Fire on the Ridge – Oregon’s Premier Fire Opal – Update – 1/8/2018 – My understanding is that ownership of the mine has changed and that fee digging is no longer available.

This is a post about my absolute favorite place to mine, the Juniper Ridge Opal Mine in southern Oregon.  If you are ever lucky enough to get to dig here, it is an experience you will not soon forget.  There are a lot of pictures in this post, so read on and hopefully you will experience a little taste of how special this place is!

First, this is what we are looking for 🙂

Properly cut, this is what it can turn into.

I have many other examples of finished items, but for now, lets focus on the journey.

Step #1 in getting to the mine, is to contact the mine owner, Chuck Newnham.  You can look at their website to get contact information.  I will post a link at the end of this article.

It is important to note that the mine is located in a remote, environmentally sensitive area, so as they will tell you, NO SMOKING at the mine.  If you are one of those unlucky folks that are paying $6/pack for cigarettes these days, you might want to just email Chuck and buy some opal rough.  Starting a wildland fire in this country will negatively impact your retirement.

After meeting Chuck at the snow park on the highway between Lakeview and Klamath Falls, you head up into the mountains for a 20 minute drive to the mine.  The last mile of the drive gets a little steep and rough, but just remember what is at the end of the “trail”.

As you top out on the ridge, the entire valley spreads out before you.  Even without the opal mining, this is a great place to be.

You have arrived!  Now you need to do a little paperwork and after a brief orientation, you will be ready to start finding opal.  As you can see, you are on a federal mining claim.

The mines website will provide you with a list of what to bring to have a successful and safe day.  Here is a picture of some folks settling in for a day of mining.

This is one of those places where the hours will just be a blur.  You start working on a seam of opal and soon it is lunch time.  Remember to stay hydrated and prepare for intense sun.  The mine is around 6,000 feet in elevation and it does not take long to toast the tops of your ears or burn your balding head through that little vent in your hat.  Take my word for that last one.  I just tell my friends that it is raining harder these days.

Here is the result of a very successful day at Juniper Ridge!

If you are used to digging jasper or agate, that may not seem like a lot, but remember, that is GEM GRADE OREGON FIRE OPAL!!!

I thought that I would throw in a couple more pictures just to whet your appetite a little more!  Have fun and see you at the Juniper Ridge Opal Mine!  And YES, that last picture is a 12 pound opal egg!

  1. #1 by Susan Ann Olson on April 11, 2011 - 11:15 AM

    Great article and pictures. Look forward to the next one.

  2. #2 by Lindsey Randall on April 18, 2011 - 5:56 PM

    Yeah, definitely don’t want a fire to get out of control in that neck of the woods. Looks like some high grade opal! The range of color you found is remarkable. How much of that comes from ‘eggs’ verses the rough scraps?

  3. #3 by Keith VS on August 16, 2014 - 4:24 AM

    Wow, wife and I are looking at spending a week looking for Opal.. is this place open? or how would we get access? Thanks you.

  4. #4 by Cascade Gems on August 16, 2014 - 4:46 PM

    My understanding is the mine is closed to the public for fee digging this summer.

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