Fluorite Ridge

Southern Roads Map

Physically, Fluorite Ridge and Pony Hills are on the periphery of the Black Range about 7 miles north of NM-26 near Deming, east of US-180, and southwest of Cooke’s Peak.   The area discussed in this section is featured in a Road Tour Video which starts at NM-26, runs north on County Road A016 (Green Leaf Mine Road) and then west to County Road A008, which goes south to US-180.  This video is also embedded on this page, below, and is part of our video portfolio of The Roads of the Black Range.  

This area is best known for its fluorite mines and the Pony Hills petroglyph sites.

The image to the right shows the approximate locations of the three other road videos we host in this area.  The roads into Cooke’s Peak and Frying Pan Canyon are very difficult and a high clearance four-wheel drive vehicle with accomplished driver is very desirable.  Concern for the oil pan is a constant on the Cooke’s Peak access road and I have gone 3-wheeling on the Frying Pan Canyon access (3-wheeling is where there are three wheels on the ground and one in the air - bad for vehicle frames and windows).  That said, they are far from impossible and provide great access to adventure and areas which are not often visited.  With an appropriate vehicle other roads in the area may be accessible.

The video of the Pony Hills/Greenleaf Road is embedded below.  

Fluorite Mines

Greenleaf Mine profile 2

Gold and silver was (is) not the only thing in them thar hills.  Fluorite is there too. (See Fluorspar Deposits of Burro Mountains and Vicinity New Mexico, by Elliot Gillerman, Geological Survey Bulletin 973-F, for a good discussion of the geology of fluorite deposits and a description of the area north and west of Pony Hills.)  Fluorspar was classified as a strategic mineral during the second world war, and mills were constructed by the Metals Reserve Corporation (an independent US government agency).  Much of the production was to the north of Pony Hills in the Burro Mountains and in the Gila.  The Gila Fluorspar Mill (located northwest of Silver City) processed about 14 tons an hour and ran 15.5 hours a day, 6 days a week.  (See the Casitas de Gila Nature Blog for an excellent description of fluorspar mining in that area.)

lucky headframe

The fluorite mines at Pony Hills are along Fluorite Ridge, and like most fluorite mines in the region are abandoned. Fluorite mining started in 1907 or 1909 at this location (see Archaeology Notes 215, below, pp. 10 - 11) using “Mexican” laborers as miners.  They were paid $1.50 a day at a time when the wage scale in the area was from 50 to 75 cents an hour.    

The Green Leaf Mine, from which the county road gets its name, has several standing structures.  Some of the mines in the area were trenches, sometimes up to 100 feet deep.  Others, such as the Green Leaf, were very deep shafts, as shown by the cross section above (Figure 14, p. 66 of Archaeology Notes 215 ), the file is 15 MB in size.

Farther up the road is the Lucky Mine site.  The Loadout Chute and the Head- frame of the Lucky Mine are shown below, as they appeared on November 7, 2013.  The black-and-white photograph (right) is Plate 10 of Archaeology Notes 215 (p. 123) and shows how the headframe appeared in 1997.  A thorough description of the mines in this area (as of the date of publication - 1946 - and not much happened after that time, in this area) is found in the New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources Bulletin 21 - Fluorspar Resources of New Mexico - prepared by the US Geological Survey. pp 123 - 142 (13.9 MB).  Apparently it is still possible to find massive and crystal fluorite in the mine tailings and in the general area.

Lucky Mine, Loadout Chute, November 7, 2013

Lucky Mine, Headframe, November 7, 2013

Early Indian Sites

Both the New Mexico Cultural Resource Information System and the BLM have recorded significant “lithic scatters” associated with this area.  In a survey of mining sites at the south end of Fluorite Ridge, the Museum of New Mexico, Office of Archaeological Studies (Archaeology Notes 215, The Fluorite Ridge Fluorspar Mines, Luna County, New Mexico, 1997 - see link above) noted the lithic scatters and concluded that they were “part of a continuous scatter of chipped stone artifacts observed throughout the project area that undoubtedly extends well beyond the project area...one massive ‘lithic scatter’ resulting from centuries of chert, limestone, mudstone, sandstone, and quartzite quarrying.” (p. 14)

Figure 8 (above) of Archaeology Notes 215 is a map of the Lucky Mine site.  It clearly shows that there are two “chipped stone” concentrations on the “grounds” of the site (p. 33).  Mining at this specific mine stopped in 1954 (p. 34).

lucky mine shards 2

The Petroglyphs of Pony Hills

The Pony Hills are just north of Fluorite Ridge and are known for the petroglyphs found there.  The petroglyphs are from the Mimbres Culture and are thought to date from 600 to 1200 AD.  The Pony Hills site is near the second check dam that you encounter near the end of the hills on your west.  A petroglyph from this site is shown below, others are shown on our Pony Hills & Frying Pan Canyon photo gallery on www.earlypeople.org.  The road here is a section of the Butterfield Stage Coach route which ran through the area just before the Civil War.  Ft. Cummings (3 miles east) was staffed, in part, to protect the stage coach route.  

Photograph taken on November 7, 2013

The Petroglyphs of Frying Pan Canyon

The other major petroglyph site in this area is at Frying Pan Canyon.   A petroglyph from this site is shown below, others are shown on  our Pony Hills & Frying Pan Canyon photo gallery on www.earlypeople.org The “cave-like” dwellings  associated with the petroglyphs are about 3/4 of a mile from Frying Pan Spring at Massacre Peak.  Massacre Peak takes its name from the fight between a stage coach  crew and their guards and a group of Apaches.  The fight ended poorly for the Anglos and is referred to as the Freeman Thomas Massacre (Couchman p. 133).  During the summer of 1861, Cooke’s Pass was the site of a number of confrontations between Anglos and Apaches, most ending badly for the former (Couchman p. 144).  Access to this area is shown in a video at Frying Pan Canyon Access and in the embedded video below.  See our video portfolio of The Roads of the Black Range for other road videos of the area.

Photograph taken on December 30, 2013

Henry Standage of Company E of the Mormon Battalion wrote (about the camp at Frying Pan Springs): “Close to our camp is some traces or proof of the Nephites once living here.  Large entrances into the rocks and several pestels and mortars found made of rock, also some pieces of ancient crockery ware, showing that a people has once lived here who knew how to make such things, whereas the Indians who now inhabit these parts do not understand such things.  We found a great many hieroglyphics engraven in the rocks, which resembled those found in Pike Co. Illinois.  I take this for good circumstantial evidence of the Divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon.”

© Robert Barnes 2018-2024