The Virgin Valley area contains a barely scratched precious opal reserve and resource, and is part of a 68,000 acre area set aside for entry under the general mining laws. The opal-bearing areas are spread out over a large area, but the precious opal occurrences are smaller isolated deposits within the region. Common opal is just that, "common," and can be found throughout the area, along with petrified wood, agate, and obsidian. Most precious opal producing ground is covered by valid mining claims. Very few of the nearly 200 claims in the Valley actually produce precious opal. There are five patented mine groups in the mining district.
Virgin Valley is considered to be the premiere source of precious opal in the United States (Jones, 2004, p.14). The most productive mines to date have been the famous Royal Peacock, Virgin Opal (Bonanza), and Rainbow Ridge Mines (USGS, 1984, p.6). Virgin Valley is located in the isolated extreme northwestern corner of the State of Nevada in Humboldt County, within the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. The closest town is Denio (NV) about 32 miles to the northeast (paved road). Lakeview (OR) is 95 miles northwest (paved road), and Winnemucca (NV) is about 120 miles southeast (paved road). Virgin Valley can also be accessed from Cedarville (CA), 56 miles away, during summer months by gravel road (not recommended unless experienced with this area). The average high desert mining season is from May until November, but the area is sometimes accessible year-round, weatherpermitting.
Virgin Valley precious opals are considered to be the brightest and most colorful opals in the world, and on many occasions, have
been found in remarkably large pieces. The world's record-size precious opal weighed 130 pounds and was found in the Northern Lights Mine(fee dig) of the Royal Peacock Mine group in Virgin Valley. Much of the opal found in Virgin Valley is the precious black variety which commands the highest prices for gem and specimen material.
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