Lake Valley officially became a ghost town after its last resident wandered off in 1994.
Unlike today, in 1876 this town was full of hustle. After prospectors found silver deposits in the land, a bustling mine was born and the town gave up its treasure steadily for several years. One vein dubbed the “Bridal Chamber” yielded up to 2.5 million troy ounces of the good stuff all on its own.
Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case, the Bridal Chamber caused a lot of excitement but its wealth was never repeated. Shareholders lost money and by 1883 the chamber was tapped. The dwindling riches coupled with an unfortunate fatal run-in between a party of local miners and a band of angry Apaches ground Lake Valley growth down to a slow crawl. Besides a brief upswing during WWII, when mines were reopened to produce manganese, 5.8 million ounces of silver later, Lake Valley was just another deserted boom town in a desert landscape.
The land that is not owned privately is now in the hands of the US Bureau of Land Management, who has restricted access to older buildings due to safety concerns and vandalism. There is a self-guided walking tour available, and the BLM has restored the old schoolhouse and chapel for educational purposes and stabilized several of the remaining structures to encourage preservation of this historic ghost town.
Know Before You Go
Go west of Caballo Lake on NM 152, then south on NM 27; or from NM 26 at the town of Nutt, travel north on NM 27 for about 12 miles. The place has been designated an archaeological dig site and is only open Thursday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed, chained, and pad locked on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.