Central Montana Prospectors
Central Montana Prospectors

In Search of Opals

Spencer Opal Mines


What U See

     Why would a giant pile of rocks behind a restaurant be a destination for prospecting? Even though this destination sounds peculiar, it works. That’s what you get when you go to Spencer Opal Mines in Spencer, Idaho. Years ago Kurt’s in-laws purchased the original mine he and his extended have operated this facility for many years attracting visitors from all over the world.

     Each week 3-4 truckloads of rock from the mine is dumped onto the huge rock pile behind the restaurant so that people can search for opals without the danger in the actual mine.

     There is shop and a restaurant combo that provides all Information and material you may need to dig. Its open 7 days a week right below 18-wheelers whizzing by on the interstate highway. You can sit on a huge pile of rocks and not even dig and find your treasures. The opals that you are looking for need a little bit of water often times to shine but they can be found readily in this pile of rocks.

     Upon completing your search you weigh your finds on the deck of the restaurant. If you’re like I am you have a bucket of rocks that you couldn’t go home without, so you pay $1 per pound for them but $10 per pound for opals.





     Paxton Tutor can sit down with a hatful of ice while his dog looks on from a distance and searches the surface for opals.


What U Get

     You get a big hill of rocks from a mine to dig a big hole and lay in it to traversing many trails across it.

     For $15 you get the first pound of opal rock free then you pay $10 per pound for each additional pound of opals you find.

     You get instruction in the shop about what you are looking for and how to find it. With all the examples and array of opals in various levels of display you can see what the possibilities are for your potential discoveries. The prices are very economical for what is offered.

     One of the last stages of your opal search from this mini rock mountain is your weigh-out. An old crusty dude barks at you to separate you opal rocks from your favorite rocks. Your digging experience will show if you developed your discrimination between a regular rock and one that has layers of opals in it. Not all diggers get their full pound of opals, but you might be luckier and better at the eagle eye and discernment it takes to find opals in this pile.


     Since opals are translucent one is looking for shine. You need a spray bottle to help.

     I happen to have my prospecting supplies in my car so we filled our buckets with water at their spicket on-site and we swished our rocks in the water to unearth the opals.



          You have to wear safety classes on this site because of cobbing of the surrounding rock that incases the opal. You can purchase them for $2.49 right there in their shop.

     You need a hammer to hack away and I use an old framing hammer that was heavy with a good claw on the end and it worked very well. Of course they have them for sale there if you don’t bring your own.

     No open toed shoes because of the danger to your tootsies while you work. Makes sense.

     You can employ two techniques in your dig. You can either look around on the surface or you can dig a hole and lay in it if you want. I personally don’t think digging a hole is any more productive then the surface search, but each prospector has their own style and desire. Choose your own and go for it neither one is right or wrong.

     If you have a dog along who is a rock hound like Odin you have to talk to them long and hard why they cannot come up on the rock pile. It can be a killer to them and hopefully you can put up with the whining. Dog poop where you are digging is not pleasant so this rule works for a safe and healthy dig space.

     The restaurant has a specialty burger called the Triplet we saw on the internet before we went and we just had to try it. It’s worth it and delicious!

     In order to be successful at finding opals you have to have some patience and fortitude because you can overlook opals sitting right next to you if you don’t have a strategy of looking at multiple levels of your search. In other words stick with your goal and you will find them by a variety of thinking and examining.

3 Cheers 4 Spencer Opal Mines!



     The biggest and the best benefit of this Spencer Opal Mine is the help you get from the staff. Everyone there with all levels of authority and responsibility is committed to helping you be successful in your opal search.

     When you come in to the shop you are shown all kinds of opal examples that you would be looking for when you go to the hill. The staff takes you through all the procedures, rules, and steps needed for your time there.

     Kurt and his trainee Beth come up to the hill, kneel down and tell you stories helping you find opals right then and there. This is the single best factor at the Spencer Opal Mine because you have on the spot training and instruction. People need to know and learn and these guys help you. It is amazing!


      Inside this small, little shop you will find everything you will need for your hunt.

     Food, instruction, supplies, reasonable pricing on all rock examples for you to take home plus the array is fabulous.

     And this is where you can belly up to the bar and eat their famous Triplet Burger.

     The temptation with what they have available is huge because you lots home and your budget is screaming at you.


    A new vocabulary word you learn while prospecting for opals is cobbing.
 It is the taking off excess rock around an opal with your hammer. This process keeps your price down but you have to know you might injure your opal because they are soft.

     But according to Kurt he wore his silver ring before his opal ever got damaged.

     I tried whacking a rock near me with the side of my hammer and I broke chunks off of it and in the process out rolled a small round rock ball like it was giving birth to a baby rock. What a surprise!


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© Central Montana Prospectors Coalition, Site Created & Written By Alma Winberry