Rockhound State Park

December 12, 2021

One of the few state or national parks where one is encouraged to bring home natural souvenirs, Rockhound State Park is located about 7 miles southeast of Deming, N.M., along the western flank of the Little Florida Mountains. Nancy and I learned, prior to coming to Deming, that Florida in the case of the mountain range is pronounced “flor-EE-duh,” in the Spanish way, much like the Arkansas River is the “ar-CAN-zus” River in Kansas. The Little Florida Mountains are adjacent to the Florida Mountains, separated by a valley. Rockhound a fairly small park, with only about 1.5 miles of hiking trails in the main part of the park. However, it has great views not only of the Floridas but of the open desert to the west, and you can take home up to 15 pounds of rocks! The park has plenty of rocks for the taking, including jasper, rhyolite, and perlite, and geodes – round rocks that have a solid or partially filled (usually with quartz) cavity – can be found as well. The campground in the park has 29 sites.

True to their name, the Little Florida Mountains are a range about three miles long. Rockhound State Park lies between the Little Floridas and the Florida Mountain range, which is about 12 miles long and has mountains ranging from 5,000 to 7,000 feet in elevation. Volcanic activity from millions of years ago is responsible for the appearance of the mountains, as well as the type of rocks at their base.
This is a rock that was in the hiking trail; the photo shows an area about a foot wide. I thought it was a very striking rock (some rocks are more striking than others, I’ve found), and it’s held up to thousands and thousands of footsteps. This is jasper, one of the more common minerals in Rockhound State Park. Jasper is from the quartz family and can be red, yellow, brown, pink, white, or all of the above.
Rockhound also has a plethora of prickly pear cactus.
Rock hound at Rockhound. I told Gunther he’d have better luck at finding the really good rocks if he looked at the ground rather than at the sky, but what do I know?

I believe there’s a state park in Arkansas (pr. ARR-kan-saw) that allows visitors to take home any diamonds they find, but I think Rockhound is the only other park that encourages its visitors to bring away mineral resources. I brought two specimens back to the Goddard.

This is a small sample of perlite,, which is a natural type of glass that is formed by quickly cooling lava that has a lot of silica in it. Perlite is mined in northern New Mexico, and it’s later heated to 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit when it forms small white balls that are used in construction products, filters, and gardening products (gardeners often add perlite to soil to keep it from compacting too much). The ballpoint pen at right is for scale only; it didn’t come out of a volcano.
You might think this is petrified wood, and you’d be wrong. This is a mineral called rhyolite, which is found throughout Rockhound State Park (as opposed to petrified wood, in which Rockhound is sorely lacking). The banded contortions show how lava flowed during volcanic eruptions.

We weren’t in the part of the park that featured geodes just laying around, but we saw some really pretty rocks nonetheless and enjoyed a pleasant hike with Gunther. The views, too, were just beautiful, especially looking to the open spaces of the desert to the west. We also brought home two specimens to add to the Goddard’s growing gem and mineral collection, which now numbers two.

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