Kelly, a famous ghost town
The abandoned mining facility in Kelly, New Mexico is listed as a “Ghost Town.” When we arrived at this ghost town, we found that it wasn’t quite as ghosty as we thought. There is a sign that indicated the Kelly town was re-established in 2012. On the same sign is the listed population count: 2.
Two of the smartest people on the planet living alone, in peace and quite? Or two nostalgic romantics? I want to meet the two people living in Kelly – the ghost town – and hear their story.
Is it still considered a ghost town if two people are living there? I mean, unless they are two tax paying ghosts – it isn’t a ghost town any more. Right?
What You Should Know
Rough – but passable – roads
When you venture into the mining town of Kelly, be aware that the roads are not maintained. You’ll find clearly defined “roads” that are more like wide-trails. We were able to easily navigate into Kelly, but we were in a large pickup truck.
Some sections of the road had deep ruts from water erosion. I recommend a high-clearance vehicle to ensure you are not damaging your undercarriage, muffler, etc.. Otherwise, you will find areas further away from the mine where you can pull over and park a low-clearance car, walking the rest of the distance to the mine.
If you are visiting, don’t expect to be able to drive up to the mine structure itself. Perhaps if you had ATVs you would have no problems. But we found the roads too worn away, deep gullies that crossed the road, and some rocky spills. We parked about a half mile from the mine and walked the rest of the way.
As you enter Kelly, the first structure you’ll see is a collapsing building located on the left of the trail. The crumbling structure has a very prominent wall still present. The roof and floor are completely collapsed, leaving only a shell.
The basement is a hollow hull collecting debris and remnants of the former walls. You can also find the large, original stone steps that graced the entrance of the building many years ago.
Nature is doing what nature does. The former streets of this town are dissolving away and becoming overgrown. Humans reportedly tore down most of the structures to be used for constructing buildings in nearby towns. Whatever remained in Kelly is returning to nature. You can see that things are crumbling and collapsing with each passing season. I wonder how long this wall-structure will remain erect before it collapses into a giant heap of rocks?
Please use caution when visiting the town, especially if you are visiting with kids. This wall is not secure, and I fear a good stiff breeze might knock it over. Or maybe it will stand for another 100 years? Either case, you’ll find the area has rough terrain, dislodged rocks strewn around, broken bottles, old cans and the rest of the usual human debris. It is evident that locals use this site for fires and beers. There were broken bottles strewn around.
It wasn’t too terrible, but be forewarned. It gets really dicey when you get near the mine. More on that later. If you are reasonable adults, there’s nothing risky. But if you have headstrong teens or wandering kids, keep an open eye. This is an abandoned mine.
There is Beauty in Decay
The rocks used to build the walls of the collapsing structure are colorful; green, red, white, and grey stones can easily be found in the wall and surrounding grounds. Now my imagination went wild. Was the town of Kelly built with colorful stones? What did the town look like before it was abandoned? I’m hoping all of the buildings had a color mix found in the surrounding rocks.
Reflections on the death of a town
The former town and mine once had purpose – to humans. And as such, the town once had roads, houses, shops, and routines. And then… it died. With all deaths, there must have been pain, remorse, regret, and loss.
Today, under the brilliant blue skies of New Mexico, we stroll along a former town that is actively rotting back into the earth. I stand next to the walls of a building that once protected people, housed valued items, and served a vital purpose.
I can’t see the past, I can only imagine it. Today, the vitality I imagine is long faded. The purpose is gone. And Kelly is abandoned to the hills and returning to nature. It is a slow-action demise.
History by Accident
Big names related to a small town
The most complete structures in Kelly are the mine structures. The Kelly Mine headframe still stands tall and solid, a proud metal tower standing tall and erect.
I did some internet reading. It turns out this metal headframe was designed by Alexander Gustave Eiffel.
The headframe was apparently a kit designed to be purchased by any mining business. So this headframe wasn’t personally designed for the small mining town of Kelly. And the metal was provided by Carnegie.
It was a surprise to read that both Carnegie and Eiffel were somehow related to this tiny ghost town. This was I was not expecting.
So take a good look at that mining headframe jutting up into the sky. It was built with Carnegie steel and designed by Eiffel. The town of Kelly purchased it and erected it for the benefit and success of their small mining town.
And in 2019, I’m standing in the failed mining town reading about the past history of this mine. What a small world.
The most obvious structure in Kelly is the old mining bulkhead structures that rest on the top of a nearby hill. It should go without saying that all individuals should proceed with extreme caution. There are plenty of hazards: an open mine-shaft, sharp rocks, and metal debris scattered around.
I’ve read there are miles of underground tunnels that were left over from the mining days. I must imagine after all these years that those hollow tunnels long filled with rain, debris, and runoff. Not to mention critters. But there is a small part of my lizard brain that is curious to see these tunnels. How small are they? How maze-like are the tunnels? Are there rails for the carts and cars? Did they use animals to haul carts out?
Almost immediately after my imagination goes wild, my rationality returns and I know I won’t even attempt to see these tunnels. I can’t imagine how dangerous these tunnels are. And now I’m wondering if there’s a chance the tunnels will collapse and the ground I’m standing on would fall into the collapsing structure.
Structures Seem Sound – For Now
We explored the mining area and were amazed by the abandoned structures. These seem sturdy and sound, and evidence shows that locals were using these areas as well. Obviously we didn’t try to access any of the structures. No one wanted to risk an injury during our visit.
The boys are studying the shallow pit under this structure. They were so intently focused in this photo, they didn’t realize I was snapping photos behind them.
I couldn’t resist trying to come up with a name for this photo. I started with “Butts over the abyss” but it seemed pretentious.
There is a large and obvious mine shaft on the site. This open shaft would cause a great deal of hurt if somebody slipped and fell in. And by hurt, I mean certain death. Attempts to fence it off can be found crushed under foot.
Luckily there is a strong metal structure surrounding the shaft, which can be used as a brace and support IF you insist on looking down the hole. If you are like me, you will cling desperately to the massive metal framing while you peek over the edge.
Dropping a rock into the mineshaft
Obviously we recorded dropping a rock into the shaft, listening for the sound of impact. I mean, aren’t there rules about throwing things into black holes? Obviously we are dropping rocks in.
We arrived late in the afternoon. It was going to be the last exploration experience for today. Thankfully we had about an hour to explore before the sun set. But – WOW – what a beautiful sunset!
This region is stunning in its beauty. Nestled in between hills and surrounded by mountains, Kelly has quite the dramatic view. It is a shame it was lost to economic failure.
We enjoyed an amazing sunset while in Kelly. Sadly, there was no evidence of ghosts or ghostly activity in the Ghost Town of Kelly – despite my friend’s eager invite to the spiritual realm to get busy while we were there.
In the last remnants of dimming light, we left Kelly and headed back to the Interstate to continue our route north.
Plan your trip
- If you plan to visit Kelly, there is a quaint town called Magdalena, which is built right along Route 60. I saw signs for a rodeo, museum, and contemporary art. (Although we didn’t explore personally) If Magdalena is too quaint, you’ll find several larger towns a few miles down the road.
- Wear sturdy hiking boots. Since there may be broken glass and metal laying around, I would recommend avoiding soft soled shoes.
- Perhaps hiking poles?
- Pack snacks, water, and the ever critical hiking first aid kit.
- If you are bringing kids; it might help to show the rivets and seams of the Eiffel tower. Then you can study the mining headframe and compare the construction, discuss other construction projects that changed our world in the early century.
- Ghost hunting? Be sure to share pictures with me! We never even got a whiff of ghostly activity.
Hi, I’m Patti. I work in the IT field and my favorite thing to do is reboot stuff. (Muahahaha!)
I love exploring the United States and luckily I enjoy driving. Which is a good thing since it would be hard to explore if I had to walk everywhere. I am usually exploring the states on a tight budget with limited vacation time. I try to make the most of my free time, and I may have a trick or two up my sleeve.
I’m a weird mix of over-planner and free-spirit wanderer. There’s no in between. I see weekends as play-time. Laundry is for Wednesday nights and dusting is never on my to-do list.
I love museums, learning new things, and just letting my curiosity take me to my next discovery.
To discover more about me, check out my About Me page.