New Mexico is one of the states that doesn’t really get much attention when people are talking about gold prospecting.
Despite having plenty of gold, it usually gets overlooked by Arizona, its neighbor to the West.
I think there are a couple reasons for this.
1. If you spend much time looking for gold here, you will soon realize that most of it is small. Not big gold nuggets, but rather smaller flakes, “pickers” and fine gold dust.
2. There isn’t much water in New Mexico, so traditional placer mining techniques just don’t work here. Mining is more challenging in New Mexico.
Certainly there are some other reasons as well, such as difficulty getting access to gold-bearing lands, harsh weather in the summer, and plenty of other challenges to contend with. But the two issues mentioned above are something that are easy to overcome IF you know what you are doing.
Successful gold prospecting in New Mexico all comes down to using the proper equipment. Drywashers and metal detectors.
Drywashing for Gold in New Mexico
In dry climates like New Mexico, the drywasher is the single best piece of mining equipment for the average small-scale gold miner.
Drywashers use air and vibration, rather than water, to separate out gold particles from dust, dirt, and gravels.
Their ingenious design has been around for over a century. And although the newer models available on the market today certainly have better recovery rates than the ones that the old-timers had, they are still very much the same as when they were invented.
No modern equipment has replaced it in efficiency, particularly for recovering fine gold deposits.
For most places in New Mexico, you simply aren’t going to have access to flowing water, so tools like sluice boxes and suction dredges are not an option. The drywasher is a must-have tool.
The Best Metal Detectors for New Mexico Gold
Aside from the drywasher, there is one other tool that is a necessity if you are a serious desert prospector and that is the metal detector. They can operate anywhere, and since they obviously don’t need any water they are an obvious choice.
Just be aware that there are really only a few metal detectors that work well for gold nugget hunting in New Mexico.
Remember that gold in New Mexico is usually small. Very small. Not just any metal detector is going to hear it.
In fact, only few select models of gold detectors are suitable for finding extremely tiny gold in mineralized soils like we have in New Mexico.
Here is a short list of some tried-and-true small gold detectors:
I would avoid straying too far from these specific recommendations because even a decent gold detector won’t find those tiny crumbs that are often hidden in the desert washes of New Mexico.
If I were to choose just one of these detectors for nugget hunting in New Mexico it would be the Fisher Gold Bug 2.
Efficiently Tips for Mining Small Gold in New Mexico
Metal detecting is a fun way to prospect for gold and are an invaluable tool. They are my primary method for prospecting and locating undiscovered gold deposits.
However, one a rich source of gold has been identified, than using a combination of metal detector and drywasher is likely to yield you more gold than by just using one or the other.
Hunt with your metal detector until you find a piece of gold. Try to find more, and try to identify a pattern or concentration of gold.
If you identify a location that seems to have better concentrations of gold, then it’s time to use the drywasher. Start digging out the area and run the material through your drywasher.
This does a few things. First, you will pick up fine gold that even the most sensitive detector isn’t able to find. Second, by digging down you are likely expose more ground that your detector could never have detected due to the depth.
This method will take some trial-and-error, and you won’t always find a lot of gold. Sometimes despite your best efforts you might find very little fine gold in an area that you are picking up nuggets with your detector.
Sooner or later, this method will pay off though. Slow down and start using a combination of metal detecting and drywashing. It will increase your recovery over time, much more than if you just used one method and not the other.
Final Thoughts on New Mexico Gold
Gold prospecting in New Mexico is a challenge, no doubt about it. There aren’t very good odds that you are going to dig up that big “retirement nugget” that you’ve been dreaming about, but by using the proper methods you might just be surprised at the amount of gold that you can find in New Mexico.
Using a sensitive gold detector to hit on those tiny gold nuggets that are found throughout the state, then running the material through a drywasher will result in good gold.
Stay safe out there in the desert!
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