Pony Hills Petroglyphs and Carnelian Hunting

The Pony Hills petroglyph site is an out of the way place… a long drive on a reasonable dirt road or a long drive on a very rough dirt road depending on how you go. We always combine it with a rockhounding expedition, as there are many opportunities for collecting in this area.

1. Carnelian 2. Fluorite 3. Candy Rock 4. Sandstone 5. Psilomelane 6. Agate

The Pony Hills are in the basin of the Cooke’s range, north of Deming. This entire area is rich with rocks and history. On the west side of the basin is Fluorite Ridge with its old fluorite mines. East of Fluorite Ridge is Starvation Draw, and east of Starvation Draw are the ruins of Fort Cummings at the foot of the Cooke’s Range. The Butterfield Trail also runs through this area.


Our GPS took us via a route we had used before about five years ago, following Rte. 26 east out of Deming and then north on Greenleaf Mine Road. We were unaware that mother nature had done quite a job on Greenleaf Mine Road in the past several years. The going was slow… very slow as we tried to avoid deep ruts and washouts. We encountered a pickup with “monster truck” tires on our way out. By the time we got to the second dam we envied those tires.

PSX_20180101_193039This is the easy part of the road… it gets rough in another mile or so.

If you “drive” out Greenleaf Mine Road, (strongly discouraged), the petroglyph area is to the west of the second dam. Both dams are gathering spots for target shooters, great places to get you brass collection started. There is also the usual assortment of beer cans and bottles, because what could be better than boozing and shooting, right?

(Wish I had taken a picture of all that crap, but I didn’t)

We parked and then walked through the petroglyph area, finding some of our old favorites.

Having recently been to the Three Rivers Petroglyph Site in the Tularosa Basin, it was interesting to compare and contrast these two sites.

First off, the Three Rivers peoples were mad over-achievers compared to this group. The petroglyphs here are sparse by comparison. They are however quite unique and beautiful.

The Three Rivers Petroglyphs are on a substrate of basalt, and so they pretty much have a uniform tone. Pony Hills Petroglyphs are on a substrate of sandstone

Colorful Sandstone from Cooke’s Range Basin in Luna County, NM

Since the sandstone has subtle variations in color, so do the petroglyphs. Quite lovely.


Sadly, since sandstone is much more prone to rapid weathering, these petroglyphs will likely be gone long before those at Three Rivers.

After viewing the petroglyphs we proceeded northward around the dam . Happily (very happily) the road improves dramatically on the other side of the dam because it is maintained. We were able to travel the rest of our journey much more quickly and with much less stress.

We found a small side road to pull off and park the truck, and headed toward the Cooke’s Range on foot to hunt for carnelian. Since the day was waning, we only had about a half hour to search for it. The small fragments of this pretty form of quartz wash out of the mountains into the basin. There are no specific coordinates, just look for areas of surface gravel and walk briskly looking for translucent cherry to orange-red fragments. They are quite bright and they really stand out from the rest of the gravels and pebbles.


Back on the road, we proceeded northward and then westward, making our way back to civilization via Keeler Road, which intersects with Route 180, then back southward to Deming. When we got “home” to Rockhound we were treated to this luminous carnelian red sunset. Amazing!


We will likely never travel out Greenleaf Mine Road again unless the tire fairy gifts us with monster truck tires. This road is not maintained for much more than a a few miles off the highway, and it gets worse every year.


We woke up to a pancake flat tire the next morning. Kinda knew we wouldn’t get through this one unscathed!



4 thoughts on “Pony Hills Petroglyphs and Carnelian Hunting”

    1. The rock collecting is for the time when We can’t hike anymore.. our old age activity LOL …us sitting around grinding and polishing the big ones, tumbling smaller stuff. Maybe even making up some small sample sets. Right now its just an excuse to walk around the desert!


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