The state of New Mexico provides several locations where amateur rockhound enthusiasts can try their hand at digging for and collecting a wide variety of gems. The region has a diverse geology and a history deeply steeped in mining which draws tourists each year to collection sites around the state.
1) Granite Gap
In the southwestern region of New Mexico sits a barren expanse of land known as Granite Gap. At the turn of the century the area was alive with more than 2,000 miners. A city sprang up but would soon meet its demise by 1902. Today, the remains of the ghost town remains with a crumbling jail and other buildings that wither as rubble piles in the hot New Mexico sunlight.
The region, located 17 miles north of Rodeo, sits at an elevation of 6,500 feet above the surrounding desert scape. People visit the area for the history, to view the desert fauna and to rockhound. Visitors can view the tunnel system that was blasted out in the Granite Gap Mountain. Visitors must wear hardhats and sport lighted hats but they are free to roam the tunnel system in search of rocks.
At the numerous mine dumping sites, rockhound collectors flock to find hemimorphite, smithsonite, malachite, turquoise, chrysolcolla, and calcite. Each collector is allowed 10 free pounds of specimens by the owners. Rockhound enthusiasts who wish to collector more will be charged accordingly. Burros are also available to help haul heavy loads.
Camping locations are available for recreational vehicles. The region is open to hunters from October to June on Wednesday through Sunday or by appointment. Those visiting the area can call 505-495-5012 for more information.
2) Las Lunas
Collectors explore the region of Las Lunas to find agates, petrified wood and jasper. Located south of Albuquerque, the area contains predominately white agates that do sport some coloration’s. Jasper appears reddish orange. Bring your own bucket and rock collecting tools to the area.
Outside Dixon, New Mexico the University of Mexico controls the Harding/Dixon Mine where rockhounders can find pegmatite. Visitors must obtain permission from the University before they are allowed to collect in the area. The geology department of the university can grant visitors permission and give directions to the best collections areas.
New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources