Skywatch Friday – Magdalena, New Mexico

On my recent trip out west for a high school reunion I stopped at the old mining town of Magdalena, New Mexico. Ever since I was a little kid I was intrigued by old mining town of the west. At the time, the early 1970’s the town reminded me of the desolate towns in Clint Eastwood’s Fistful of Dollars movies. Magdalena was a town where we never stopped, we just went through. My dad worked for the US Forest Service and they had a ranger district in Magdalena and my mother would thank her lucky stars that dad never been transferred there. So here I am years later able to stop. I didn’t spend too long though.

The Magdalena area was of course populated by Native Americans prior to, and after, Europeans arrived. Spainish soldiers explored the area in the 1500’s but I don’t think they stayed. In the 1860’s miners were digging for lead, gold, and silver and the town became incorporated in 1884. A railroad spur was built to the area about then. The railroad helped spur the cattle and wool industries in the region. Most of the mines were up the canyon in the little town of Kelly.

Magdalena Hotel renovated in 2018

After World War II Magdalena started a long decline as the mines had depleted also wool and cattle prices declined. The railroad quit operating and the tracks were pulled up in the early 1970’s. Ranchers were shipping their cattle by truck by then.

The town has less than a thousand inhabitants but has kind of turning into a funky location. The town’s hotel and other buildings have been restored and there is kind of a funky vibe in the air. The Very Large Array Radio telescope is within a half hour and that has added some spice to the mix. They still have that beautiful blue New Mexico sky overhead as well as an intense sun beaming down despite relatively low temperatures.

A church in Kelly that looks like it gets used every once in a while.

I drove up the canyon the short distance to the old town of Kelly where the mines actually were. Lots of old mine entrances fenced off and violators will be violated signs. I don’t think anybody lives there any longer but it looks like a great place for the local high schoolers to party. The only building still standing was this old church.

Old wall or foundation.

I was up there all by myself and then this old guy in a truck with Texas plates shows up and he comes over and we start talking. Texans are like that you know. His family has a ranch in west Texas and it had an old abandoned mine in it. The guys brother was poking around in it and found some old metal parts of some kind labelled Magdalena Smelting Company, or something like that so this guy was always intrigued by that and so was scouting things out. He wanted to explore some more and I had a timed entry admission to the Very Large Array and so we parted ways.

Some sort of mining thing I think.

On the way out of Kelly I came across these old foundations. Who knows maybe that was Magdalena Smelting Company?

So I got to visit Magdalena after being intrigued by it 50 years ago. Never give up is what I say.

My sources of information are Wikipedia, New Mexico True, and The Magdalena Public Library

Here is a video of the ghost town of Kelly made by not me. I tried to find old photos and there a bunch of them and many of them very cool old cowboy, ranching, mining stuff but all rights are reserved so I am not touching them.

I’m linking with Skywatch Friday and My Corner of the World

29 thoughts on “Skywatch Friday – Magdalena, New Mexico

  1. Sallie

    I love that you got to explore Magdalena after ‘all these years.’ Goes to show you CAN go home again (or at least revisit …). We enjoy stopping at these kind of non-touristy spots along the road, but although we’ve been through that area a couple of times I don’t remember Magdalena. … I’d enjoy exploring the area, but am quite sure I’d agree with your mother that I wouldn’t have wanted to live there!

  2. Lisa

    The old wall or foundation draws me as a place to explore. Until I remind myself it looks like rattlesnake country. Growing up in northern CA my parents would often find ghost towns in the foothills to poke around in when we were on vacation.

  3. Sharon Wagner

    Yes, I grew up in a small town and they are better for visiting. (although mine wasn’t as remote as a Clint Eastwood movie location) i love to go to the country now, but then return to the city and its ammenities. 🙂

  4. tomthebackroadstraveller

    …how neat, Charles Ilfeed was a wholesaler of everything! Thanks for hosting the party.

  5. Ken Schneider

    I retired to the mountains of Central New Mexico and my heart is still there. Having grown up in New Jersey I had a rather two-dimensional view of the sky, which seemed to cover a square between housetops. It was usually gray, so my first duty assignment to El Paso Texas introduced me to the unbelievable depth, breadth and “blueness” of the southwestern sky. I never did get to visit the VLA.

  6. Peter B.

    Kelly looks really interesting, and reminds me of some of the old abandoned towns out here in the CA desert. Thank for posting the video. Cool cemetery!!

  7. Linda

    Interesting. It did not take long for that little mining town to become a ghost town. Consider that you went through there 50 years ago, and 50 years before that it was a completely different place, quite busy with a railroad and businesses.

  8. Eileen

    Sounds like you enjoyed your trip and exploration of Magdalena.
    The last sky shot is lovely. Take care, enjoy your weekend!

  9. somewhereinireland

    Glad you enjoyed the visit there. I woud love exploring Kelly, it woud be exciting to walk around town and see the place close up. Great video and photos. Enjoy your day.

  10. A ShutterBug Explores

    Wow ! You have been on a ‘Sentimental Journey it seems ~ Great photos of the mining town ~ such history ~

    Wishing you good health, laughter and love in your days,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  11. Dee

    I’m sure it was exciting to finally get to stop there and look around even if only for a bit. And its history makes it even more interesting. I’m glad for you!
    Thank you for showing us the sights from Magdalena.

  12. Eileen Thai

    One of these days, we’ll visit New Mexico and Texas. Like you about NYC, I haven’t been back to London in 40 years. Queen Camilla isn’t as exciting; maybe I’ll wait for Queen to be Kate 🙂

  13. JM Illinois U.S.A.

    It is fun to revisit old haunts. Of course, it is even more fun to go someplace your parents wouldn’t take you. LOL! Looks like you enjoyed yourself. Only fifty people.

  14. Alana

    I was thinking that it’s amazing to me that this little town has a public library. Good thing I wasn’t with you but I would have delayed you while I checked the library out. Its building looks like an old train station. I suspect your curiosity has been satisfied.

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