Opal Hill Mine – Fire agate, opal eggs and quartz crystals
Wiley Well District – BLM
By L. Bremner of DesertRoadTrippin.com
This week my dad and I decided to head out to the Wiley Well District to visit our friends Nancy and Howard at the Opal Hill Mine. We had not been out to the mine since January ’98, so we were well overdue for a visit.
For those of you who are not familiar with Opal Hill Mine, it is a collection site for rare fire agate, opal eggs and quartz crystals. Nancy and Howard, the owners of the claim, charge a $25 per person collection fee. Kids are free!
We arrived at the Opal Hill Mine on a Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 9th, ’09). It was a chilly day and we were all bundled up in our jackets and fleeces. We had spoken with Nancy on the phone and she and Howard agreed to meet us up at the mine for a brief interview before the sun went down (see the video – coming soon).
While we waited for Nancy and Howard to arrive, my dad and I walked around the mine site. We took some photos and enjoyed the amazing views of the surrounding mountains and desert as the sun started to set. We soon heard the hum of a vehicle approaching and we caught brief glimpses of Nancy and Howard in their 4WD vehicle buzzing along the valley floor. It only took a few minutes for them to make their way up from Palo Verde, the opposite direction from the route we drove in on. As they rounded the turn, they sped up to the mine site in an open-air vehicle suited-up from head to toe in parkas, hats and warm clothes. They looked like characters right out of a Road Warrior movie . . . goggles and bandanas included!
They were excited to see us and happy to tell us their stories. They gave us an update about what had been going on at Opal Hill Mine. Many of the trailers and surrounding structures located at the mine site had been recently vandalized. Apparently there was also a tornado that whirled through the area and the powerful winds knocked down some of the on site structures. Nancy and Howard are in the process of getting the area cleaned up, but it does not affect their mining business at all.
Opal Hill Mine has had a lot of visitors come through to collect and dig over the past few years. They said this year was a bit slower, but they still have people coming out on the weekends, clubs, groups, individuals and families. It is a great location to rock hound and rock collect. You will always leave with some unusual rocks and hopeful strike a good vein of agate or quartz crystals.
If you plan a trip to the Opal Hill Mine, Nancy and Howard will meet you at the mine site and show you the various areas to dig. They can also give you some very useful tips on how to extract the crystals, opal and agate so it does not get broken when extracted.
Nancy always has a few samples on hand to show you what to look for. It takes some time and a good amount of digging to find good veins to work and then more time to chisel out choice finds. If you plan to collect, expect to spend the whole day there.
The mine is active and open for collecting for a small fee of $25 per person. If you plan to go make sure you take some shovels, rock picks, a chisel, some gloves, buckets, and plenty of food and water. There is no running water or bathrooms at the mine. Make sure you give Nancy and Howard a call before you head up there. You can even camp overnight. Just be sure to dress really warm during the winter months because it can get really cold out there. Summers are the opposite, with highs in 115F to 120F, so it is best to visit the mine, spring, fall and winter months.
Contact Info . . .
Opal Hill Mine
P.O. Box 497
Palo Verde, CA 92266
760 854 3000
How to get there . . .
From Interstate 10, take Wiley Well Exit and head south on the graded dirt road for 17 miles. You will see a sign for Opal Hill Mine on the left side of the road. Go left here and travel east for a few miles on a rough dirt road. A high clearance vehicle is needed to navigate on the last dirt road to the mine.
Nearby point of interest:
Geode Collecting Sites – They are located just a bit southwest of the Opal Hill Mine site. If you head out to the Wiley Well District area plan to spend at lead a full day at the geode beds and a full day at the Opal Hill Mine.
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