Looking for opal in Alabama?
In the article that follows, you’ll learn what you need to know about the material and Alabama to get started hunting.
Where To Find Opal In Alabama: A Guide
The information provided in this article by YesDirt.com is for informational purposes and is subject to change. Laws are updated. Accessibility guidelines and restrictions change. Be sure to confirm the land status and collection rules before you travel to an unfamiliar location or collect any material.
Introduction To Opals In Alabama
This white or creme-colored gem is said to ease sleeplessness and nightmares.
In addition to being useful, opals are of interest to many collectors.
The entire state of Alabama is very rich from a geological perspective.
This makes it an ideal state for rock hunting.
The best places to rockhound are in the central and north-eastern portion of Alabama called Piedmont Upland.
Opals can also be found throughout the Piedmont formation in Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia.
Other places to search in Alabama also include Tuscaloosa, Rockford, Ashland and Alexander City.
Within these cities you will find old mines, mineral prospects, volcanic vugs, pegmatite pockets, fumaroles and historically known rock and mineral collecting sites.
These locations offer a diverse assortment of rocks and minerals including opal, agate (also known as quartz), jasper, garnet and petrified wood.
For those who still suffer from gold fever, one may also find interest in panning for gold and gems at the Alabama Gold Camp.
Whether you’re new to rockhounding opal in Alabama or a pro at it, this guide will help you feel confident in knowing what locations to search and when.
Alabama’s state mineral is Hematite, the official state rock is marble, and star blue quartz is the state’s official gemstone since 1990.
There is much more to this beautiful state’s geology.
You can find a wide selection of interesting rocks and minerals, including opals, if only you know where to look.
Rockhounding Basics in Alabama
Most of the prime rockhounding sites in Alabama are concentrated in the eastern part of the state within the Appalachian Mountain range and forests.
Because these locations are within high altitude and structurally complex regions, it is important to note that extreme heat, heavy snow or rain aren’t practical weather conditions to go looking for opals, or any gemstones, for that matter.
Fortunately, Alabama typically has milder weather conditions than other mountainous regions.
As such, rockhounding season is considered to be from early March to late November.
A good pair of hiking boots, a backpack, gloves and either a weather-appropriate jacket or sun block and insect repellant will really make or break your rockhounding experience.
Make sure to check the weather forecast the night before and morning of your venture.
Locations to Search
With around 60 sites for gem collecting already marked, Alabama is a surprisingly prolific state for rock collecting.
With the ample opportunities the state provides, it’s all about choosing which sites are most convenient for you and which interest you the most.
Who knows, you may be the next explorer to mark a new site of your own along the way!
Bob Lee Mine GPS coordinates 33.335867, -85.871455
At the southern edge of the Appalachian Mountains, nestled within 392,567 acres of the Talladega National Forest lies Bob Lee Mine.
Here, thanks to the U.S. Forest Service, rock and gemstone collecting is permitted within the area.
This highly mineralized and geologically complex mixed terrain forest has several locations where you can find wonderful specimens all within Clay County!
On the central-eastern cusp of the forest, nestled between PawPaws Grave and Farr Away Farm is Gold Mines Creek.
Here, you will discover Bob Lee Mine.
Using simple tools like a short-handled shovel, a geologist’s pick, and a bucket, you may be able to find Opal.
The best places to search are along the creek where water slows down and forms an alluvial deposit.
To arrive here from Talladega, you will follow Ashland Hwy, which turns into Alabama State Road 77 for approximately ten miles until you reach Porters Gap.
Here you will turn left on to Horns Lake Rd, which turns into Idaho Rd for 6 miles.
Make a left onto Newbury’s Rd, left on Mountainview Rd and another left on Erin Rd.
You will pass PawPaws Grave and then turn right at Fairview Church on to Caldwell, which will directly intersect with Golds Mine Creek.
Follow northward along the Creek about 1 mile using the above GPS coordinates and you will find your destination at the fork of the creek.
Shirley Mine GPS coordinates 33.979381, -86.567145
In Cleveland Al, approximately 45 minutes directly north of Birmingham, you will find one of the only rockhounding locations in North-Central Alabama.
Here at Shirley Mine, you can find Opal, Garnet, Kyanite, Magnetite, Tourmaline.
To arrive here from Birmingham, you simply follow I-65 North for 20 minutes, then take exit 160 east into Blount county.
Once there, take 1 about a mile south and the destination will be just south of Dry Creek, and before Hazelrig Rd.
Strip mines GPS coordinates 33.261450, -87.387527
Just outside of Tuscaloosa, four miles west of Brookwood is Strip Mines.
Here in Tuscaloosa county, you will find a hot spot for gems including Opal, Hematite, Quartz crystals, Siderite, Agate, and even Petrified Wood.
To get here, follow I-20 southwest for 25 minutes, exit on AL-216 West for another 20 minutes.
Make a right on Rocky Branch Rd.
You will arrive at Strip mine when you reach the fork in the road.
If you live in Birmingham and enjoy rockhounding all three of these sites are less than an hour outside of the city.
If you’re looking to be able to make a weekend out of rockhounding, Bob Lee, Shirley and Strip Mine are the ultimate Alabama rockhounding destination trio, all within a fifty-mile radius of Birmingham.
Things to Remember When Searching for Opals in Alabama
Always remember that rock collecting locations are constantly evolving.
Specimens may become depleted over time from over collecting, locations may have been built on or altered, locality and name information in literature may be inaccurate, and property ownership may have changed.
There will be different legalities of gemstone collecting on public land depending largely on which of four federal agencies owns it.
Land designated as national parks are areas of land that are protected from damage and therefore, rockhounding is not widely permitted.
Public land owned by U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) usually allows for collecting of rocks and minerals with limitations.
Joining a local rockhounding club such as Alabama Mineral & Lapidary Society for a group trip can often get you guided access to otherwise off-limits locations like privately owned mines and quarries.
You may also obtain a scientific research permit which allows for more rock collecting in otherwise restricted areas.
It may be important to note that the cutting of live vegetation is never allowed.
Rockhounding is restricted to surface collection only.
Be safe and never go underground or in caves.
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