June 21, 2024

Lost Adams Gold Diggings

The story of the Lost Adams Gold Mine is one of the better known treasure tales of the old American Southwest, with many books written on just the one tale.

(Actually, there are several “Adams” stories, and the one that most people talk about has apparently been stumbled upon several times – see Black Range Tales by McKenna – but we’re talking about the placer gold tale with the waterfalls, zig-zag canyon, Sno-Ta-Hay, etc. etc.)

For every Adam’s Diggings, there must be a hundred more that are unknown, but out there waiting to be discovered.  There are signs of past mining, caches, and mineralization all over the land, but they take effort and the right Eye to discover, interpret, and capitalize upon.

(Mouse over and hit the || to Pause/Mute)

The video above was taken at a waterfall below a very rich Gold and Silver Telluride mine deep in the Black Range of New Mexico, just past the Santa Rita and Pinos Altos mines so well-known to the colonial Spanish forces in the American Southwest, and to the Native peoples before them and the non-Spanish European Americans who came after.  To get there, you go past a wall of solid rock in the canyon that has cracked just wide enough to admit farther travel, pass through a beautiful little valley (old pumpkin patch?), and pass miles farther through canyons with bedrock sections so narrow you can almost touch the walls – but do these coincidences alone mean that this is the Lost Adams Diggings?

Before the fire and subsequent flooding wiped out the canyon, there was a large log cabin (1900’s+) filled with random artifacts, a high grade pile of ore that assayed 5 oz/ton of gold located behind the cabin, old stone foundations of what must have been the 1800’s cabin in the old mining reports, and signs of even earlier disturbances in the grove-like area above the waterfall.  After the fire and subsequent flooding, this is all gone, as if it was never there.  Even the mine “dump” has been steadily disappearing, though it is so massive that it would take an even greater cataclysm to totally wipe it out.  The word “dump” is in quotes because the dump rock itself is rich with visible gold in some pieces, and others are quite dense and obviously mineralized (though we’ve not yet bothered to assay them).

There are many rich mines in the area.

Problem is, the area is so remote, that access is very difficult: a long day’s hike in and back, after a long 4×4 drive and fast hiking (and climbing!) pace, yields only a few hours on site, even in the longer summer days. Plus, there’s all the bear sign every 20 feet or so… In older times, the bears were more likely to be Silver-Tip Grizzlies than Black bears, and your moves would be watched at all times by the fierce Apache tribes in whose traditional core wartime stronghold these mines are located.  Thus, the mines, as rich as they are, slumber among the high pines and craggy peaks still, passing the years almost entirely unobserved by any man.

That the area has attracted mineral exploration and exploitation for a long time is not in question; this very well-made trail sign was found along the main travel route over a few peaks not far to the North:

Spanish Trail Sign - Heart

Alas, the sign has also succumbed to the forces of nature, so this photo or others like it are all that remains.  This is a common theme: nature alternately hides and reveals hidden treasures and signs, but in time all signs fade, and over geologic scales, everything eventually gets recycled. Nonetheless, there is SO much evidence of ancient mining in the area, and some of the more productive modern gold and silver mines in the state are within a 70 mile or so radius, that it is almost a certainty that there are caches and touchable history yet lurking in the region.

Who knows, gold from these and other local mines could be joined together in dore’ bars resting deep in the nearby Caballo mountains, or perhaps in their brothers and cousins buried by Noss between that range and the San Andres during his ill-fated extractions from Victorio Peak (or wherever he really was getting the stuff.)

So, while it is certainly worthy to pursue any particular “one and only” treasure story like the Lost Adams, it may make as much or more sense to use these tales as a general guide, and keep yourself open to more incidental opportunities, which are likely much more abundant and much closer at hand!

If you came to this page for specific Lost Adams Diggings material, then you may be disappointed by the more general nature of the article.  Rather than add yet another retelling to such a well-hashed topic, it’s hoped that the message of embracing alertness and flexibility has nonetheless added something to your future efforts.

A new book, Return to the Lost Adams Diggings, provides a fresh, field-analytical take on a likely location if that’s what you want, and Googling will turn up even more – but only alert field work will ever get you the prize!

If you prefer the lower-country version of the Lost Adams Diggings tale rather than the high-country Black Range possibilities/analog described earlier, then these photos from the searcher in the Return to the Lost Adams Diggings book may be of interest:

Lost Adams Narrow Canyon

Picture 1: The “Narrows” canyon from the locality described in the Return to the Lost Adams Diggings book.

Can you visualize the nuggets lying on bedrock after just the right amount of rainfall and right type of alluvial deposition event?  Seems like a typical Southwestern cloudburst to get things rolling followed by a gentle tapering off to wash all of the dirt except for the heavy nuggets downstream would do the trick.

Back at the cabin site, you’d of course want water, or else your mining activities would be very short-lived.  Well, here’s a picture of the beautiful spring in back of the cabin site detailed mentioned in the book:


Picture 2: Beautiful spring back up behind the Adams cabin; picture taken by the searcher in the Return to the Lost Adams Diggings book.

Charles Allen Lost Adams Diggings Map

Picture 3: Map of the Lost Adams Diggings (Charles Allen map) with a few notes handwritten by the searcher in the Return to the Lost Adams Diggings book.




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