Opalton's Boulder Opal

By John Mack

Opalton, population 20-ish, still has the hallmarks of a pioneering frontier town, complete with a collection of interesting characters. The few buildings have, for the most part, been cobbled together from whatever was at hand, some more successfully than others. For visitors there is the ‘Bush Park’; a small collection of rough old stone and iron one-roomed buildings with a small transportable shower and toilet unit and a non-potable water supply – the fee is a princely $2 per day.

The ‘town’ is located 124km south of Winton by road and is the centre of the largest and most extensively worked opal deposits in Australia. The opal fields are within a belt of deeply weathered cretaceous rocks known as the Winton Formation and they mainly produce ‘Boulder Opal’ – the second most valuable opal after the famed ‘Black Opal’.

The field was discovered in 1888 by George Cragg, a stockman from Warrnambool Station. The first claims were worked in 1894 and the township was started in 1895 following a rush to the region. By the end of the century the township was supporting about 600 people and the usual commercial activities were established including two hotels, stores, blacksmith and saddler’s shops, as well as a police station and telegraph office.

The full article can be found in the January 2011 issue of Gold Gem and Treasure. Subscribe now.

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