If you love the outdoors and the beauty of the desert, a vacation spent treasure hunting for opals in Nevada’s Virgin Valley may be just the thing for you. Located in the northwest part of Nevada right on the Oregon border, this locale is well-known among gem hunters and mineral collectors as one of the finest opal producers in the world. Not a lot of people live in these parts, but the scenery is breathtaking and the opals are gorgeous.
There are literally hundreds of mining claims in this area of Nevada. Most of these are privately owned and frown heavily on trespassers. If you’re interested in getting out and treasure hunting for opals on your own, your best bet is to visit one of the fee mines in the area. All these mines contain precious fire opals and rare black opals.
The treasure hunting options aren’t restricted to just opals. The area also has an abundance of petrified wood, some rare opalized cones, and gem-quality carnelian. Be prepared to plan ahead for lodging. The closest hotel to the mines is about 30-35 miles away in Denio Junction. However, there are a number of RV hookup areas and camping grounds closer to the mine sites.
Following is a list of three mines in the area that currently offer some form of fee digging. Prices vary depending on the mine and the type of digging offered. Make sure to pace yourself, though. You might just catch the treasure hunting bug and want to look into buying your own opal mine.
Royal Peacock Opal Mine
You can gem hunt at the Royal Peacock Opal Mine from May 15 through October 15, weather permitting. This fee mine offers two types of digging. You can get out to the bank and dig in virgin ground for $180 a day or stick to the mine dump and tailings area for $75 a day. The Royal Peacock is famous for its precious fire opals, but there are a lot of other beautiful mineral specimens found in the mine, too. Anything you find is yours to keep, no matter how big or small.
Rainbow Ridge Mine
The Rainbow Ridge Mine is open from late May through the middle of September. At $50 a day, it’s a little cheaper than the Royal Peacock to dig in the tailings here. However, if you’re interested in mining the virgin ground of this area, you can call ahead and make a reservation for a load. This option delivers a load of virgin material from the bank with a loader out near the parking area. The fee for this service is $400, but that will cover two adults.
Bonanza Opal Mine
The Bonanza Opal Mine is open from late May until the end of September. Only shareholders of the mine are allowed to dig in the bank here, but visitors can dig in the tailings for $50 a day. A huge plus for the Bonanza Opal Mine are the free campgrounds with showers. There’s even a natural hot pond to enjoy at the campsite.
If you do plan to make a treasure hunting trip to Virgin Valley, Nevada, make sure you bring your tools. At the very least, you should have your own short-handled pick, shovel, a long screwdriver or ice pick, and buckets. You also want to make sure that you bring plenty of sunscreen along with a hat and gloves for the hot, sunny days. Don’t forget to pack some warmer clothes, too. Even in the middle of summer, the temperature can drop drastically at night in the desert.