The 'heyday' of the town was from 1881 to 1893. The last resident departed in 1994. The present day ghost town is completely deserted.
The townsite of Lake Valley is partly privately owned, and partly owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which has restricted access to the old buildings to daylight hours, to prevent vandalism. There is a self-guided walking tour for visitors.
A rancher found the Lake Valley silver deposits in Sierra County in 1876. Two years later he sold his claims to an engineer, who began mining. The deposits are bedded manto-type deposits in Paleozoic limestone. The mines produced well for a few years after miners tunneled into a silver-lined cavity they named the "bridal chamber" that alone yielded 2.5 million troy ounces (78 tonnes) of silver.
In 1881 the property was sold to mine promoters George D. Roberts and Whitaker Wright, who split the property among five companies: Sierra Apache Co., Sierra Bella Co., Sierra Grande Co., Sierra Madre Co., and the Sierra Plata Co., and stock was sold widely in the east. Despite the brief wealth of the bridal chamber, shareholders in all five companies lost money.
In 1881, a party of Lake Valley miners formed a posse to pursue a band of Apaches that had raided the town of Hillsboro. The Apaches caught them in an ambush. The bridal chamber was worked out by 1883. Although a railroad line reached Lake Valley in 1884, the mines struggled and were worked only periodically into the 20th century. Total production of the Lake Valley district through 1931 was 5.8 million ounces (180 tonnes) of silver. The mines reopened during World War II to produce manganese, and continued operating into the 1950s. Lake Valley had a post office from 1882 until 1955.
Lake Valley is located in a structurally elevated fault block underlain mainly by Ordovician through Pennsylvanian sedimentary rocks; ore deposits are stratabound and confined to Lower Mississippian Lake Valley Limestone carbonate rocks. The Lake Valley and Berrenda faults are the major structural features in the area.
- "Longhair" Jim Courtright, became town sheriff in 1882
- Benjamin Silliman Jr. examined the properties as a mining consultant
- Whitaker Wright visited the properties and organized the mining companies
- Charles R. Keyes, Genesis of the Lake Valley, New Mexico, silver deposits, American Institute of Mining Engineers Bulletin, Jan 1908, p.3.
- George Townsend Harley (1934) The geology and ore deposits of Sierra County, New Mexico, New Mexico State Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Bulletin 10, p.178–179.
- O’Neill, J. Michael; et al. (2002). Geologic Investigations in the Lake Valley Area, Sierra County, New Mexico. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved 3 February 2018.
- Photos of Lake Valley
- BLM American Frontiers web page for Lake Valley
- Ghost Town Gallery: Lake valley, NM
- Viva New Mexico: History of Lake Valley
- Public Lands Museum: Lake Valley, a relic of the wild west
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Lake Valley Historic Site.