The Charles Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge is the home of the Virgin Valley Opal Mines. (NV and Or); Sheldon Antelope Range (NV and Or); Sheldon National Antelope Refuge (NV and Or); Sheldon Wildlife Refuge (NV and Or); State Game Refuge Number 9 (NV) in various bills and regulations over the years. The first digging was done in the earliest 1900s whether they were recorded claims or not.  Black Fire Opal is the Nevada State Gemstone and this is the only place in America for it. The Nevada State Semi-precious Gemstone is Turquoise and is mined many other places, but not in here. The Nevada State Rock is Sandstone represented here by the commercially named variety "Owyhee Rose" that comes from the old Lemac Quarry I had claimed for years. It's a special vitrified opalized sandstone and will spall out in the weather.

    The state regulates all mining operations as BLM gave the management to the F&W service in 1976 to manage, but not change the rules.  Federal property brings up the point: EVERY LAW BROKEN HERE IS A FEDERAL OFFENSE and are prosecuted as Felonies. You pay your fines back to Philidelphia or go to Federal courts in Carson City, Medford or Salt Lake City. Nevada Mining Law was the pattern for the federal mining regulations, so we are inspected regularly by the MSHA and managed just fine. We have set good precedents up to now. We are people people and giving out rockhounding information does not upset us like it does the rangers. They won't eveb publish a brochure for you, sad. The refuge has yet to publish any brochure on the MULTIPLE USE principle they are supposedly working under.  They are not interested in making their WILDLIFE ONLY refuge any more popular with rockhounds unfortunately. Maybe congress will give them the authority to do what they are doing on their own, but I need,  as a citizen, to see it in writing if it is being enforced with tickets. There is a 7 pounds a day of rock allowed on the refuge rule that kept commercial collectors/resellers out.

     The management is trying to be regulating all of us mining here for the wildlife instead of our grandfathered in by congress mining interests. Our cuts offer additional biological diversity of habitat that they discount. Don't let them lock off the opal fields from the rockhound only leaving the patented Fee Digs with no competition. Prices would skyrocket I my humble opinion.  Their address was online for comments and permits. Don't bother trying to get any help from them in the office, come to the mines.

     Virgin Valley was the location a CCC camp in the 1930's and was the first park declared a park in Humboldt Co. The Charles Sheldon Wildlife Refuge was created as the Charles Sheldon Antelope Range around the mining district. The opal mining district and the ranches were grandfathered into the new management units retaining all their existing constitutional rights to live, ranch, and mine under Nevada State Law and the tried and true Multiple Use concept. The miones are a slight fraction, further reduced, from the 3rd largest refuge in the entire US system, including Alaska. Oil and Gas drilling is still on going on the White Pelican Refuge in the South.  Many of the local children learned to swim in this naturally heated pool that is popular on Sundays for family BBQs while watching the children splash around and play.
In June 2003 a new shower house roof was installed by volunteers. The Freind of the Charles Sheldon Refuge Test the water for potability, Thank You Mr Jim Marks, and also does all minor improvements. The staff help with major work when motivated by the Friends of the Refuge.
CCC Camp Showerhouse
Leah and John Friends of the Refuge members
Leah & John lend a hand up on the 45 degree slope of the shower house roof. We're experienced from mining in cllinging to the side of slippery slopes over bad falls. The Good Ol Boy days are gone forever it seems and they won't build up the pond wall that is slowly failing.  It would be nice if things never changed, but there has been so much water under the bridge and now this group runs NWR.

     Most everyone who mines opal in the Virgin Valley, along with lots of other folks who love the area, are members and supporters of our local Friends of the Refuge group. They keep the shower house in good repair, installed the fire pits and picnic benches working hand in hand doing the small maintenance with the Fish & Wildlife Refuge Management helping with improvements and a host. Thanks to their efforts trees are being re-established in the campground. The Boy scout troop made a handicapped fishing dock off the warm spring. The fishing would be better ther if un-authorized adults would wuit poaching it. PS: Beware the beavers in the ponds or the trappers sets.

     The camp has been renovated with new pit toilets (BRING YOUR OWN TP AS THE RANGERS ARE VERY LAX IN UPKEEP)  The water is tested regularly for purity and is, in our opinion, some of the finest water on earth. It is soft water. New trees have been planted and shade is coming. The old CCC camp pond may have swarms of tropical fish, but someone had to go and put several game fish in the bathing pond to clean out the tadpoles from the African Bullfrogs the rancher here at the Peacock brought in years ago and reintroduced the beavers too I was told by the maintenance guy before he retired.  It sure feels good after fighting the dirt to wrest gems from the earths iron like grasp, to soak in a warm bath. Well, maybe all the kids playing splash a bunch can keep you awake on your toes. Can you go underwater from one side to the other? Push off is allowed.
     Friends of the Refuge (F.O.R.) is a great bunch of local people and visitors; miners, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, birders, archeologists, and rock hounds. Please help us conserve our recreational opportunities on our public lands by being conscientious caretakers and feel welcome to join the Friends of the Refuge.

     The Sheldon is managed under Fish and Wildlife Regulations NOT BLM rules. The weight limit for all rock collected per day, INCLUDING PETRIFIED WOOD, on the Wildlife Refuge is only 7 lbs.  The private fee dig mines are on deeded ground, or are valid claims that have no limit for the mine owners personal production from their workings. The Opalized wood is the mine run gem rough that is mined here. The mines are dug by hand after removing the overburden from the pay layer. The other claims here may look deserted but you can bet they're probably not abandoned legally letting them be for you to work. The new law does not require working the land yearly to retain the title. Precious opal is very rare and expensive and no mine owners appreciate "uninvited guests" trespassing to harm their livelihood leaving hours of cleanup behind and have the Sheriff called.

     The information kiosks by the road and campground have a map of the refuge but NOT the current regulations.  Speed limit is 45 mph except where posted lower. If you want put a claim in or read up on it before you do; The State of Nevada approved an inexpensive booklet detailing what you need to know before claiming and who to call for the rest, but it is out of print as they don't have the personell to proof read it and approve changes apparently. They are for sale from the Mackey School of Mining at University Nevada Reno for around $18 or at the BLM as copies. There is a copy in every county recorders office in the state. The Fish & Wildlife rangers and wardens are not helpful, as they only enforce laws you have to know yourself. It is not their job to teach you mining law, and the mine owners are usually good neighbors, but teaching you is not their job either. My job is the opal mining educational seminar while looking at claims I sell.
      Bring a map to know where you are, as there aren't maps or many signs here, and they refuse to make one for us rockhounds. Nor are there repairs to road signs regularly. The most despised deeds by miscreants; the back country road signs shot up, defaced, or removed making people get lost. Those kind could care less if you got lost and died or had to backtrack hundreds of miles for shelter.  If you ever see these vandals report their descriptions with plate numbers immediately to the Rangers or Sheriffs.

     Of the approximately 425,000 acres in this part of the Refuge, only the mining district is open to claiming and can't just be freely rock hounded everywhere.  Elsewhere off of the mining district valid claims (less than 45,000 acres in the middle) the public can roam free and collect the 7 pound allowed each day.  A lot of the old off main road driveways to the historic digs outback in the refuge have been closed due for wilderness designations. You can still walk in.  People who thought they could have a truck load have lost it all in exchange for a citation.  It's also big ticket for just driving off the road unless it is on your own opal claim as reported by BLM in Reno. Our claims aren't your ATV tear it up park and we will report you if seen on anybody's claim.

     The flora and fauna were rather diverse over the millennium that these beds were being laid. The animal species are not well represented by skeletons in the opal beds. Occasionally a tooth or bone fragment is found. A pig like set of bones with a complete foot was unearthed at the Peacock by our Jeweler Brett andis at the Peacock mine. The Charles Sheldon Wildlife Refuge has handouts at the kiosk on the various watchable wildlife that lives here.
Oregon Canyon
The common opal & jasp opal hill by Oregon Canyon.

     For more good information on the geology and history of the Virgin Valley Mining District don't forget to check the links we have provided for the other area web pages for the mines: Opal Negra at TheGemDealer.Com in particular more than Rainbow Ridge, The Royal Peacock or Bonanza.


     Black Precious Opal was described by Chinese Explorer Zheng He in the early 1400's on an exploratory trip from Mexico north into what is now America during a period from 1406 to 1407 with thousands of sailors and diplomats with all support personnel in an awesome expedition feat.

     An adventure map of the treasure voyages is on  1421 web site map page . The National Geographic issue July 2005 has a nice article on the early treasure voyages around the world from China. There was not a smoking gun fact the Chinese were here digging and not just surface collecting from the original petrified forest that was laying everywhere.

     The first "recorded" expedition to America describing opals was by the Chinese Admiral Zheng He. These voyages were in the century before Columbus. Unfortunately most of the records were ordered destroyed later. Maybe fortunately for our culture.

     The royal Chinese expedition came down the west coast of America on one of his exploratory voyages. They influenced the native peoples and left artifacts of their passing. They strangers from the sea are loosely documented in the native American oral history. Other evidence is over 170 pages now.

     Land parties surveyed the country they had found and described precious black opals from the lands north of the Joshua trees.  Today the trees end around Tonopah, NV so he was not confused with the Queterro sites in Mexico.

     BBC NEWS  Science-Nature  Experts hope to emulate Chinese Columbus.html
Is a review of the new book by Mr. Gavin Menzies "1421: The Year The Chinese Discovered The World"

     The Zheng He association data:

     D Tormsen has an alternate view of history told by the Chinese here:
 Zheng He's Eastern Voyage

Do the research if you doubt us. Chinese chickens and bows and arrows did not just drop into the Mayan culture laps overnight. And the North west Indians fought with the Japanese pirates sailing around the Aleutian Islands long before Chris followed the maps to the Caribbean.

The road to the opal fields from the east has many a relaxing pond next to it. Alas, the Elko town fathers? had to fence it off due to idiots ruining it for everyone by using it as a dump. The gene pool runs real shallow in some cases.
California Trail Hot Springs Elko, Nv
California Hot Springs is on the banks of the Humboldt River just west of downtown Elko NV. NOW CLOSED and fenced.

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Republication not for gain is permitted with proper URL credit given.