Orogrande, New Mexico
Field trip, October 2013
Orogrande is a small unincorporated community on US 54 south of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Originally known as Jarilla Junction, the small town was a station stop on the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad, serving the regions cattle trade. The Jarilla Mountains lie just above the town and when, in 1905, a gold nugget the size of a man’s finger was found, the name was changed to Oro Grande or “big gold”. In just a couple years’ time, Oro Grande grew to a population of several thousand gold seekers, and just as quickly as it grew, it was abandoned when the amount of gold found was far less than hoped for.
Entrance to the collection area (which is under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management) is either at the North end of town, or by the radio towers a mile or two North on Hwy 54. There are many abandoned mines, some active mines, and surprisingly there were several new claims staked out this year.
We went in at the radio towers and the dirt road was well maintained up to a point, but sooner or later you will have to either park and then walk, or if you have a high clearance (preferably 4x4) vehicle, you can keep on going a bit longer before the road was washed out, 2 – 3 foot deep washes in some places. I was surprised to see so many people out there, pickups and 4 Wheeler's all over the place, probably a dozen or so different groups there on Saturday.
Most of the mines there have been abandoned and re-claimed, or ‘gated’ to keep people out while allowing bats and other creature’s access to the shafts and tunnels, but there are some shafts that have not been sealed off or gated, so caution is advised. There is plenty of poking around on old tailing piles to keep you busy for a day.
The many members of the Lubbock Gem and Mineral Society who went had a great time exploring and collecting various specimens and cutting rough. We found Chrisocola, Hematite, Jet, Pyrite, Green and Brown Garnets, Jasper, Granite, Drusie, a couple of flecks of Gold on matrix, and a whole lot of leaverite.
After a day of collecting, we took a little time washing and sorting our finds in the Motel parking lot where we stayed in Alamogordo, and then walked across the parking lot and had dinner at a Sushi place. To me, a good sushi place in the middle of the desert was as surprising as anything I found that weekend.
On Sunday, after a lazy start and breakfast, we headed back to Lubbock by way of Roswell where we stopped at the Chapparell Rockhound Gem and Mineral Show. Nice show, good dealers and good displays from around the region. It was a good weekend, one field trip I would do again!