Life off Interstate 84 - Idaho

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(19 April 2014)  My name is Tim Bondy and the owner of this website.  As of Jan 1st, 2014 we moved to a different domain.  Please head over to the Bondy Blogs Website at  Different address, different system but same type of great articles, photos, stories and information. 

You are here: Mtn Home Outdoor Not so local Outdoor News Idaho's Spencer Opal Mine Rock Hounding Review

Idaho's Spencer Opal Mine Rock Hounding Review

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Spencer Opal Mine in Idaho

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.

Duboise Idaho Cross Roads Motel

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.  

Raw fire opal from Spencer Mines
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:
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.

Tim Bondy
The Bondyweb.Com author
Comments (9)
  • David Scholl  - Opal digging

    This talks about digging at the cafe. In the
    past I have always dug at the mine, is that
    no longer allowed.
    Thanks, Dave

  • Linda Masters  - Opal Mine


    Did you get any information on digging in the mine?

    We are traveling out June 28 for 3 or 4 days, do you think this is way too much time?

    Did you find anything good? I'd like to get something that we could have cut for gifts?


  • Tim Bondy the Admin

    Dave, I believe the owners were scaling back on taking people up to the mine for opal collecting. I wish their website was a little more informative as we were thinking of heading back there this summer. Guess calling them is the best thing to do? If you head out there let me know what you find out...please?

  • jo finn

    we will be there first week of august....I am an October baby.....Opals !!!!

  • jo finn

    I am coming first week of excited!!!

  • Tim Bondy the Admin  - Jo Finn

    Have you been to Spencer before? Great to see the great joy for rock hounding as I've sorta lost my zest for it. Hopefully this summer I can get a job and get back into cool places to find rocks, gems and other of nature's collectibles.

  • Jerry Hanson

    They allow you to dig at the mine on the long holiday weekends in the summer. That would be Memorial Day Weekend, Fourth of July Weekend and Labor Day Weekend and maybe one more. It is $40 for a small bucket of 10 pounds and extra for large rocks you want to take home for your garden or extra opal bearing potch.
    Best to call them though, before you go all the way up there.

  • Anonymous

    please e-mail us when is a good day to come. we might come late next week. also do you have an rv park or how far are you from west Yellowstone? please e-mail us and how much it costs to explore for rocks and opals. thank you

  • Suzy  - How to tumbleidaho opals

    My niece bought a lot of idaho opals at an auctions for a gift to me.
    I briefly read that tumbling really loses a lot of the original mass,due to the softness of the opal.
    I have a good tumbler,but would so appreciate guidance so I get good results.
    Also how do you know if theya re fire opals or not.
    Thanks susan

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