Kelly Ghost Town – Magdalena, New Mexico - Atlas Obscura

Kelly Ghost Town

The ruins of this former mining boomtown once housed over 3,000 people. Now, the population is two. 


Well-preserved relics of a Wild West mining boomtown linger on in Kelly. The main feature of this former town is the towering Carnegie Steel Works mine frame that stands at 121 feet tall. The site is filled with mine carts and other fascinating ruins of late 19th-century life. Kelly is a must-visit for ghost town hunters.

In 1866, prospector Patrick H. Kelley laid claim to zinc, lead, and silver deposits in southwestern New Mexico, making him the de facto founder of Kelly. Once established, the town included schools, banks, churches, saloons, a medical clinic, and general stores. Three miles north, Magdalena was established along the railway line for miners to deliver the precious ores that would be hauled away for processing.

When the Kelly mines dried up, the population migrated to Magdalena. Today, two residents still hold up at the edge of the town. Just up the road from their home is the St. John the Baptist church, which was restored on the site of one of Kelly’s original chapels. Across the road, a modern graveyard houses the remains of other recent residents. Beyond the ghost town itself, the hike up the hill to the town yields beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Know Before You Go

To get to the town, turn off at the ranger station in Magdelena. There is also a historical marker at the turn. Once on the residential road, look for the sign to Kelly and turn off onto a dirt road. Follow that to the church, which is the best spot to park and start your exploration of the site.

Update August 2023: Place is no longer fenced off, plenty of space to park and you can walk all the way up to the steel structure.

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