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  Virgin Valley FAQ  
rock hounding rules fee digs camp rules
snakes & biting things gasoline where to stay
medical emergency back country roads phone
buying a claim tours food
  • Rock hounding is not allowed within the mining district  - this applies to all minerals, even the dirt.  Permission to collect must be granted by the claim holder.  The mining district includes all of the known precious opal occurrences.


  • Currently there are four fee digs in Virgin Valley.  (links take you to the respective web site)

The Royal Peacock Mine

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine (reservations are required for loads, but not for tailings digging)

The Bonanza Mine

The Opal Queen Mine


  • The no fee campground at Magee Pond is worth the trip all by itself.  The pond is actually a warm (tepid) spring deep enough for swimming.  A pipe driven into the artesian spring supplies water for drinking (tested) and inside showers.  Generally there is a camp host available.  There is no phone and your cell won't work either.  There are no garbage receptacles so "pack out what you pack in" is the rule.  Please don't dump your camping wastes at the rest area - over flow brings in rats and with rats you get snakes.  There are pit toilets but I advise you to bring your own toilet paper - just in case.

  • There are several kinds of snakes in the area.  The only one you need concern yourself with is the rattlesnake.  Like all animals snakes need food and water.  The camp area at Magee pond has everything they need.  Garbage containing food gets inadvertently left behind - that draws mice and rats and that draws snakes.  And so a little caution is in order.  I have never heard of anyone being bitten but there is that chance - parents, are you listening?  Don't let your children wander around in the brush.

There are ticks and plenty of mosquitoes - you'll probably want to bring along some insect repellent.  I've never seen a tick on myself or one of my dogs but I'm told they are there.

You will find scorpions in the area - They're usually hiding under a rocks during daylight hours and come out at night.  If you have bee allergy take precautions.  I'm the only person I know of that's been stung by one and I had no problem.


  • The closest gasoline is in Denio - about a 35 mile trip from the campground, one way.  Trust me, it's expensive gas.  Don't arrive with an empty tank, yes, it happens.  The closest propane is in Fields, OR; north of Denio.


  • There is an RV park with full hookups at the Royal Peacock mine.  Other amenities include a couple of cabins available for rent, tent sites, showers, laundry, phone and gift shop.  See their web site for additional information. 

Next to the Royal Peacock, the closest place to stay is at the Denio Junction, about 30 miles from the valley.  Other amenities include a restaurant, bar, gas and diesel; and an extremely limited supply of groceries.

Gas, diesel and a restaurant are available at Fields (north of Denio) and Adel (on hwy 140 - between Virgin Valley and Lakeview).

Obviously both Winnemucca and Lake View will have the normal amenities of any small city or town.  On your way in I advise you to fill your gas tank at one of these two places.


  • There are virtually no emergency services available in Virgin Valley.  There may be a first responder available in Denio - make contact through the emergency operator by calling 911.  Helicopter evacuation is done through Lake View.

  • There is a lot of back country around Virgin Valley to explore.  Here are a few notes about usage . . .  off roading is not allowed anywhere within the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge.  Most of the back country roads are very rough and should not be attempted in low clearance vehicles.  Four wheel drive is recommended.  Travel with plenty of water and a spare tire.

  • The only public phone in Virgin Valley is at the Royal Peacock Mine.  For the most part your cell phone won't work - I am told that reliable cell phone calls can be made near the top of Thousand Creek Summit (about five miles east of the Virgin Valley turn off from Hwy 140.

  • If you catch opal fever and want to talk with someone about buying a claim.  Talk to our friend, John Church, at Sword Fish Mining.  He usually has a few claims available.
  • If  you are looking for a guided tour of the area give me a call and we can set something up.
  • The closest place to buy food is in Denio.  The Denio Junction has a restaurant and a very limited grocery selection.

  • Most people bring their own tools with them.  There are some tools available at the fee digs - some free to use and others for rent depending upon which dig you choose.  If you are bank digging the tools you need depend upon how vigorously you intend to dig - you will need to remove over burden (under cutting the bank is not allowed - it's extremely dangerous) and you're going to want a pick and shovel for that.  When you're close to opal a screw driver is needed to avoid breaking the stone with rougher tools.  Make sure that you have plenty of water.  A roll of toilet paper might come in handy at the pit toilets you'll find at the digs.  You will need a water proof container for opals.  Wear a hat and use sunscreen.  You may want a pair of work gloves to avoid blisters.  I advise hand cream after a day's digging - the clay in which the opal forms will take the water out of your skin just like working with cement.



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