Find a Gemstone Treasure at Spencer Opal Mines
- Posted On
- May 18, 2020
- Things to Do
Activities near Yellowstone
Places Near Yellowstone
Idaho’s official nickname is the “Gem State,” so it’s no surprise avid rock hounds can find a few gems in the Yellowstone Teton Territory. One of the gems Idaho is famous for is its opal. While natural gems can be found in a number of locations, Spencer Opal Mines provides one of the easiest—and most fun—ways to bring home a gemstone of your own.
Located just 60 miles from Idaho Falls in Clark County, Spencer Opal Mines allows visitors aged 5 and up to search through rocks trucked in directly from the main mine. While the mini mine pile may look like an ordinary pile of rocks, it’s full of treasures—opals.
(Please note: Spencer Opal Mines will not be allowing people to dig in the rock pile in 2020 due to COVID-19. Instead, they offer "to go" boxes of rocks to dig at home. Please see full information on the Spencer Opal Mines website.)
Pay a small fee to dig ($10 for kids 5-12, and $20 for ages 13 and up), and you can bring home one pound of rock. You can collect more than one pound of rock to take with you, but extra fees will apply. Be sure to bring your own tools so you can dig. The mine recommends bringing a garden claw, hammer, and spray bottle. The garden claw helps when digging through the rocks, then the hammer can crack open a promising specimen to see just what’s inside. A spray bottle helps keep the dust down so you can have a better view of each and every stone. Plan your day with at least an hour or two set aside for digging.
When you visit Spencer Opal Mines, a few rules apply to keep everyone safe. Children under 5 are not permitted in the digging area, and all kids must be accompanied by an adult at all times. Everyone must wear eye protection, such as safety glasses or sunglasses, and closed-toe shoes are mandatory, so bring a pair of sturdier shoes to swap out with your summer sandals or flip-flops. Be sure to also slather on some sunscreen and wear a hat since the mining area is out in the sun.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the mine is usually open seven days a week, with more limited hours earlier in the spring and later in the fall. Be sure to check hours and days of operation before planning your visit, especially outside of peak season.
The mini mine is set up right next to the Opal Country Cafe, where rock hounds can satisfy their appetites. The on-site gift shop includes stunning pendants, earrings, and other creations made out of, you guessed it, opal. It also includes rough opal, rock hound supplies, and a number of gemstones from the area.
If the mine whets your appetite for geology and gems, meet with like-minded rock hounds at the Idaho Falls Gem & Mineral Society. Be sure to check out the organization’s annual Gem & Mineral Show, typically held each spring, and keep an eye out for the group’s upcoming events in order to participate in learning days, classes, and field trips.