Prospecting at Duck Creek and Sheep Station Creek Queensland

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From University of Queensland- report dated 1902

The Duck Creek Opal Field is in the Paroo Mineral District, and lies about 40 miles towards the north from Yowah. It is also on Yowah Creek near its head, and is most easily accessible from Eulo by road, a distance of about 76 miles. It is situated on a low ridge, which separates those waters, which drain into Y owah Creek and thence to the Paroo River, from those which reach the same river more directly by Box and Beechal Creeks.

The surface of the country is almost quite fiat. Some very extensive mining for opal bas been done in this neighbourhood, and the prominent features consist of the main Duck Creek workings, the different portions of which are known as the ” New Field,” and the ” Old Field” respectively. There are beside this a number of surrounding camps and localities where opal-mining is carried on, and for which the main camp at Duck Creek forms a kind of centre.

The New Field is not at present being very extensively worked. The shafts, which are deeper towards the northern and eastern boundary of the workings, have an average depth of about 14 feet, and pass through soft pink sandstone into hard grey or white clay.

The hard ferruginous band or casing at the junction varies from a film up to several inches in thickness, and the underlying clay has also become extremely hard in many places, by partial or complete opalisation in its mass, it being then known as “flint band” by the miners.

Precious opal is found in small clean pencil-like pieces or pipes near the base of the sandstone, in the band or casing, and in the clay.

The junction of the sandstone and clay is not regular, but frequently takes dips and bends as though the overlying portion were laid down on an uneven surface.

Colourless or common varieties of opal form the largest proportion of that obtained, with this, though the mode of occurrence is the same, the forms are usually much larger and more massive.

The methods of mining are very similar to those previously described, only the opal-bearing portion of the formation is left on the roof instead of the floor, and broken down for subsequent examination.

After the shafts are sunk the miners put in drives or chambers by removing the clay for a sufficient depth to enable them to work in a crouching position, an operation known as “key-outing,” and the band is afterwards broken down from the roof for examination.

The Old Field is really a continuation of the workings previously described, as it adjoins them. It is, however, the oldest portion of the field, from which a very large quantity and some of the finest opal was obtained.

Conditions are similar to those described at the new field, and the whole of this portion of the workings has been very thoroughly searched. Though there is very little workable ground left, some splendid opal is found here yet, a good deal obtained by turning over and searching the old heaps and mullock-” noodling.”

A number of men often make a good living at this occupation, which is also indulged in by the children and women of opal camps.

Goorlmzan’s Flat is situated 2 miles to the N.W. of Duck Creek. A. number of shafts have been sunk here through a sandstone, beneath which is a hard white sinter-like material, probably a sandy clay hardened by partial opalisation.

The precious opal was partly obtained from boulders at the base of the sandstone, and partly from the underlying rock called” cement” by the miners; but the total production has been limited to a few stones. The One-mile Workinqs, east of Duck Creek Old Field, consist of several shafts from 15 to 40 feet deep, from which about £200 worth of opal is said to have been obtained.

Sheep Station Creek workings· are situated at the head of Sheep Station Creek about 5 miles S.W. of Duck Creek. The credit of having discovered opal in this locality is given to Peter Nixon, a civilised black, who has been prospecting in the district for a great number of years.

At the portion of the workings where operations are now in progress, the shafts passed through , 8 feet of pink sandstone, and there was then a bed of clay 3 feet in thickness, and another bed of sandstone whiter in colour. The latter has a thickness of 4 feet 6 inches, and has beneath it another clay bed. Opal was found in the “band” at the base of the upper bPd of sandstone, in the clay, and also in the second bed of sandstone.

Boulders occur in both beds of sandstone, and when in the lower one are termed “floaters.” They can also be seen weathering out on the surface.

The portion of the workings where most of the opal was obtained originally is about 150 yards to the S.W., and the total value of it is estimated to have been £600. Some was of very fine quality, and was taken to be sold at the White Cliffs Opal Field in New South Wales. The Emu Creek workings are situated 4 miles S.E. of Duck Creek, and the finding of the gem here is also attributed to Nixon. His discovery, however, of surface specimens was only made just prior to my visit., the camp being then known as the “New Rush.”

There was some excitement over the matter, and a number of shafts were being sunk, but none had reached bottom, though some were 25 feet deep. No doubt some gem stones have since been found here, but from reports which reached me I have reason to believe that results did not come up to expectations.

Besides the localities already described, prospecting is carried on at intervals at Johnson’ s Mine, 15 miles distant, on Ardoch Station Run ; and at the Golgonda Mine, about the same distance from Duck Creek, on Dundoo Run. The Pride of the Hills Mine, in the Paroo Mineral District, is 12 miles N.W. of Duck Creek, or 13 miles east of Toompine.

These workings are near the western margin of the large area of Desert Sandstone, in which are situated 21 all the fields already described. Hert:1 the formation is seen in the form of ridges and spurs, and the workings are ~ituated on the northern slope of one of these spurs. The upper beds, which remain as a capping are from 15 feet to 20 feet in thickness. ‘ A number of shafts have been sunk on the slope which passed through the sandstone at about 20 feet and entered the clay in which most of the opal was found.


This clay contained a good deal of iron, and concretionary nodules or boulders were found in it. Masses of the clay have also become hardened and converted into a kind of semi-opal in a similar manner to that described at Duck Creek. The opal was nearly always found in the softer clay, but occasionally in the hard portions and also in the sandstone in the usual way. Owing to surface configurations, portions of the opal-bearing band are to be seen weathering out on the slope near the foot of the hill, and their presence, no doubt, gave rise to the discovery and opening up of the mine. As is not unusual in such cases, a number of shafts were first sunk on the flat ground considerably below the ievel of these surface specimens. Very large quantities of the blue and colourless varieties of opal were found here, but the value of gem stones obtained has not exceeded £200 or £300 The mine is difficult to work owing to the scarcity of water in the vicinity, and, in fact, can only be worked for a few months after rains. There were three men at work there in October, and they were depending for their water supply on a rock hole about 2 miles distant.

From Queensland Government

Toompine designated fossicking lands

The Toompine Field is located between Quilpie and Yowah. Mining for opal has been carried out extensively in these areas since the 1890s using underground and open-cut methods. At Duck Creek and Sheep Station Creek, mining activity is now limited to small-scale hand mining on mining claims. Some machine mining has previously been undertaken on mining leases and a few leases remain current.


The Duck Creek workings are located adjacent to Tirga Station and are situated on a low flat-lying drainage divide between Duck Creek draining to the north-east and tributaries of Yowah Creek draining to the south. The workings are about 62km by road from Toompine (see map for details).

Sheep Station Creek and Emu Creek workings are just to the south at the head of Sheep Station Creek, a tributary of Yowah Creek.



Camping is allowed for a maximum period of 3 months. Camping permits can be obtained from our regional offices or fossicking licence agents.

There are no facilities and due to the remoteness of the area visitors should carry adequate supplies of food, water and fuel. Top-up bore water may be available from a tap provided by the landholder at the large steel gate 3.5km north of the entrance sign.

Fossicking notes

While much of the opal-bearing ground occurs at depths beyond fossickers, the spoil dumps of the old workings offer the best chance of a find. Specking fragments of opal or ironstone matrix from the ground’s surface is always a possibility.

Special conditions

Commercial mining activities still occur in the area and a number of mining tenures are current. Do not enter these mining tenures without the written permission of the holders.

In this guide:

  1. Yowah fossicking area
  2. Toompine designated fossicking lands
  3. Opalton designated fossicking land