Easter Weekend – Saturday – Kilbourne Hole

My husband is a Geologist. So he’s always telling me of all these cool locations around our state that you can find unusual rocks and precious gemstones. One of these locations we’ve talked about for a couple of years is Kilbourne Hole. This location is an old volcano that when it erupted it shot out these lava bombs. When these bombs hit the wet, cooling ash layer, they were buried. They cooled slowly thereby allowing them to create olivine and peridot inside the bombs.

So we decided to travel to Kilbourne Hole on Easter Weekend. I used to live in Las Cruces when I was a little girl. I told my husband about a restaurant there that my family and I loved. It was called La Posta in Mesilla, NM. When I looked on the internet, I saw the restaurant was still open. I knew we just had to eat there on this trip. They are still very popular so you have to make a reservation in advance to get a seat. I haven’t eaten there since 1975. That’s 41 years ago….yikes!!!

So we left Friday afternoon and made it just in time to make our reservation. The meal was just as fabulous as it was 41 years ago.

In the waiting area, they have a variety of large birds and several beautiful aquariums. So, of course, on our way out we had to stop and visit with the parrots. One of them was very curious of Scarlett. I’m guessing they don’t see dogs very often. Another parrot really liked Tim.

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You can see the parrot is hanging upside down in order to get a good look at Scarlett. She was just as curious of the bird.

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Tim was whistling to the parrot 🙂

Early the next morning we headed out to Kilbourne Hole. It is located between Las Cruces, NM, and El Paso, Texas. It’s about 1.5 hours drive from Las Cruces in the middle of nowhere in the desert. It’s no wonder we were the only ones there when we found the hole. You drive along for miles, then all of a sudden you drive up to a huge crater in the desert. The hole is 1.25 miles across and it’s over 300 feet deep.


Kilbourne Hole

We had read that the peridot bombs are located on the north end of the hole. As best as we could determine, we were somewhere on the eastern edge. So we followed a very primitive road along the edge looking for lava bombs. After a short while, Tim stopped to see what was on the ground. The very first thing he sees is this cool beetle. It’s called a desert spider beetle. I love these beetles! So I just had to get a photo. But that little guy was moving fast. The only way to get a photo was to pick him up and slow him down. 🙂

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Desert Spider Beetle

We started walking around looking for the lava bombs. Scarlett was following us around wondering why we weren’t actually hiking a trail. She was confused why it seemed like we were just aimlessly wandering. Lol!


Soon Tim was saying he was finding the bombs (or the proper term of xenoliths). We started hiking around and soon we were finding lots of them. All of them have olivine, which is a dark green colored stone.

But what you want to find is the light yell0w-green stones that have a good chance of being peridot.


Tim and Scarlett hunting for rocks.

We spent several hours looking for lava bombs. It was fun finding them, getting a rock hammer and smashing them open to see what was inside. Sometimes when you crack a rock open you would get black insides or white insides. Sometimes you would get very dark olivine. But sometimes you got to see something worth keeping.


My handsome husband Tim



As the day progressed the wind really started blowing. I managed to get one decent shot of us together…though Scarlett wasn’t cooperating for photos.


Kelly and Tim with Scarlett behind us

While hunting for rocks, Tim found a baby horned lizard. If you look closely on the ground around him, you can see some green gemstones. 🙂


Rocky Mountain Horned Lizard

The scenery was beautiful. I couldn’t resist taking some scenic photos. We figured we’d never come back so I took a bunch of photos and gathered up a whole bucket full of bombs.




This is the ash layer on the north end containing the lava bombs

We slowly made our way around the rim of the hole. We stopped several times to look for bombs beginning on the east side and ending on the north end. Once we started rounding the northern end and started heading south, the primitive road turned into just soft ash. Good thing we were driving a 4×4. But even then we came close to getting stuck several times. I had Tim stop one last time on the rim in an area that had semi-firm ground so I could get one last photo of the hole.


By this point we were getting very worried about the road. We came upon a very steep road that left the rim and went down to the main road we came in on. Tim got out and looked at it and made the decision to take it. He wanted off that soft rim. I gripped the chicken stick, and prayed we made it safely down. I managed to click one photo one-handed while going down, but it just doesn’t reflect the heart-stopping experience it was!

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Looking down the hill! It was bumpy so my photo isn’t great. Lol!

Once down I took another photo of the hill we came down. Later we said I should have walked down the hill and video taped Tim driving down it in his Toyota Tundra. I wish I had done that!


I only saw one bird that day,,,a Gambel’s Quail. I barely got a photo. I did hear a Rock Wren at Kilbourne Hole but I never saw it.


Gambel’s Quail – female

When we got home I picked out the best specimens of the bombs. Some of them have some good sized light yellow-green gems. I’m hoping we found a gem quality Peridot. We will have to find someone that can tell us if we got anything good. I will keep you posted!


Intact lava bomb (xenolith) with a hint of crystals inside


Our best specimens


Tim found this large piece just sitting freely on the ash


A nice specimen on matrix


I found this piece. I think the large piece next to the dime has a good potential of being a peridot.

We had a really fun day hunting for precious gems! The next gem hunting adventure will be to find rubies in New Mexico!

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Gotta include a selfie!