The main objective for this vacation was rock hounding and the Spencer Opal Mine was our first destination. Spencer is located in eastern Idaho right off Interstate 15 and close to the Montana state-line. On Monday May 31st, 2010 we pulled up outside the Spencer Opal Cafe at about 9:15am. We decided to have breakfast in the cafe before trying our luck at finding some world class fire opal.
The breakfast and service at this small cafe was excellent. The employee's seemed to be very happy we were there and the food was hot, fresh and reasonably priced. The employee's attitude seemed to rub off on all the other customers also as they were talkative and friendly with us. Let's just call this a friendly family cafe.
Once we finished our breakfast, we paid the $10 Entrance Fee into the mini-mine located out the backdoor of the cafe. As you can see in the picture at the top of this article, the mini-mine is just a fenced off area where the mine owners trucked in a huge pile of opal bearing rock. We were given a quick lesson on what to do and off we went. In general, you sit in a big dirt pile and slowly dig, scratch and examine rocks for that “little sparkle of fire” in the abundant pieces of opal.
The things you might need if you were to try your luck at fire opal'ing at Spencer's is a small rock hammer, or digging instrument, a spray bottle to squirt the dirt off the rocks, a pair of cheap old gloves and some patience. They provide buckets to put your rough rock in to examine more closely later in the day. Eventually you will find some pieces of fire opal and you get to keep one pound of raw rock for the entrance fee. We found a few excellent fire opal specimens during this easy rock hounding day.
Where to Spend the Night?
There are not any hotels in Spencer, Idaho. The closest hotels are in Dubois, Idaho and Lima, Montana. We spent the night in the Crossroad Motel in Dubois. The Crossroads is a no-frills type of place but the price was right at $38 a night.
It's an old 1960's type motel and the rooms are small and old. No luxuries such as internet, breakfast or comfy chairs. At least in the room we spent the night, the shower might be better skipped as hot water took about 20 minutes to arrive and there was enough water pressure to even wash my hair. Dubois is located about 15 miles south of Spencer so it's a quick trip up the Interstate to your rock hounding. Lima, Montana is about 30 miles to the north of Spencer and there are a couple hotels that look a little more modern but likely way more expensive.
Food and Restaurants Near Spencer Idaho
By far the best place to eat in the Bubois/Spencer area is the Spencer Cafe. We ate dinner there and found the food to be excellent...maybe the best of the whole 6 day vacation. There is a cafe in Dubois but it wasn't open when we needed food. There is also a large gas station/massive convenience store in Dubois where you can get some fast food, ice cream or grocery type items.
This is just some of the opal containing rocks we brought home. All contain some "fire".
Rock Hounding Review
Spencer Opal is a great place to learn while you collect some cool rocks. A budding new rock hound might want to start at a place like this so you know what the raw ore/rock looks like in nature. Once you figure out what you are looking for in the woods and desert of Idaho, your chances of finding the stuff you want is much easier.
Links for More Information
Spencer Opal Mine and Cafe: http://www.spenceropalmines.com/
Map to the Spencer, Idaho Area: Google Maps link to the Spemcer Idaho area
Thanks for visiting and commenting on this outdoor and rockhounding article.
The Bondyweb.Com author
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