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Suggestions for Rock Hounding quest from Salt Lake to Spencer Idaho

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Author Topic: Suggestions for Rock Hounding quest from Salt Lake to Spencer Idaho  (Read 298 times)
GregHiller
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« on: August 24, 2015, 03:16:14 pm »

My wife and I are planning a trip early in Sept.  Flying into Salt Lake City (only reasonable place to fly into) and then driving up (slowly) to the Spencer Opal mine near Spencer, Idaho.  We'll probably dig though the tailing piles at the Spencer Mine if they'll keep it open for us (we'll be there over a weekend). 

Any suggested places to see or collect along the way?  We will only have a few days, but would love to dig around for some agates, jaspers, or obsidians, or anything else we might slab and cab.  If anyone is along the way (along the route) and might like to show us their collections also please let us know. 
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GregHiller
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« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2015, 01:17:53 pm »

Hate to reply to my own post, but really hoping someone might have some local info.  Anyone been to the Spencer Opal mine?  Anyone dig on their tailing piles?  Worth the trip?  I searched around and found a blog where someone said they tried the 'fee to dig though the tailings' thing with no luck.  Another option I suppose would be to just go to yellowstone park and then follow the river out of the park and maybe look for agate in the yellowstone river outside the park.  Anyone done that?
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55fossil
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« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2015, 02:52:58 pm »

Greg;

    Not to throw water on your parade but you need to do some internet searching. Contact the owners of Spencer opal mine. The days of old when Mark ran the mine are gone. They keep a min-mine at the store which they try to keep supplied with rough from the real mine. The present owner(s) are nice people but more business oriented. With all the law suits you cannot blame them for locking up the mine. Last time I was there Mark's daughter and her husband were running a great store with a lot of rock available. Fee mining has always been on a limited basis and scheduled.
    There are a half dozen places in Spencer to look at and buy opal, rough and finished gem stones. Ship some nice chunks back home in USPS flat rate boxes, it is cheap.
    You can do the same for agate from Montana. Order a rock hounding book for Montana on line. There is good agate through much of the state. I have often trekked to Montana and free styled it. Many of the ranchers allowed me to collect in fields that did not have crops in them. I was well rewarded. You may have to buy the agate from the farm owners now. It is harder every year. There are several guys who are buying every pile of agate from the ranchers. It is sent to China and made into beads and cabochons. Farmers and ranchers know the value of that junk rock. You have to be smart to survive in Montana and farm.
     Good luck the rocks are there.
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55fossil
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« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2015, 03:01:09 pm »

Gregg;

    Another thought that may help you.  Look at all the places in Utah for rocks and FOSSILS. There are some nice fee dig areas you can find on the internet. The trilobites are incredible there. Also a lot of open land with petrified wood and jasper is available. Much as I hate to say this you can contact Tim at Oregon rock on.... He does know every location, public and otherwise.
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« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2015, 03:25:39 pm »

Spend a few days at Challis, you will have a great time!

I am in Gooding, it is a little out of the way but I got lots of rocks.

Tony
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PanaMark
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« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2015, 03:37:27 pm »

Gregg,

If you want the best possible rockhounding be sure to visit Tony's (Catmandewe) rock yard. It is like a dream, acres of rocks to pick through.

On the Spencer Opal, be sure to call the 3 or 4 opal shops first. (They don't allow people to the mines any more). They just had an article in the paper last week that many of the shops are closing permanently. The original owners are retiring and there isn't enough money or interest for someone else to pick them up.

Best wishes, Mark
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GregHiller
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« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2015, 08:45:17 am »

Thanks very much for the info folks!!  I never meant to say we'd get into an actual mine...I know those days are gone.  I was just curious if the tailing pile behind the 'Spencer Opal Mine' shop was worth a look. 

>On the Spencer Opal, be sure to call the 3 or 4 opal shops first. <

I did some searching, but am only coming up with 'The Spencer Opal Mine' , Opal Mountain Mines, Inc., and Idaho Opal Mines.  Are these three different operations?  I did shoot an email the Idaho Opal Mines folks (I purchased some glass caps from them a while back, are they still selling their mine?), and we spoke directly to the folks at 'The Spencer Opal Mine.'

Regarding Montana agate, looks like we might rent a raft in Livingston, MT and take a trip down the river a bit upstream from Livingston.  Hopefully the water is low enough that we can fine a few pieces. 

Tony, thanks very much for the offer, but Gooding is quite a ways off our path.  We only have a few days off unfortunately...still in the working world! 

Challis is also pretty far off our path, but I'm very curious....what is there? 
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« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2015, 07:27:55 pm »

Not sure on the location but there is a plume agate in Utah, Wendover..... I think is the name of it. Our favorite spot is Carey and the Owyhee's are a little out of the way but OMG! so many possibilities.
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PanaMark
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« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2015, 05:27:08 am »

Livingston is quite a ways upstream from where the Montana agate is located. But there is lots of other  interesting stuff in the river (petwood, jasper, etc)

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mirkaba
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« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2015, 05:53:09 am »

There are some cool rocks around Livingston but the good Montana Agates are quite a ways east. I generally hunt between Forsyth and Glendive. It is an all day trip from western Montana out to the Agate country. I try to get out there once a year. Good Luck.
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Bob

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55fossil
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« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2015, 07:30:53 am »

Greg;

    Even 5 years ago the stores at Spencer were very fluid. The first place going into town had a log house with a teepee out front for a store. Some days they were open, others not. Several family operations had buildings where they worked out of and if they were not out mining they were great to deal with. An older couple had a store in the middle of town with a lot of good opal. They were there most of the time.
    Mark's daughter and her husband were running the Spencer opal mine. I would camp at their place, have an unbelievably great breakfast at the store in the morning. Well supplied store for food, gifts and opal. The mine out in the fenced area was always open during store hours.
    You may want to contact one of the Idaho Gem clubs and see if they have any up to date information. Also "google" is a great tool for people who have posted stories of their recent trips. Add the years 2014 and 2015 to your search so you get recent information on google searches.   good luck
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GregHiller
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« Reply #11 on: August 31, 2015, 07:26:24 am »

>the good Montana Agates are quite a ways east<

Hmmm...bummer on that.  I guess I had just hoped that the places to the east were the 'hot' spots, but that there might still be stuff back toward the west. 

I did find a few more blogs of people talking about collecting on the tailing piles at the gift shop.  Sounds like it might be fun for a few hours. 

Thanks all for the suggestions.  Great info. 
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GregHiller
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« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2015, 09:44:40 am »

An interesting recent article about the spencer shops:

https://www.ksl.com/?sid=35862005&nid=711&title=small-idaho-town-doubles-as-landmark-opal-gem-destination
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