Opalton

Opalton, 124km south of Winton, is home to the Queensland boulder opal - a rare and beautiful gemstone; a kaleidoscope of colours variously dubbed an "earth-bound rainbow", a "river of illusion" or "the gem of the Never Never". The Opalton field is one of the largest opal deposits in Queensland and is the hub of fossicking in the Winton district.

The Opalton fields are a reminder of how things can change in far western Queensland. Discovered in 1888 they were not worked until 1893. By 1896 there were 500-600 men on the fields but the inevitable problem of water (which had to be carted over 20 km) ensured that when the price of opals dropped the field was abandoned. The township has vanished and all that is left are some ruins and the remains of mullock heaps where miners once fossicked for the precious opals. Many visitors camp at the Opalton diggings over the winter months, enjoying the isolation, wildlife and the frontier atmosphere.

The Opalton field is located approximately 124Klm south of Winton. Commence by travelling out the Jundah road then follow the signs. The first 15Klm of roadway mostly unsealed is in reasonable condition (at the time of writing), eventually the road will convey you to the old settlement ruins and General Store.

Camping

Camping is permitted on the designated fossicking land. You need to be self sufficient including plenty of water. A permit is required and is available at the Queensland Department of Mines and Energy offices. Some supplies are available at the General Store.


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Where to Fossick - Noodle

Specking - walking around the old mine dumps can yield some opal, especially after rain. Alternatively take a spray bottle and squirt likely pieces of potch with water. The water enhances the colour of the opal in the sunlight.

Fossicking / Noodling-Boulder Opal is mostly found in or attached to ironstone matrix found in the old mine dumps. In the old "Brilliant Claim" area the weathered Cretaceous sedimentary rock comes close to the surface, serious fossickers may dig and chance onto some workable pieces of Opal. The old mine spoil dumps often yield workable pieces of Opal for the hobbyist.

Examine potential opal bearing material by turning it over and inspecting it carefully for any show of "colour". The use of the Water Spray bottle is recommended as the water cleans away the dust and provides a reflective surface enabling colours of opal to be more readily seen.

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