CHARLES SHELDON NWR
The Charles Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge is the home of the Virgin Valley Opals. Also know as: Charles Sheldon Antelope Range (NV. and Or.); Charles Sheldon Wildlife Refuge (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 claims were made in the late 1800s whether they were recorded or not. Black Precious Opal is the Nevada State Gemstone and this is the only place in America YOU could come dig for it. The Nevada State Semi-precious Gemstone is Turquoise and is mined many other places but not here. The Nevada State Rock is Sandstone represented here by the commercially named variety "Owyhee Rose" that comes from our Heart of Virgin Valley Claims on the Quarry.
The Government management is in the process of trying to be regulating all us mining here for the wildlife instead. Don't let them lock off the opal fields. Please state you support the mining district be left alone and not closed. Their address was: SheldonCCP@fws.gov for comments
Virgin Valley was the location a CCC camp in the 1930's and was the first park declared in Humboldt Co. The Charles Sheldon Wildlife Refuge was created from the Charles Sheldon Antelope Range. The opal mining district and the ranches were grandfathered into the new management units retaining their existing rights to live, ranch, and mine. Many of the local children learned to swim in this pool that is popular on Sundays.
In June 2003 a new shower house roof was installed by volunteers. Now if we could just heat it in winter.
Leah & John lend a hand up on the 45 degree slope of the shower house roof. We're experienced at clinging to the side of slippery slopes over bad falls. Thanks to the host who organized this effort while she was here. Pity the rules were bent and she can't come back. Good Ol boy days are gone forever. It would be nice if things never changed, but there has been so much water under the bridge, literally, the bridge was re-built. Ticket?
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.
The camp has been renovated with new pit toilets. 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. It sure feels good after fighting the dirt to wrest gems from the earths iron like grasp. 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. Remember to say "Stanley" as you jump in. (A pet pig in a bar got a SS #, and then retired. I swear I don't know.)
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 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 we mine 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 for you to work. The new law does not require working the land yearly to retain the title. Checking is easy. Precious opal is very rare and expensive and no mine owners appreciate "uninvited guests" trespassing to harm their livelihood leaving hours of cleanup behind.
The information kiosks by the road and campground have a map of the refuge with all the current regulations. If you want put a claim in or read up on it before you do; The State of Nevada approves an inexpensive booklet detailing what you need to know before claiming and who to call for the rest. They are for sale from the Mackey School of Mining at University Nevada Reno for around $18 or the BLM for 8$. There is a copy in every county recorders office in the state. The Fish & Wildlife rangers and wardens are helpful, but you have to know the laws 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 selling the tour/seminar and opal claims besides just opals.
Bring a map to know where you are as there aren't maps or many signs here. Or the most despised deeds by miscreants; the back country road signs shot up, defaced, or removed by those who could care less if you got lost and died or had to backtrack hundreds of miles for shelter. If you ever see these vandals please for all our sakes report their descriptions to federal rangers here or the BLM.
Of the approximately 425,000 acres in the Refuge only the mining district is open to claiming and can't just be freely rock hounded. Elsewhere off the mining district valid claims (less than 45,000 acres in the middle) the public can roam free and collect. 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 and get your legally allowed 7 lbs. 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 opal claim. Our claims aren't your ATV tear it up park either and we will report you on anybody's claim. No off road ATV use in NWR's.
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. I heard a pig like set of bones was unearthed at the Peacock recently tho". The Charles Sheldon Wildlife Refuge has handouts at the kiosk on the various watchable wildlife that lives here.
The 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: Rainbow Ridge, Opal Queen, and Royal Peacock.
WAS THERE CHINESE DISCOVERY OF VIRGIN VALLEY PRIOR TO WHITES?
Black Precious Opal was described by Chinese Explorer Zheng He in 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 feat.
An adventure map of the treasure voyages is on 1421 web site map page
This will take you away. The National Geographic July 2005 has a nice article on the early treasure voyages recently. There was not a smoking gun fact the chinese were here.
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.
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"
D Tormsen has an alternate view of history told by the Chinese here:
Do the research if you doubt us. Chinese chickens and bows and arrows did not just drop into the Mayan laps. And the North west Indians fought with Japanese pirates long before ol' Chris followed his maps here.
The road to the opal fields has many a relaxing pond next to it.
California Hot Springs on the banks of the River just west of downtown Elko NV. NOW CLOSED and fenced.
Note all text and photographs copyrights reserved by John Church.
Republication not for gain is permitted with proper URL credit given.