Rock Hunting: Southern New Mexico Chalcedony

If you are going to take some lumps, New Mexico might be a good place to do it. By that I mean chalcedony lumps and nodules found as float in the hills, draws, and washes of the New Mexico/Arizona border. To find them, you will need to spend some time poking around with the porcupines and peccaries in this rugged stretch of land along the Geronimo Trail (C004) between Douglas, Arizona and Animas, New Mexico.

ABOVE: Hollow chalcedony geodes from the New Mexico border.

Chances are you won’t find this road by accident, but if you have time and wish to take a break from Interstate Highway travel, this is a fun backroad adventure that could yield some interesting cutting material.

The Geronimo Trail is Forest Road 63 also noted as C004 on google maps. Some good collecting areas can be found in the vicinity of Clanton Draw in Coronado National Forest. Traveling east, it is about about 3 miles across the New Mexico border. Look for pieces of broken chalcedony float or nodules with chalcedony veins running through them as a clue to being on the right track.

Grey banded chalcedony from Clanton Draw.

Grey banded chalcedony from Clanton Draw.

Area chalcedony is typically banded gray to white and there may larger chunks of twisted looking chalcedony. The nodules themselves may appear as dull lumpy rocks so don’t overlook these. Many of them are hollow geodes with the banded chalcedony lined with quartz crystals.

To find them, explore roadside washes and other areas of exposed rock and gravel. Also check out any fresh digging and borrow pits made by the Forest Service during road repair. Even if you are not able to take this particular route, most of the back roads in this region are likely to have interesting collecting possibilities for the adventurous. Much of the land here is public land and generally open to surface collecting, but be mindful not to damage the fragile desert landscape and also be respectful of private land you may encounter.

Look for chalcedony veins on the outside of the plain looking nodules.

Look for chalcedony veins on the outside of the plain looking nodules.

We may have rocks on our minds, but don’t forget to enjoy the rich natural beauty of the area and historical significance as the land of Geronimo. Also be aware that this is a remote and rugged backroads area. Have a well maintained vehicle with good clearance, pay attention to weather conditions and wildlife, have plenty of food and water and make certain to fill up the tank at that last gas station in town.


Scott Stepanski is a mineral collector and co-author of Gem Trails of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He also produces the world’s largest selection of mineral and fossil rubber stamps at http://buttersidedownstamps.com.