casitas de gila guesthouses bed and breakfast new mexico 575-535-4455

Southwestern Guesthouses on 265 Acres
near Silver City, New Mexico
overlooking Bear Creek and the Gila Wilderness

rockhounding new mexico


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Gila Nature Blog!

rockhounding new mexicoSouthwest New Mexico and adjacent southeast Arizona is a paradise for rockhounds and mineral collectors. In Michael’s humble geological opinion, the area enclosed within a 75-mile radius of Casitas de Gila Guesthouses offers the visiting rockhound and mineral enthusiast access to one of the most rewarding and diverse assemblages of collectible rocks, minerals and gemstones found anywhere in North America. Throughout this area, which comprises most of Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, and Luna counties in New Mexico plus portions of Greenlee, Graham, and Cochise counties in Arizona, numerous highly mineralized mining districts were discovered, developed and worked beginning in the early 1800s. During the heyday of this mining, from the 1880s through the 1950s, these areas were some of the richest mining areas in the West.

Grant County, with its county seat in Silver City, lies at the heart of this vast mineralized area and is New Mexico’s richest mineral producing county. Mining began here in 1804, when native copper was extracted by the Spanish at Santa Rita (now the Freeport-MacMoran Chino Mine), 15 miles east of Silver City, and has continued unabated right up to the present. Over the last 200 years, mining in Grant County has produced more than $4 billion in copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc, plus significant values of molybdenum, tungsten, manganese, nickel, cobalt, fluorspar, uranium, perlite, turquoise, and hematite from Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks and from Tertiary volcanic rocks.

silver city bed and breakfastToday, almost all of the old mines within the area have closed, with the very notable exception of the large-scale, open-pit copper mining operations of Freeport-MacMoran at Santa Rita and Tyrone in Grant County and at Morenci in Greenlee County, Arizona. However, since many of the old mining districts are located on Federal National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands, the opportunity for rockhounding and mineral collecting remains virtually unlimited because most of this land is open to the public and collecting of rocks and minerals is permitted. Searching the old dumps from these mines can be particularly rewarding.

Although many of the old mines have been sealed off by Federal agencies, the rockhound will, while exploring the old mining districts, come across mines and prospect pits that are still open.

It is tempting to enter these old workings, but it cannot be stressed strongly enough that all old mines are unsafe, extremely dangerous and should not be entered at any time. Rotten timbers, unstable and crumbling rock can lead to tunnel collapses at any time. There’s also the probability for bad air and mine gases. And unseen vertical shafts can turn a pleasant collecting trip into disaster within seconds. In a word – DON’T!

Rocks and Minerals You Might Find …

silver city accommodationOf course, when metallic mineralization is this complex it goes without saying that the accompanying diversity of rocks, minerals and gemstones that would be of interest to the rockhound for collecting or cutting and polishing should be prodigious! And it is! Below is a list of some of many rocks, minerals and gemstones that the rockhound can find in our Southwestern New Mexico area on public lands.


Petrified Wood
Banded Agate
Blue Agate
Lace Agate

Fire Agate
Banded Rhyolite
Red & Yellow Jasper
Drusy Quartz
Black Agate
Dendritic Agate

Chalcedony Roses
Quartz Crystals
Jasper Breccia
Apache Tears
Botryoidal Hematite
Orange Jasper
Candyrock Rhyolite
Moss Agate
Smoky Quartz

silver city cabin rentalAn indication of the exceptional richness of the rockhounding potential of the Southwest New Mexico and Southeast Arizona areas is the areas that have been set aside by government agencies especially for rockhounding, such as Rock Hound State Park in Luna County near Deming, New Mexico, and the Black Hills Rockhound Area in Graham County near Safford, Arizona. Whether you consider yourself a novice or experienced rockhound, you will find that Casitas de Gila Guesthouses are a perfect base for short or extended collecting in this area.

At Casitas de Gila Guesthouses, our Guests
who are Rockhounding Enthusiasts will find:

  • lots of interesting rocks right on the property!

silver city rockhoundingThe Bear Creek drainage basin, with its headwaters in the Piños Altos Mining District, covers approximately 300 square miles of complex Tertiary volcanic and Tertiary and Paleozoic sedimentary rock terrain. This drainage is one of the larger secondary drainage systems in the area as it has been actively down cutting through thick sequences of rock formations of diverse origin and age for several million years. The result of this extensive and ongoing erosion is the diverse hodgepodge of rock types that make up the rocks covering the floodplain of the Bear Creek below your Casita.

silver city rockhoundingSome of the collectible gemstones and rocks that can be found along Bear Creek on Casitas de Gila’s land are white and pink chalcedony, chalcedony roses, red, brown and yellow jasper, jasper breccia, picture jasper, banded agate, zeolites, geodes, massive hematite, banded rhyolite, andesite, volcanic bombs, scoria, limonite and hematite-banded welded tuff, and lots of really nice colorful rocks!

  • a library with books, maps and information on rockhounding and the best local collecting spots. Each Casita has its own library containing various books, guidebooks, maps and information about rockhounding, mineral collecting and geology in the area.

  • silver city bed and breakfast

    a resident Geologist delighted to answer your rock questions. Michael is a trained professional geologist who has been picking up rocks all of his life. He likes to say that he has never met a rock he didn’t like. He’s convinced at this point, after a lifetime of study, that there are no bad rocks, only good ones and better ones. He is happy to answer questions for our guests, show you specimens of what can be found in this area, and identify your finds.

  • local knowledge of the area. Michael and Becky have collected at a number of sites around the area and will be happy to share their local knowledge and provide directions and maps to sites that you might like to visit when you are ready to venture away from the Casitas.

Rockhounding Excursions in the Area

silver city lodgingExceptional rockhounding opportunities can be found throughout the Gila, Coronado, and Apache National Forest lands and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land within a 75 mile radius of Casitas de Gila Guesthouses.

There are numerous localities which have been identified and written about in guidebooks. Other localities are known to local rockhound groups. Yet the fact remains that there are literally thousands and thousands of acres virtually unexplored and awaiting the serious and experienced rockhound who enjoys the thrill of locating new collecting localities.

Regular highway vehicles will be able to access many of the collecting sites on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land; however, a high-clearance vehicle will allow you to greatly expand your collecting area. Four-wheel drive, while not usually necessary, might be useful in some of the more remote areas.

If you are a serious rockhound and intend to visit remote sites, advance planning can be helpful and there are several precautions that we would suggest;

  • Research the site and obtain permission where necessary in advance of your trip.

  • Obtain maps of where you are going. We can provide some maps, and others are for sale in our Art Gallery.

  • Don’t go alone if possible; but if you do, always let people know where you are going and notify them upon your return.

  • silver city bed and breakfastCarry more drinking water than you think you will need.

  • Wear stout boots, long pants and long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, and take and use sunscreen. Insect repellent can be useful during wet periods.

  • Bring a good sturdy pack for carrying your finds, plus newspaper for wrapping delicate specimens.

  • Watch the weather. In the winter snow can be encountered above 6,000 feet; and in the summer flash floods from thunderstorms are common. Current weather forecasts are always available at the Casitas.

  • Most sites will not require tools; however, in some cases the following could be useful: crack hammer and cold-chisel, shovel, pick and pry-bar.

Once you've made your reservations at Casitas de GIla Guesthouses, we'd be happy to discuss any aspect of your rockhounding expedition to the area and provide any needed maps.

The Rolling Stones Gem and Mineral Society has monthly field trips and sponsors a Gem and Mineral Show over annually Labor Day Weekend.

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Guesthouses • Art Gallery • Nature Preserve


Michael & Becky O'Connor, Owners
50 Casita Flats Rd • PO Box 325
Gila, New Mexico 88038

©2023 Casitas de Gila, Inc. • Updated JANUARY 2023

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