Sage Books. The 1967 Lime Creek 7.5-minute topo is the appropriate map, available at the USGS store. The locality should be in Township 43 N., R. 6 E., near the head of Beidell Creek. Pearl describes it as a routine stop for rock clubs. Some information at Mindat.org.
San Juan County (Silverton)
This author’s personal reference collection of rare earth and radioactive minerals includes two specimens from San Juan County. The first is torbernite on sandstone from the Happy Jack Mine. The second is Schröckingerite from the old Mi Vida Mine Complex in the Lisbon Valley.
Old Hundred Gold Mine
721 County Road A
Silverton, CO 81433
37°49.446' N 107°35.106' W
Underground mine tours into Galena Mountain. Operating equipment on view.
San Juan County Historical Society Mining Heritage Center
1557 Greene Street, Courthouse Square
Silverton, CO 81433
37°48.920' N 107°39.713' W
Huerfano County (Walsenburg)
The Walsenburg Mining Museum
112 West Fifth Street
Walsenburg, Colorado 81089
37°37.505' N 104°46.923' W
Located in an 1896 jail. Huerfano County's mining camp history and memorabilia.
Thomas Farley Blog
Next up: Southern Nevada and beyond.
The northern limit for this book is the 38th parallel. In Nevada that line runs between Goldfield
Any southern Nevada traveler should consult BirdandHike.com. Although not a rockhounding
site, BirdandHike.com provides tremendous coverage of many areas a rockhound may venture
to, with GPS coordinates and location photos. Produced by Jim Boone, professional ecologist.
An essential resource. A note here.
Nevada has outlawed uncapped PVC pipes used as claim markers. These trap birds, condemning
them to death when they drop into the pipes looking for nesting cavities. Other small animals can
get trapped, too. It is legal to remove these markers when found and Jim and his people have
done a great job of removing most of them from Clark and Lincoln Counties. If you find one and
are uncomfortable removing it, notify Jim through his website about its location. He will thank
Rockhounding Nevada by William Kappele is a recommended but dated hardcopy book to collecting sites.
Clark County (Las Vegas)
The United States owns about 85% of Clark County land. Air Force bases, three large National
Recreational Areas, a National Wildlife Refuge, and the Nevada National Security Site remove
vast land from rockhounding. The vast and remote Gold Butte National Monument offers the
greatest rockhounding opportunity for casual, non-commercial collecting.
BLM’s BLM’s Red Rock/Sloan Field Office at 1000 Scenic Loop Drive in Las Vegas manages the Red
Rock Canyon National Conservation Area which prohibits collecting. They do sell maps.
Humboldt-Toiyabe is the largest National Forest in the lower 48 states. It occurs as a collection
of scattered lands from Reno to Las Vegas. Multiple hardcopy maps needed for travel. Over six
million acres. Aside from NRAs, usual National Forest collecting rules apply.
The Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest District Office at 4701 N. Torrey Pines Dr. in Las Vegas
manages the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area which prohibits collecting. They do
The Springs Preserve
333 S. Valley View Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89107
36°10.346' N 115°11.411' W
Nevada State Museum
Located on the grounds of The Springs Preserve, this State Museum in Las Vegas has a number of earth science exhibits including displays on geology, fossils, and rocks and minerals. A small but excellent fluorescent room.
The Nature Exchange
The Nature Exchange is off to the side of the Spring Preserve’s gift shop, a trading post for
children for rocks, shells, insect parts, plant parts and fossils. The Exchange emphasizes the
importance of documenting finds, good advice for anyone going into the field.
The Springs Preserve price structure is confusing. Ask first as to what is being paid for, the
museum, the grounds, or both.
Cactus Joes — (aka Blue Diamond Nursery)
12740 Blue Diamond Rd.
Las Vegas, NV 89161
36°02.370' N 115°22.038' W
Cactus Joes is a wonderful plant nursery. They are Nevada’s best and largest authorized dealer of Joshua Trees. They also carry rocks, some rough, some slabs. Much unlabeled, all of it fun. Seek out Cactus Joe himself for a good rock talk. Tell him Tom Farley apologizes for not being
around again and that I have some rose quartz for him.
Jewelry and Mineral of Las Vegas
410 East Sahara Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89104
36°08.631' N 115°09.130' W
Interesting rock shop located very close to the Vegas Strip.
Southern Nevada Gem and Mineral Society
3111 S. Valley View #E125
Las Vegas, Nevada 89102
36°09.697' N 115°06.559' W
This is a club well worth joining if living or visiting in Southern Nevada. Has an agate claim
near the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. A fine club workshop. Check their website before
going to the shop to avoid certain parking spaces.
Visual Rock ID Sessions in Las Vegas
University of Nevada at Las Vegas
4505 S Maryland Pkwy
Las Vegas NV 89154
36°06.351' N 115°08.503' W
Lily Fong Geosciences Building
36°06.508' N 115°08.458' W
Held while classes are going on in the fall, winter, and spring, these visual rock identification
sessions are very valuable. I have gone to several sessions, particularly to talk with PhD student
Drew Barkoff who is a friend of my book. I’d stress that you should bring in as much
information as you can about your specimen’s locality. The geology of an area determines what
can be found in that area.
A geologic map or a small printout of same, no matter how simple, will help tremendously. You
can find those at either MyLandMatters.org or especially macrostrat.org. I
once brought in a rock from Plymouth, California and did not and could not expect anyone there
to know area’s geology. Bring a map of the collecting area if possible. Oh, and a small flashlight
since the conference room is dim. And a hand lens. They have simple test tools like streak plates.
At the above link you will find a link to a .pdf file that explains basic rock ID.
Parking is tough. Many meters accept quarters but in some lots you will get only 10 minutes to a
quarter. On many of those meters they have a credit card system in place. You call the number
on the meter and voice prompts walk you through a ten-minute process to register your credit
card, take down your license plate, and so on. It is frustrating and lengthy to set up the first time, considering you will be in full sun the entire duration. If you return at a later date your account will be established and it will be just a matter of calling the number back. There may be other parking options so, again, check the official UNLV link above.
If you have a large or heavy rock, bring a cart or hand truck. The Geosciences Building can be a
long walk from wherever you wind up parking. Everything is on the first floor and handicap
accessible. There is an outstanding display of rocks and minerals on the first floor and I noticed
that they have replaced all of the overhead lighting this semester. Things look great. The
Geosciences Building is worth a visit just to check out this collection. All campus staff is
friendly and people will happily point you out to the right building.
Gold Searchers of Southern Nevada
Non-profit organization based in the Henderson. Monthly outings as weather permits. Has a
claim adjacent to the Nye Gold Seekers’ claim in the Johnnie Mining District outside of
Pahrump in Nye County. Many people have memberships in both clubs.
Clark County Museum
1830 South Boulder Highway
Henderson, NV 89002
36°01.27266' N 114°57.679' W
This is a complex rather than a solitary building housing a museum. Thirty acres in all. The Jilly
Bean exhibit showcases Nevada hard rock mining in general and southern Nevada in particular.
Invertebrate marine fossils are featured in another display. These can still be collected in parts of southern Nevada. Specimens include trilobites, sponges, crinoids, and brachiopods.
El Dorado Canyon Mine Tours
Searchlight, NV 89046
35°42.611' N 114°48.225' W
“Eldorado Canyon Mine Tours is based in Eldorado Canyon at the historic Techatticup Mine. It's
the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada. Just 45 minutes from the
Strip in Las Vegas. We provide historic mine tours, photo shoots, movie backdrops and
Tours go out from the picturesque road stop, Nelson, Nevada. Despite the address, they are not in Searchlight. A maps provided at the website. Nelson is a collection of old buildings, rusting cars, ancient mining equipment, old gasoline station signs, and every kind of now collectible discard from generations ago. A great location for trying out one’s camera lenses and shooting
techniques. Call to make sure mine tours are on. The thing to know is that the entire "mine town" was created for effect. None of the buildings were there originally and despite their claims, their property does not include any of the actual Techatticup Mine. The mine tour is done in a shaft created to look like a historic mine.
The First Lode Mine in Nevada
Mormon pioneers settled present day Las Vegas in 1855. With the help of a Paiute guide, a small
scouting party discovered what was eventually called the Potosi Mine in the nearby Spring
Mountains. It produced lead, although it smelted poorly. The ore proved unsatisfactory in the
main, never-the-less, on the return to Utah two years later, several tons of it were hauled 450
miles across the Great Basin to Salt Lake. The ore was eventually used to make tools, paint, and
bullets. Later miners successfully developed a zinc mine at the Potosi. Fluorescent mineral
collectors, therefore, may be interested in the area, check land status first. The entire area
eventually become the Potosi Mining District. A Nevada Historical Marker stands along Nevada
Route 160 commemorating the efforts of these early miners.
The mine itself is on a rugged off-pavement road in an area with no cell phone coverage.
36°00.062' N 115°29.125' W (Marker location)
Gold Butte National Monument
36°43.906' N 114°13.088' W — Crossroads of Gold Butte Road and HWY 170
This 300,000-acre National Monument allows casual collecting of rocks and minerals. It’s said
that Gold Butte offers a tremendous variety of minerals but none in paying quantities. Materials
previously mined include gold, mica, silver, lead, magnetite, copper and zinc. A century ago, the
Gold Butte area had a recognized mining district. Jim Boone’s site is the best guide to this
remote, service-free area. Past president of The Friends of Gold Butte, Boone describes rock art,
wildlife, cultural resources, camping opportunities, and much more.
Do not expect to average more than fifteen miles per hour on Gold Butte’s roads. This makes it
difficult to experience the area as a day trip, since one has to drive hours to get to the
Monument’s interior. It is really best for camping, preferably several days. Bring everything
needed. Avoid summer. Large RVs are not recommended as the roads are too jarring to handle
hour after hour. The Friends of Gold Butte produces the best map.
Friends of Gold Butte
12 West Mesquite Boulevard, Suite 106
Mesquite, NV 89027
702-613-5875 – telephone number for the Friends, not necessarily the center
36°48.218' N 114°04.110' W
This center relates the “The geology, ecology, and human habitation of Gold Butte.” Sells the
latest and most detailed Gold Butte map. Absolutely essential for travel in the Monument. But it
may not be available online and the center is closed on weekends. E-mail or call first.
Esmeralda County (Goldfield)
Located at the northern boundary of the Southwest is Goldfield, Nevada. Goldfield is Esmeralda’s County seat, the county having no more than 4,000 citizens. Goldfield is
wonderfully picturesque and quiet. Wild burros, sometimes antelope in the fields. No gas. Fuel
up in Beatty or Tonopah before arriving.
Gemfield Nevada Chalcedony Rock Hounding Site
Near Goldfield, Nevada off of U.S. 95
37°44.370' N 117°17.642' W (Claim information board)
The Gemfield Gem claims are a premier source of chalcedony, quartz of many banded and
swirling colors. Makes for fine cabochons and tumbling material. Well graded road leading to
the claim area, entry sign prominently marked along U.S. 95. No large RVs but passenger
vehicles will have no problems.
These claims have a long and storied history. This author wrote about them in the May, 2016
issue of Rock&Gem Magazine. The owners are Sharon Artlip and her sister Nadiah Beekum,
with rock shop Bryan Smalley assisting. All details and directions are at the claim’s website:
This is a self-directed fee-dig operating under the honor system. Rocks are $1.00 a pound.
Register before proceeding to the claim at Wild Inspirations or at Hidden Treasures Trading
Company at 489 Bellevue Avenue.
Please note that Sharon is open to custom tumbling. The ground at the claim is littered with small pieces that make for fine tumbles. Spend several hours at the claim to make sure you find the spots where green, red, light blue, and cream-colored stones appear.
306 Crook Avenue
P.O. Box 121
Goldfield, NV 89013
37°42.560' N 117°14.284' W
Has some rocks, some collected by them. You can register here for digging at the Gemfield
Claims. This building was formerly Sharon’s and still has “Gemfield Headquarters” at the top of
Hidden Treasures Trading Company
489 Bellevue Avenue
P.O. Box 512
Goldfield, NV 89013
37°42.220' N 117°14.066' W
Bryan Smalley runs one of the Southwest’s most eclectic rock and gift shops. He is expert on
local rockhounding and accomplished at cutting and lapidary. He does knapping and can talk
authoritatively on making flintlock strikers from locally collected chalcedony. It is sometimes
difficult to find him at his shops, three buildings in total.
Ask locals where Bryan is if you can’t find him. Try the Dinky Diner. Goldfield citizens won’t
mind your asking; they are quite friendly. Bryan has a minimal web presence since he focuses on finding rocks and cutting same. And making doors and entire buildings. Make sure to stop when investigating the Gemfield Gem claims. Tell him Tom said “Hi” and if you have a rock that
needs cutting, ask him if he has the time. Oh, and buy something!
Florence and Rustler #2 Mine Tours
Call or text for information and reservations:
James Aurich: 702-622-0500
Jon Aurich: 702-622-1344
Guided surface and underground tours by appointment. The surface tour views head frames,
hoist houses, the black shop and more. Great views of the surrounding country, pockmarked like the moon with old mines the craters. One mile from Goldfield on an easy dirt road. Private
residence on site. Those with mobility issues should bring up their condition with the owners
This page linked below contains photos and mine history. Information on the Florence exists in
different places on the web, including Mindat.org.
Lincoln County (Pioche)
Clover Mountains Wilderness Area
Twelve miles south of Caliente off of State Route 317 lies the Clover Mountains Wilderness
Area. Rhyolite in shades of, pink, yellow, red, orange and brown. Look for petroglyphs and
37°24.338' N 114°19.618' W (Center of WA)
BLM Oak Springs Trilobite Site
Highway 93 (The Great Basin Highway)
Caliente, NV 89008
37°36.821' N 114°42.681' W
BLM managed collecting site open to the public free of charge. Mostly partial trilobites here but
finding a full bug will take luck, patience, and time. No services but well-marked trail. The site is
not in Caliente but 11 miles west near the Oak Springs Summit. A brick hammer works better
than a geologist’s pick for splitting shale.
Mineral County (Hawthorne)
Rock Chuck Gem and Mineral Gallery
4045 S. Highway 95
Schurz, Nevada 89427
This is the store of John and Chelsea Keady. Rock Chuck isn’t in the Southwest but it is a
mandatory stop leaving or approaching the Southwest. It is outside of Schurz, Nevada, a tiny
town 34 miles north of Hawthorne, Nevada, 90 miles south of Reno. Their store is at the
intersection of South Highway 95 (Alternative) and US-95 itself.
Chelsea and John are miners, lapidary artists, rockhounds, and all-around good people. Bryan
Smalley affectionately refers to them as “The Kids.” These young people signal a bright future
for the rock and gem trade.
They built their store themselves and everything that goes in it. They sell material they have
either personally sourced or dug themselves. That includes Green Mist variscite and Hellfire
agate. They carry many local rocks and gem material and fashion much of that into jewelry. John and Kelsea sell ready-made jewelry at the shop and they are always ready to do commission work.
The Keady’s are now keeping the store open more often. Call first, though, to make sure they are there, and not off on one of their claims. If you can't visit them at the shop, you might catch them at Quartzsite in January. They try to get there each year.
This store is a memorable stop on any drive from Las Vegas to Reno, or on any travel through
central Nevada. Rockchuck is big on Facebook so check them out there if you want to keep up
with their latest happenings. They have a nice dog.
Nye County (Pahrump)
BLM Pahrump Field Office
4701 North Torrey Pines Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89130
36°14.718' N 115°14.038' W
Nye Gold Seekers
Pahrump Valley Museum
401 E. Basin Ave.
Pahrump, NV 89060
36°13.172' N 116°00.335' W
Great gold prospecting club with a Johnnie Mining District claim. Their general meetings are
held at 2:00 PM on the third Saturday of the month except for June, July and August. The
address listed above is for their meeting place. Local club membership is great, especially for
newcomers. Learn on productive ground from the old-timers. Drywashing, metal detecting,
panning, are all things you can learn at a club.
The Tonopah Historic Mining Park
Tonopah Historic Mining Park
110 Burro Avenue
P.O. Box 965
Tonopah, NV 89049
38°04.136' N 117°13.801' W
Tonopah was America’s last great gold and silver strike. You've heard about the Gold Rush of
1849, the Comstock, and the Klondike. But there was also Tonopah in 1900 and for years
thereafter. The visitor center and the park grounds highlight this stupendous and spectacular hunt for those precious metals at the turn of the century. Five-dollar admission.
The park is right behind the extremely comfortable and period correct Mizpah Hotel. The
entrance road is best approached in larger vehicles by Burro Street. The visitor center parking lot has room for two or three RVs and the exit road is a pull-through, so there is no worry about
having to back up.
The grounds offer a self-guided tour. Pick up a map at the visitor center which also houses a
terrific rock, gem, and mineral museum. As for the grounds, hiking the park at 6,000 feet can be tough at times but take it slow and bring some water. Great opportunities for photographs.
For those out of shape or mobility challenged, tours on a Polaris with a guide can be arranged. Call for current availability and charges.
After a visit, top your tank since the nearest gas stations are 100 miles north and south of town.
Also consider visiting the Central Nevada Museum before you leave, the city's best kept secret.
They do have rocks.
Thomas Farley Blog
Next up: New Mexico and beyond.
Rockhounding New Mexico by Ruta Vaskys and Martin Freed is an essential guide to collecting sites. A Falcon book. Watch for tribal land when traveling in any state in the Four Corners Area.
These sovereign nations must be respected: no rockhounding, no traveling off main roads, no hiking or exploring without express permission and perhaps a guide. An excellent road map of the Navajo and Hopi Nations is produced by North Star Mapping of Scottsdale, Arizona. Some
nav devices like my Garmin Montana 650 tell me when I am on tribal land, but only the bigger reservations and pueblos.
Bernalillo County (Albuquerque)
800 20th St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
35°06.011' N 106°40.028' W
Mama’s is a leading New Mexico rock shop, two stores, actually, the other in Santa Fe.
University of New Mexico
Earth & Planetary Sciences
The Silver Family Geology Museum (Northrop Hall, Room #124)
Albuquerque, NM 87106
35°04.996' N 106°37.370' W
Geology museum. One exhibit features rocks and minerals from the Harding Pegmatite Mine, worth seeing before visiting that site. Wide range of materials displayed including a fluorescent room. A hallway on the first floor also has some nice displays but at last visit were poorly lit. Bring a flashlight.
New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
1801 Mountain Road NW
Albuquerque, NM 87104
35°05.901' N 106°39.953' W
Natural history museum. Life on earth and possibly beyond. Exhibits on dinosaurs, fossils, space sciences and more. Perfect for kids.
Cibola County (Grants)
New Mexico Mining Museum
100 Iron Avenue
Grants, NM 87020
35°09.223' N 107°51.278' W
This is New Mexico’s official mining museum, the counterpart to the state’s Mineral Museum two hours south in Socorro. The focus here is on the working end of mining. Emphasizes life in Grants and Cibola Counties when the uranium boom hit in the 1950s.
Chaves County (Roswell)
Ancients of Days
127 N Main Street
Roswell, New Mexico 88203
33°23.656' N 104°31.341' W
Eclectic rock shop and source for information on finding “Pecos Diamonds” on nearby BLM land. Close to the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
Doña Ana County (Las Cruces)
Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument
Non-commercial collecting allowed as of this writing. This according to Colin R. Dunn,Paleontologist/Geologist for Prehistoric Pathways and Organ MT-Desert Peaks National Monuments.
32°19.555' N 106°33.390' W — Center of Monument area
Rockhounding in the northern Organ Mountains was featured in the August, 2019 issue of Rock&Gem Magazine. Robert Beard wrote the article entitled “Northern Organ Mountains.” It describes looking for garnets, calcite, and malachite.
Las Cruces District Office
1800 Marquess Street
Las Cruces, NM 88005
32°17.265' N 106°46.621' W
Manages the above listed National Monuments.
Eddy County (Carlsbad)
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
32°10.839' N 104°26.674' W
Internationally known cave complex.
Cerrillos Turquoise Mining Museum
17 Waldo Street
Cerrillos, NM 87010
35°26.230' N 106°07.656' W
Mine tour is $60.00. No collecting.
Luna County (Deming)
Deming Gem and Mineral Society
4200 Raymond Reed Blvd.
Deming, NM 88030
Well worth joining if visiting this great collecting area.
Rockhound State Park
9880 Stirrup Road SE
Deming, NM 88030
32°12.458' N 107°37.531' W
“This is the only place in New Mexico and one of only two places in the U.S. where you can take something from a state park,” says Manager Robert Apodaca to the Albuquerque Journal. “The most prevalent thing that’s readily available for surface collecting is jasper.” Visitors to the park also find geodes and thunder eggs, perlite and quartz, Apodaca says.
Ask on arrival whether anything beyond surface collecting is permitted. Has steep, cactus studded hills. May need to watch where the kids play. A great place to camp for a few days of hiking and rockhounding. Bring boots! The visitor center has a good rock collection showing
what might be found for those putting in the time.
Stop at the rock shop described below for possible park collecting advice. Please buy something from the owner if he helps you with directions. A park map is here.
The Basin Range Volcanics Geolapidary Museum
6235 Stirrup Road SE
Deming, NM 88030
32°11.678' N 107°38.768' W
Just before the entrance to Rockhound State Park is this gem of a rock shop. Christopher is the proprietor here and an expert all things thundereggs and geodes. Although he doesn’t sell geodes from Rockhound State Park, he did contribute samples for the Visitor Center’s rock display. And he may have hints as to where to look in the Park. Take in a park map to make any directions easier to follow.
Black Hat Trading
Deming, NM 88030
32°17.705' N 107°46.008'
Recommended by Christopher of the Basin Range Volcanics Geolapidary Museum.
Trina’s Rock Shop
1812 Columbus Rd.
Deming, NM 88030
32°15.048' N 107°45.112' W
Recommended by Christopher of the Basin Range Volcanics Geolapidary Museum.
Otero County (Alamogordo)
32°27.616' N 106°06.483' W
Over 300 mines existed in the District at one time and it is said that gold can still be found. Tiffany & Company owned a turquoise mine in the area which has been completely reclaimed.
Commercial operators now pursue copper and garnet. Many mining claims exist but some ground is open.
Quay County (Tucumcari)
Dinosaur Museum and Natural Science Laboratory
Mesa Lands Community College
222 East Laughlin Street, Building F
Tucumcari, NM 88401
35°10.423' N 103°43.431' W
Rio Arriba (Santa Fe)
416-A North, Riverview Lane
Española, NM 87532
35°59.713' N 106°04.088' W
A relatively new shop offering rockhounds guidance to collecting spots. This is a logical stop while traveling north from Santa Fe or Albuquerque to visit the Harding Pegmatite Mine.
Mama’s Minerals Santa Fe / Laura Randolph Gallery
100 E San Francisco St
Santa Fe, NM 87501
35°41.203' N 105°56.268' W
Mineral and fossil gallery. Rocks, beads and more. Located at the La Fonda Hotel on the Santa Fe Plaza. The sister store to their Albuquerque location. May be changing.
Roosevelt County (Portales)
Miles Mineral Museum
Dr. Jim Constantopoulos
Director and Curator
Eastern New Mexico University
1500 S Avenue K
Portales, NM 88130
34°10.501' N 103°20.815' W
Museum located in Roosevelt Hall, Room 103. Fred Miles and his wife publicized and collected local quartz crystals called Pecos Valley Diamonds. The Miles Collection is a product of 40 years of collecting.
Socorro County (Socorro)
Otero’s Gem & Mineral Rock Shop
105 1st Street
Magdalena, NM 87825
34°07.150' 107°14.163' W
Rough, cabs, jewelry. Many findings made by a native woman silversmith. High quality smithsonite.
Kelly Mine Fee/Dig, coordinated by:
Tony’s Rock Shop
911 Kelly Road
Magdalena, NM 87825
$10 fee charged when this was written. Once well noted for smithsonite, a zinc mineral. Tailings and property grounds have been heavily scoured over the years. But any ground that you haven’t worked hasn’t really been scoured, has it? Bring UV lamps as zinc is an activator for fluorescence. Some success reported off the dumps.
Picturesque mine grounds, well worth a visit. Short drive from Tony’s up the hill to the mine. Note the street signs, keep left. The road deteriorates quickly after the Catholic Church, consider parking when available and walking in. Bennie presently owns Tony’s. Ask other shop owners about his location if he can’t be found at his store. Which basically looks like a house.
Mark Leatherman writes about his visit in “Socorro’s Mineral Cornucopia” which appeared in the March, 2019 issue of Rock&Gem Magazine.
New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources
New Mexico Tech
801 Leroy Place
Socorro, NM 87801
34°04.106' N 106°54.253' W
This is the state mineral museum for New Mexico. It focuses on rocks, gems, and minerals. It is a counterpart to New Mexico’s mining museum in Grants. Excellent displays, a small ultraviolet room and a wonderful gift shop focusing on New Mexico gems and minerals. That shop is in the main room. Only a few feet away from the entrance to the museum is another shop that sells
books. Make sure to look for it. Between these two stores, you will wind up buying many things.
“The main exhibit hall, constructed in 2015, highlights top-quality minerals from New Mexico, the United States, and around the world. Over 5,000 mineral specimens are displayed in the main gallery. Spectacular mineral specimens from mining districts like Magdalena, Organ, and Santa Rita (to name a few), are presented in thematic displays illustrating the mineral wealth of each locality. Other thematic displays include Systematic Mineralogy, Uranium Mining of New Mexico, Lapidary, Gold & Silver, Agates & Geodes, Meteorites, and Petrified Wood.
Blanchard Rock Shop/Desert Rose Mine
2972 Hwy 380
Bingham, NM 87832
33°53.334' N 106°22.452' W
Great YouTube video
There’s a joke that Bingham isn’t the end of the world but that it can be seen from there. The Blanchard Rock Shop _is_Bingham; there are no other stores or services. Bingham is an abandoned town site, not a town. Fuel up in Socorro or at tiny San Antonio, New Mexico before
visiting Blanchard’s. Take a look at the Rio Grande River if you stop at San Antonio.
Blanchard is on Highway 380, seventeen miles east of the turnoff to the White Sands Missile Range. This makes it convenient to visit Blanchard’s on the same day the Trinity Site is open, an event that happens only twice a year. Speaking of which, Allison sells authentic trinitite.
Genuine trinitite is expensive but don't miss a chance to pick up a piece of history. Bring small bills. Lots of them.
Go anytime to Bingham to enjoy beautiful scenery and to visit the shop. The Desert Rose Mine is nearby. Fluorite is big here, with galena, barite, quartz, and calcite also present. A day-use pass is $20 a person and directions are given at the store. That $20 does not include rocks. Allison will look through any findings and determine a price for individual pieces. She also sells rocks from
Allison is a modern-day, pioneering woman. With her grit, spunk, determination, and personality, she has succeeded in successfully running a business in a remote location where others would surely fail. Call before going. And ask her if she needs anything from town. Seriously, they are that far out.
White Sands National Monument, Trinity Site
White Sands was the location of the first atomic bomb explosion and it is only open twice a year to visitors. Next day is October 5th. Fascinating place, complete details on the web. Have a full tank of gas as you will be idling in a long line of cars and you’ll have quite a distance back to Socorro. If possible, top off your tank at the little town of San Antonio, New Mexico on I-380 before heading the final miles to White Sands. By-the-way, it’s a short walk to a bridge over the Rio Grande at San Antonio, fine views of the river.
Take proof of registration, insurance, and don’t get going too early. Cars are permitted entrance until 2:00 PM and the longest line of cars will be when the gates first open. Wait a few hours, say, 11:00 AM. Do not take pictures while driving the ten or fifteen miles across the missle range to the Site, only photograph at Trinity. The guards will probably remind you.
Upon arrival at the parking area, you can walk about a quarter mile to the obelisk or you can take a shuttle bus that runs to the Schmidt/McDonald Ranch House. “The ranch house is where the scientists assembled the plutonium core of the bomb. Visitors will also be able to experience what life was like for a ranch family in the early 1940s.” I did not take that bus last October, the logistics seemed complicated because I was trying to get to Blanchard’s after Trinity.
The blast produced trinitite, a green material the result of tremendous heat melting the desert sand. Little pieces get exposed after every rain but you are not allowed to keep it. There are people watching, and if you stop too many times to tie your shoes, you may get a tap on the shoulder. You may, however, hunt for it and then turn it in. Good activity for the kids. There will be a table with many pieces on display and a knowledgeable person who can explain the stuff and its history. After your visit you can go to Blanchard’s down the road. Allison sells authentic, documented trinitite.
Taos County (Taos)
Harding Pegmatite Mine
The Harding Pegmatite Mine is a former rare minerals quarry located in Taos County. Now maintained by the University of New Mexico, the Pegmatite Mine is open to rockhounds for no fee. Five pounds of material may be taken provided guidelines are followed. Large groups must
pay a fee and they need to call ahead.
Visitors must fill out a release form available at the mine’s website. Follow the University’s instructions exactly as it will be necessary to fetch the caretaker before entering the mine. The road to the first mine gate is short and passable by passenger vehicles. Parking is extremely limited at this first gate. No trailers or RVs. If the gate is open, a larger parking lot is farther along the road.
Pegmatites are unusual and interesting rocks igneous rocks, originating from volcanic activity. At the Harding Mine, white sparkling rock is all around, some with pink tints, often with gray or darker inclusions. The pegmatite is the white rock, the various colors and inclusions the
minerals. These can be quite unusual, needing an expert to identify them. Bityite, eucryptite, and fluorapatite are some. More common is the pink tinged lepidolite.
A lepidolite tinged rock showing nice pink coloring is a challenging but satisfying project on a warm day in the beautiful hill country of Taos. If possible, bring a short wave and longwave lamp, along with a barbecue lid cover. Hunting fluorescent rocks enlarges searching beyond
what appears in daylight.
Print the “Walking Tour for the Harding Pegmatite Mine” file before visiting. It references the numbered markers that are spotted about the quarry.
If possible, a tour of the old quarry should start at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Northrop Hall, home to UNM’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences. A museum in Room 124 displays specimens from the mine. A dimly lit case on the first floor also
exhibits specimens, including a large chunk of beryl. In that case, notice how one rock seems to intergrade with others. The rose muscovite, the lepidolite, and the spodumene all seem variations on a theme. What’s not obvious is the sparkling nature of some of the rocks, which comes into play in bright light.
The mine’s entrance off Highway 75 is on a strong uphill grade and is difficult to find. There is no sign indicating the mine road, save for a small wood plaque on a juniper asking people to pack out their trash. On a fair day, you will be caught up in looking at the surrounding
countryside. This is the land D.H. Lawrence fell in love with and you will, too.
36°11.890' N 105°47.346' W
The Taos hill country surrounding the mine is populated with artist studios, wineries, and scattered Indian Pueblos. In the fall, cottonwoods blaze yellow along streams and other watercourses. It is a delight in fair weather. Iceland spar may still exist in the area, check
Mindat.org for possible locations and MyLandMatters.org for land status.
LaTierra Mineral Gallery
124K Bent Street
Taos, NM 87571
36°24.530' N 105°34.446' W
Roosevelt County (Portales)
Miles Mineral Museum
Eastern New Mexico University
Roosevelt Hall, Room 103
1500 S. Avenue K
Portales, NM 88130
34°10.766' N 103°20.880' W
Some meteorite specimens on display. Those thinking they have discovered a meteorite are invited to bring it in for verification. Meteorites are rare and most findings do not prove out.
Thomas Farley Blog
Next up: Southern Utah and beyond.