Located in the Keystone Mining District, LaBelle was once home to 600 or more people, most of them gold miners.  Historic records indicate that LaBelle’s post office operated from 1895-1901.  Additionally the town had stores, saloons, hotels, and a newspaper (the LaBelle Cresset, 1894-1898).  Some miners continued living and working in LaBelle as late as 1910.

Few people have heard of LaBelle, New Mexico, and it doesn’t appear in any of the usual “Ghost Town” reference books.  And it’s no wonder because there’s practically nothing left of the town.  The town doesn’t appear on any modern maps, there are no Forest Service signs, and few people explore beyond the nearest access road that is two miles away.  Even the name of LaBelle Creek has been changed.

The only hint at the true location of LaBelle is “LaBelle Lodge” that appears on some maps.  La Belle Lodge is much newer than the historic town.  Evidence indicates it was added on and remodeled perhaps as recently as the 1980s, but the original construction is older, 1950s or 1960s perhaps.

Studying the hand-drawn Keystone Mining District map carefully, it appears that LaBelle Lodge is near the center of town.  Scattered throughout the forest nearby are hundreds of mining shafts, small prospect pits, and evidence of placer mining in the valley bottoms.  One group of rocks not far from the Lodge is likely a chimney fall, marking the location of a historic house or cabin.

LaBelle Lodge sits on the same site as the historic town of LaBelle. The land-leveling for the lodge construction and the earth-moving for the pond likely destroyed a portion of whatever remained at the townsite.

Although the LaBelle Lodge is unlocked and I couldn’t resist, I don’t recommend entering.  The building has been heavily vandalized by shooters and most windows have been broken out.  As a result the building is filled with trash, animal feces, soggy-wet carpets, and other ‘stuff’.

The interior of LaBelle Lodge shows relatively modern remodeling including pvc pipes, drywall, and hollow-cardboard-type doors.

As unlikely as it seems, this marshy area may have been the near-center of town, the terminus of a stagecoach line, and the end of a telephone line.

Imagine a town of 600 with stores, hotels, and a post office located in this small valley.

The ruts between these two pine trees are a possible location of the 1895 stage coach line that ran from LaBelle to Catskill, New Mexico.

There may not be much to see at the townsite of LaBelle, but the spectacular scenery make the trip worthwhile.


Comments

LaBelle NM — 43 Comments

  1. Binge-watched “Godless”….What a fabulous movie! Well done by all… quite a change from chateau land for Michelle Dockery but it waxworth her time.
    Bob & Alice Sprague
    Santa Fe

    • I agree awesome movie hate and evil has always been and will always be there will always a someone that don’t wanna see happiness.

  2. I’m another one brought here by Godless. My wife and I are in our 70’s and working on bucket list items and thought La Belle would be interesting to visit if it still existed (Deadwood comes to mind). Glad I found this since it will keep me from wasting what time I have left!

    • Gene Gillam, Thank you for commenting. I appreciate the feedback and am pleased that this page was of practical use to you. On one hand, there is practically nothing remaining of LaBelle, New Mexico to see. On the other hand, it’s a true abandoned place whereas Deadwood, South Dakota is a large functioning town.
      Unlike Deadwood, in LaBelle you won’t find any phony tourist kitsch, costumed actors, congested traffic, or hoards of tourists blocking every photographic view. What you will find at LaBelle is an area of incredible scenic beauty not significantly different from what the first prospectors found as they explored the valleys and ridges in the 1800s. There are traces of historic mining, but you must find them yourself; the LaBelle history isn’t spoon-fed to visitors with signs, museums, or tour guides.
      Thank you again for visiting my website and commenting.

  3. Would you happen to know if the Cemetery in LaBelle is still there? If so are the graves marked with last names and/or dates?

    • Hello Nikki. To my knowledge there is no cemetery at LaBelle. There could have been one, of course, but I’ve seen no evidence. It’s not on any map and I’ve never seen a photo. If you know something about a cemetery in LaBelle, I’d love to hear about it.

    • From what I’ve read, the gold ore was very low-grade. And because the ore had to be hauled out for processing, the operations at LaBelle weren’t profitable enough. There is also evidence of places mining in the area, including old photos, which indicates there must have been at least some free gold as well as the ore.

  4. Just hiked out there today, followed the closed part of the forest road to the fence and took a right, then followed that up to the lodge. If you can find it using google maps. If you really are daring, you could get a 4 wheel drive up to the lodge with little trouble.

  5. Omgosh I totally came here also because I’ve been watching the show Godless. I live in Albuquerque and I’d never heard of a town called LaBelle (or Moses) until watching this show. I wanted to see if it was indeed a real place. It’s super cool to find out that it really did exist, though the town was much different than it was portrayed in the series. It looks very beautiful and I would love to see it one day!

  6. Thanks for this great post! Because of the amazing show Godless, I am now obsessed with both LaBelle and Moses (old and new). This post has greatly helped with my understanding of the history and area. I’m from NM so my husband and I are planning to explore both areas soon.

    Thanks again!

  7. Just finished watching Godless- fascinating series! Growing up in Sant Fein the 1970s, my parents and I spent many weekends visiting ghost towns in NM and CO. I know live in NM again- Farmington, and take many weekend trips myself, so I may add La Belle and Moses to list. I checked the coordinates on Google Maps (given above) and in the satellite image there appears to be a fairly contemporary pickup truck very near to the lodge and pond.

    Thanks for all the great information!

    • Hello John. I have not seen a pickup in the satellite images. Obviously in such a beautiful natural area as the Valle Vidal vehicles are restricted to the roads. But there are several legit reasons why there could be a truck out there. The area is grazed by cattle and the ranchers undoubtedly need to access fence lines and check on water sources. The Forest Service employees, game warden, and other law enforcement have a need to access certain areas regularly. And the good road going south past the locked gate, I believe that road is used to access a nearby private ranch.

  8. I just watched Godless and looked up articles on Scott Frank, director and screen writer. His assistant had found some information on towns in the west where there were large mining accidents and towns were left with only women. Some left and some made the best of it. Mr. Frank found that an interesting part of the history of the west. He also did research on the town of La Belle. He seemed to want a certain amount of accuracy depicting New Mexico in the 1800’s. I really appreciate that in a film maker.

  9. curious about what inspired the writers of Godless, the LaBelle mine and town. Are the ghost speaking to them? History is fascinating. I have restored 3 historical homes and furnished them to their vintage. Traveling back in time is an experience. This earth holds many secrets just waiting to surface and be explored.
    .

  10. I think it is fantastic that shows like “Godless” can spark new interest in actual history and forgotten places. I am just an amateur history buff and what always impresses me is how the past is never quite as far off as it seems the more we learn about it. I used to live in New Mexico and hope to get back to prowl more at some point.

  11. I’m a high school history teacher in Russellville, Arkansas, and I came across your post while researching information about La Belle. I teach world history, but am passionate about the history of Native Americans and American westward expansion. I’ve spent time camping and hiking throughout Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah, and Arizona. I became aware of La Belle after watching the Netflix series ‘Godless’ which is set there in the late 1880s. Thanks for the interesting post.

    • As you can probably guess, LaBelle in the television show has very little in common with the real town of LaBelle, New Mexico. I wonder if the show creators were even aware that there was a real town of LaBelle, or if the town name is merely a coincidence? An interesting discussion for your history class, no doubt.

      Keep in mind that the real LaBelle is in the high mountains surrounded by deep evergreen forests, unlike the prairie / desert setting of the television show. The real LaBelle, being a mine camp, had few women. There was never a railroad anywhere near the real LaBelle. And I cannot find any reference indicating there was a mine actually called LaBelle.

      • I found an article in the Albuquerque Journal from 11/26/17 about Godless. It said the writer of the series was very aware of New Mexico old towns including the now ghost town of Moses which is featured (it’s North of Clayton). He must have known about the La Belle mine too which this post identified. I found it using the GPS ciordimates and it’s in the Valle Vidal wilderness which I have been in many times. The series was filmed in Santa Fe Studios and on a ranch in Lamy which is South of Santa Fe where the terrain is very much different than the Valle Vidal, but that’s what they had to work with. It’s a great Western series!

  12. ,I’m watching the series “Godless” now and totally fascinated with the area. My husband and I have vacationed in New Mexico twice in the past few years and would love to check out this area . We plan to retire in New Mexico

      • I sometimes work in mines in WA. Have you been out exploring the historic mines and town sites in the Outback there? It would be similar to the ghost towns and mining districts in New Mexico.

  13. Hello Bob,
    I have a vacation home in Red River, NM and have spent a fair amount of time in the Valle Vidal Wilderness (where the La Belle is located as you know) hiking and fishing. Red River is roughly Southeast of the Valle Vidal. Thanks to your GPS coordinates, I located the La Belle lodge using Google Earth. Did you park alongside the main road and hike over to it? If so, about how far was it? My Forest Service map is in Red River otherwise I’d be able to tell. I found a photo of the lodge tagged on Google Earth and it looks like folks ride over to it from Clayton Corral so it’s being used as a horse rest stop of sorts. I just started watching the excellent Netflix Series called Godless and the La Belle mine plays a large part in the series. I looked up the mine and was thankful to find your blog post.

  14. Thank you very much for posting the information and pictures of the La belle area. I have a cabin up Bittercreek Canyon where there are many old mines and cabins. I have often thought of hiking to la belle as it is only across Van Diest mnt, from my location. I am sure glad you posted pictures of the new building! I had visions in my head of the ‘la belle lodge’ being a arge 1800s building on a 1980s building. You saved me a whole days hike. thank you!

  15. The main road isn’t 4wd, but it is gravel and I did get a javolin-shaped rock through the E-rated F350 tire last year. Plenty of people drive up there in Subaru-type cars and even regular passenger sedans.
    No, sorry, I don’t have much information on Elizabethtown or the nearby site of Virginia City. Both of those are private property but Elizabethtown has a museum, cemetery, and is open to the public.
    Dawson is only 4 miles off the highway between Cimarron and Raton. The town is only open to the public on special occasions but the cemetery is always accessible.
    Stop at the Cold Beer Tavern near there too for historic photos and information on the ghost town of Colfax. The ruins are on private property but right next to the highway. You can get some photos without crossing the highway r-o-w fence.

    • Hello Bob!

      Thanks for your information above, so sorry I just seeing this now, I thought I needed to wonder over here to this page again tonight Now!

      Years ago around 2004 or 2005, I called that Museum at Elizabethtown, N. M. to see what they could tell me and what I could learn about their collection of material, at the same time I contacted the Court house in Raton, N. M. and got hold of County Clerk, he sent me the Plat map of Elizabethtown and I was just happy as a Big Fat Turkey not being served at Thanksgiving, I mean excited I was to receive that Plat Map, I wished I had another copy of it and might do that if I pass through Raton, N. M. and Anyway I learned from the person who was running Museum at Elizabethtown, yes they said a lot of property around the town was private and that there was one local man or family who thought they still had Riches & Gold under a old E-Town Log Cabin!

      I have heard of Dawson, before and have read something on the town too! I always thought about checking out Cimarron too, I have heard it was a hopping Town during the Old West days and Mining days of the Past!

      Thanks for your comments and wonderful information! I am really grateful that I have found you! I have a Archaeologist buddy of mine, who I work for every now and then with Research now days, I can’t do much of anything any more, and I am only 59 years old too! Anyway my former boss & buddy the Archaeologist has worked for years in Missouri & Central America, Belize & other Mayan sites surrounding, anyway I was getting ready to ask him if he knew any Archaeologist in New Mexico or Colorado or not!

      And then I found you, I believe that I was very lucky to find you Bob!

      I thank you for your time and the much Help from you Bob! I do appreciate the Suggestions too!

      Thank You and Take Care,
      Chris Cooper

        • Godless is really good and appears to rely heavily on actual historical events including the tragic Mormon incident when a large clan of non Mormon settlers passing through Utah were massacre d. Not sure how accurate the mining history is but LaBelle looks like it is described here. That’s how I found this website

  16. Hi Chris. I’m an ex-archaeologist as well, a past supervisor and crew member on many CRM surveys all around Arkansas and the Southwest.
    Yes, the town site is on public land. And to help you find it, the LaBelle Lodge is located on USGS and Forest Service maps. The nearest vehicle access to LaBelle is approximately two miles away. Something to be aware of before you set out, there are no services on the 80 mile drive from Raton to LaBelle. You may drive the entire distance without seeing other vehicles. And much of the drive is a gravel road that can be rough and is famous for giving flat tires. The area is also accessible from the west, a 70 mile drive from Taos via the small town of Costilla.
    No, other than the modern lodge, there is very little to see at the town site. The single rock pile, the suspected fireplace, was rather un-photogenic and I did not take a picture of it.
    -Bob Wick

    • Hello Bob Wick!
      Thanks for your reply, I am so grateful for your remarks and comments above! Wow it sounds so Interesting to me, but I don’t know about the Roads either! I will be driving a 2015 Ford Escape, different kind of wheels on it now days, but I am really scared to drive back to La Belle, I have always heard it called LaBelle too!

      Anyway sounds like one would need a Hummer, Jeep and etc. to get back there, but oh for years I have always wanted to see this area and the site of La Belle, its always been a interested of mine!

      Sounds like I will have to stick to Elizabethtown, in Colfax Co., N. M. instead! I wish I could find a way too see La Belle some way, my wife Faye she might not like us driving down these kinds of Roads! Sounds really scary to me! But I love those kinds of Roads too!

      I have another question, its not about La Belle, I was wondering if you know that there are any kind of Older maps, like the Keystone Mining district Map for “Elizabethtown, Colfax Co., N. M. Territory?

      But I also wanted to say that I had seen and found the Old Keystone Mining district Map was back in Feb. of this year, I accidently found and it was the most lucky thing too!

      I will email you with some of my personal information very soon!

      I thank you for you time and Again Take Care!
      Yours Truly,
      Chris Cooper

  17. Please tell me more about LaBelle or La Belle, Taos County, New Mexico? Great Pictures and its great to see these wonderful pictures and hear about its History!

    I am a Retired Archaeologist and a Missouri Historian, I have tried to Read everything that I can find on La Belle, Taos Co., N. M. —- You show and talk about the More Modern Building known as the La Belle Lodge, can you tell who owns it! And does the site of La Belle, N. M. sit on Government Land?
    Who can I contact if I want to drive to the Location of the Once Historic Ghost Town/Extinct townsite, I want to walk around these areas and see what I can See? So I don’t want to get in trouble or put in Jail?

    You mention the remains of an House or log Cabin foundation or Fireplace-Chimmey, did you take pictures of this also! Tell me did you see signs of anything Historic or not?

    One Last Word Here! Just Really Beautiful Pictures you posted and shared here! I am glad that I found your site here on the internet, it kind of paid off! Just amazing Pictures and Views of the surrounding Scenery is just amazing here!

    Thanks for your time and Take Care,
    yours Truly:
    Christopher Neal Cooper

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