Fee Digging Oregon 2006

We’re off to a good start for the mining season of 2006, with a strong winter behind us and mild weather prevailing up to this point. So, some of the fee digging areas are still too wet to work while others are perfect.


Juniper Ridge Opal

Juniper Ridge stayed booked-solid this year, and most of the tour dates for next year are already filling up. Due to the high demand for this unique material, the mine owners have to restrict more working days to mine production. If you want to get in on a tour in the 2007 season, you’d better book early!

Late this season, the mine was visited by a crew from Indigo Productions
shooting the new Travel Channel series “Cash and Treasures”.

The Opal segment of “Cash and Treasures” is supposed to air in January.

I managed to get over to Juniper Ridge myself for a few days this season, and to test-drive some electric hammer equipment. “Sweet” is what I’d call the thing that saves hours of time and loads of sore muscles.

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Here, I’m running the power-hammer while mine partner
Chuck Newham helps recover the good stuff.

 juniper ridge opal

This is the prize – a 22.5 pound Fire Opal
nodule that I left for Chuck to grind into a sphere.

Mine tours and digging at Juniper Ridge are by reservation only.

Spectrum Sunstone Mines(High Desert Gems and Minerals)

The Spectrum Mines are really kicking it into high-gear this season, with new digs, and new accommodations, and incredible deals for you treasure-hunters out there.

They started things right back in March, by hosting a film crew from the
Travel Channel for a show on Treasure-Hunting. The show host went free-digging and found a 31-carat rough that I cut for her into a 10.5-carat custom-cut gem appraised at over $5,000.00!

You can see the whole thing – host Becky Worley’s discovery of the rough gem; my evaluation and cutting preparation; appraisal at Bonham’s in New York; – and what finally happens to the collector’s gem – all on the Travel Channel, when “The Best Places to Find Cash and Treasure” premiers on December 5th.

Spectrum Mine proprietor, Chris Rose, sent me the following information via e-mail:

  1. We offer free digging from unprocessed colored Sunstone bearing material dug from our pits and placed in piles to be screened by rock-hounds.Everyone keeps whatever they find at no charge.
  2. We offer free picking off of our commercial screen plant conveyor belt for all visitors for one run and they keep whatever they find.
  3. We offer additional runs on the conveyor belt where our crew helps pick for $200 and payer gets to keep everything that shows up in one hour of running the plant regardless of who finds it.
  4. We have fresh water available from our well
  5. We will rent rooms – or the entire 1500 sq. ft. building as soon as our septic and other things are approved by state and county. Rates will be $50 per night for a room or $100 per night for the whole building.
  6. We offer high grade bank digging for a flat fee…usually $50 depending on the wall (usually no more productive than the piles since the digging work has already been done there but some people psychologically have the need to dig from a bank…..which they always undercut which costs us money to straighten out and remove and process lower grade overburden.)

The Spectrum Mine is located 1.5 miles north of the Dust Devil Mine in the middle of the Public Sunstone Collecting area, directly North-West from the public area restroom. The buildings and equipment are easily visible. There is a map here, and there may be signs posted in the area when you arrive. E-mail Chris Rose or call him at 775-772-7724.


We went to the Sunstone area on June 24th and found the weather hot at 105 degrees. Traffic was heavy, with lots of rock-hounds digging away!

The fee-dig at Spectrum is CRANKING, with one customer finding this beautiful 205-Carat monster on a paid belt-run. Chris Rose, Spectrum proprietor, was so pleased with the stone that he boughtit back from the customer for $1,000.00 – allowing that customer to depart with the remainder of the run, plus $800.00 in their pocket!

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 spectrum sunstone mine

I considered the mechanized fee-digging offer there to
be too good to pass-up, so we gathered some friends and went over.

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Here I am picking off the belt, as mine proprietor Chris Rose manages the feed.

 spectrum sunstone mine

The Spectrum crew obviously enjoys helping their guests.
Notice Jessica smiling as she grabs a schiller the rest of us missed.

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Finding about a kilogram of Sunstone in just one hour –
That’s something to smile about – as Chris Rose and
I do a preliminary grading on the haul.

 spectrum sunstone mine

Here’s some of the high-grade take from our first hours’ run.

I was right about “too good to pass-up” – The numbers tell the tale. We did two of the $200 / 1-hour runs, and here was our take and cost-per-unit production:

  • 2+ kilos of small clear gems suitable for beads and commercial stones
  • 205 grams of chunky clear gems suitable for custom cutting
  • 514 grams of schiller gems suitable for cutting, cabbing, or carving
  • 254 grams of faceting-grade pink-to-red color gems in various sizes
  • 37 grams of green or dichroic gems
  • Total weight was over 15,000 carats!!

The average price-per-gram was just $0.13 – This is a phenomenal – and very
limited opportunity for people who can’t or don’t want to do hard labor, or
who have very limited time – or who just want a true hardcore bargain before
the price of this material spikes.

The Dust Devil Mine is open for business and breaking-open new ground. This location has been the “Glory Hole” for big Sunstone for many years, and is famous for producing big stones. They’ve been open this season since April 7, and breaking new ground in areas that have traditionally produced good material.

Diggers can still purchase rough they find for as low as 25% of the wholesale rate, and still keep all their commercial-grade material at no charge. Rock-hounds are welcome to camp at the Dust Devil location, and those in camp are usually invited to share in meals prepared by the camp cooks.

The mine web site contains detailed maps and information about digging and cutting Sunstone.

Rainbow Ridge Opal

Rainbow Ridge Opal is located in Virgin Valley, Nevada – within a day-trip distance from the Sunstone Mines above. Accommodations are now available in Denio Junction, including feed, gas, and lodging. The mine is now open for business for the 2006 season.

You can dig a loader-scoop of virgin dirt for $300 – or dig the tailings for just $40 for the day, with children just half-price. The material from this location must be seen to be believed, and the proprietors are very helpful and friendly. The web site above has detailed information, and you can contact the mine at 775-941-0270.

Krystal Tips

Krystal Tips mines are located at Hallelujah Junction in Plumas County, California, an hour south of Susanville. They are NOT currently open, but anticipate opening later this year – “perhaps in July”.

This is a good location for finding Smoky Quartz, Amethyst, and Elestial and Scepter Quartz. Rates are not known at this time – E-mail the proprietor or call him at 775-323-2862.

Our Bonanza Sunstone Mine

Our first trip out this year, and my partner, Ken is already working the practical jokes. My distaste for anything related to Golf is no secret, so a few days before our trip my partner journeyed to the mine – to install a nine-hole golf course that would greet me on our arrival.

oregon sunstone

That really set a fun tone, as we took turns hitting
balls around the giant sand trap / Golf Course:

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At the first hole tee – You can tell from this photo that I don’t play golf!

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No risk to Chuck – (Slice ball in the upper right corner of the frame.)

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Chuck takes a shot – and tries to follow the ball through the cloud of dust his swing kicked-up. Between dust, sand – and the sagebrush that one would swear can leap up and steal your ball from mid-air,I’d like to see a real golfer playing here…

 oregon sunstone

Now, where’s that ball…?

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On the “putting green” under the pin…

 oregon sunstone

Spring in the high-desert is really magic –
with snow still crowning Hart Mountain in the distance…

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…and beautiful wildflowers exploding from the sand.

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We had some good luck on this trip…

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…and everyone had a little color in their pocket when we departed.
A great way to begin the season!


We were back in the desert in July, and the flora and fauna were in high gear.
I counted at least four sets of Coyote dens on the claim, one of which appeared to be active.

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Trish photographed this Townsend’s Squirrel as he scavenged in camp.

 oregon sunstone

The Evening Primrose was also still plentiful due to recent rains.

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A friend dropped-by our camp and showed-off this incredible crystal specimen!

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Sunstone mining is hard labor.

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Shoveling and sifting in the pretty sunshine!

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Trish, self-portrait.

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As we prepared to depart, Dave conjure
del Roho Cabeza to guard the mine in our absence.

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El Roho Cabeza – Mine Guardian

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Of course, no trip is complete without a sunset…

Send me an e-mail if you have any questions or need any assistance planning your digging trip to the area.

2 thoughts on “Fee Digging Oregon 2006”

  1. I am interested in a rock digging trip with my family this summer, or when its best to dig. Could you send me details please? thanks Pam

    1. Hi, Pam,

      Spring and early Fall are the most comfortable times to dig. High Summer (July- August) can be pretty hot in the Sunstone area – and may be high fire season at Juniper Ridge.

      I recommend contacting Juniper Ridge ASAP to get a reservation, as they’re open by appointment / reservation only.

      For Sunstones, just do some Googling about the different mines to see which ones you want to visit. They’re all in a small area, and I recommend you check them all out. Most open Memorial Day weekend, and will be working by that time.

      Any other questions, just ask!

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