Where To Find Opals In Washington State (Best Locations)

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Where To Find Opals In Washington State (Top 4 Locations)

The state of Washington offers rockhounds an abundant, and almost endless number of destinations to find and collect geological treasures. From jasper, agates, petrified wood, fossils and many other types of rocks and precious stones. Almost anywhere you look in the state, Washington has something to offer.

And even though many of these kinds of rocks, minerals and gemstones are very abundant in throughout the state, not all sought after stones are quite as easy to come by, including opal.

Opal is a highly sought after stone here in the state of Washington, but in order to find it, you’ll have to do a little bit of homework and exploring.

Where To Find Opals In Washington State

As I mentioned, and as you may have already gathered from doing your own research online, finding opals in Washington is not exactly an easy task. Now that doesn’t mean that they’re not around, because they are. It just means that you’ll have to work a little harder to find them.

In this post, I will give you the most accurate information as possible to get you as close to the opals as possible.

Note: Please be mindful of private property. Do your research before you go!

1. Whelan, Washington

Whelan, Washington just so happens to be the first location in the Western United States that opals had been discovered. The story goes that in 1890, a farmer in the area was digging a well when he stumbled upon the precious stone.

As you can imagine, when word got out that opal had been found in the area, a massive “opal rush” quickly followed suit. Unfortunately, most of the opal in the area has been mined out.

But that’s not to say that there’s still not opal to be found. The same hold true for opal as it does for gold prospecting, “Look where it’s been found before.”

2. Skamania County, Washington

According to sciencebase.gov, there is an area known as the “Wind River”, also referred to as the Industrial mineral site no. 491 that has associated with gem and ornamental stones, including opals.

The website continues to say, “Opals said to occur as amygdules in lava buttes. Not known whether the opal is of precious or common variety”, and designates the value as “Unknown, but warrants investigation”.

The GPS coordinates that I’ve been able to find for Wind River are: 45.896103, -121.964723

The area is approximately 25 miles north of Cascade Locks in the Columbia River Gorge. Or from the Portland and Vancouver area, Windy River is about a 1.5 hour drive.

Not bad for a partial day trip if you happen to be in that part of Washington!

3. Sunnyside, Washington

The area around the town of Sunnyside is known as a place where you can find opals. Not much is known about this location as far as exact areas to search. So I would highly recommend connecting with a local rock and mineral club to see if they would help point you in the right direction.

The Yakima River runs right through that area, and that is exactly where I would spend my time looking. Hisey Park is located just west of Sunnyside and that is where you can access the Yakima River.

Spend time looking on the gravel bars near the park. If possible, make your way to explore upriver towards the east. There are multiple other gravel bars that are also promising.

This part of Washington state is very well known for producing other types of precious stones as well. So even if you don’t find opals here, you will find other things such as opalized wood (petrified wood), fossils, jasper and agates.

4. Greenwater River, King County, Washington

In the area of Greenwater, WA in the Greenwater River and the White River you can potentially find opals. Again, I’m unable to give you an exact coordinates for a location, but I do know that this area is known for producing opals in the past.

Focus your attention on the numerous gravel bars that line the banks of the White River and the Greenwater River. Don’t miss exploring the less traveled and less explored banks of the 28 Mile Creek that runs into the Greenwater River.

If you happen to have difficulty locating opals in this location, please know that other rocks and minerals of value can also be found in quantities here, such as jasper, agate and even thundereggs!

What Are Opals?

Many of the stones we seek in Washington are actually microcrystalline quartz varieties of chalcedony. Some examples of this are agates, jasper, carnelian, and bloodstone. And like I mentioned, these are quite common in Washington.

Opals on the other hand not actually chalcedony, nor are they really a mineral. Opals are made up of non-crystalline (amorphous) silica and do not contain a crystal structure. But opals are incredibly attractive, which makes them such a popular collectors item.  

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this post helps get you started and at least points you in the right direction. And as this guide is just a starting point, you’ll still need to be sure to do your research before heading out.

One of the best tools I’ve found to do this kind of research, in addition to online, is with the book, Rockhounding Washington: A Guide to the State’s Best Sites. This guide is full of exact location dig sites for all kinds of rocks, minerals and fossils. It includes in depth descriptions as well as turn by turn directions and GPS coordinates for some of the best rockhounding sites in Washington.

If you live or plan on spending time in Washington, you won’t regret owning a copy of this guidebook.

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