Hidden in the high desert of northern Nevada, Virgin Valley Hot Springs aka Virgin Valley Warm Springs is a beautiful warm swimming pond in the midst of wild nature.
The hot springs are located near the Oregon-Nevada Border at the northeastern edge of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge that is well-known for its wild horses (Mustang), American pronghorn, Greater sage-grouse, California bighorn sheep, pygmy rabbit, and a wide range of migratory birds.
Sheldon is the southern part of the National Wildlife Refuge. The Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge is located in Oregon a few miles north.
The clear emerald pond is 30 by 35 feet across and 5 feet deep with a sandy-gravel bottom. The mineral water is transferred into the pool from other hot springs at a temperature of 90°F. The natural mineral water also bubbles up from the pond's bottom.
The temperature in the pond varies from 80°F to 90°F depending on the season, air temperature, and wind. With a high hot springs flow rate, no chemical treatment of the water is required.
A concrete pad and stepladder into the pond make access easier. In the pond, you can spot fish that might nibble you. Thus, you have access to natural skin exfoliation!
The Virgin Valley Campground was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression. There are a few old buildings, one of them is a bathhouse that is adjusted to the pool. The restored old structure of the historic bathhouse can be used as a changing room and as well as another opportunity to bathe taking a mineral shower. Feeding by the hot springs, two warm mineral showers in the bathhouse run non-stop 24/7. The water into the bathhouse isn't piped from the pond, but rather from the hot springs source nearby.
Note. Air temperatures exhibit extremes. During the summer months, daytime temperatures can be extremely high. Have plenty of drinking water, sunscreen, and insect repellent. Nighttime temperatures often falling to below freezing, so be prepared.
If you want to stay overnight in the Virgin Valley Campground, you will enjoy a quiet low sky with bright stars, coyotes yipping and howling, birds singing, bullfrog croaking, and other wildlife sounds.
The Virgin Valley campground is free and open year-round on a first-come, first-served basis. You can stay at the camp for up to 14 days. There are pit toilets, picnic tables, and drinking water. No garbage or septic dumping facilities. Please pack out what you pack in.
The refuge itself has 12 primitive campgrounds, two of them along Big Springs and Catnip Reservoirs that are great fishing places.
Virgin Valley Hot Springs | General Description
Open: Year-round, 24 hours
Managed: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Location: Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge
Services: Pit toilets, picnic tables, drinking water
Distance from the parking: Short
Road Access: Any vehicle, the road can be blocked by snow
Day-use fees: None
Elevation: 5,100 ft (1,554 m)
Virgin Valley Hot Springs is located:
92 miles southeast of Lakeview
124 miles northwest of Winnemucca, NV
333 miles southeast of Eugene
417 miles southeast of Portland.
Things to Do and See
Sheldon and Hart Mountain National Wildlife Refuge were established in the 1930s to save populations of pronghorn, sage-grouse, bighorn sheep, and other wildlife creatures. Managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Sheldon Refuge encompasses over 900 square miles of the northwestern corner of Nevada.
Fishing and Boating
Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge provides opportunities for fishing. There are a few ponds and reservoirs stocked with rainbow trout.
Big Springs and Catnip Reservoir are good places to catch rainbow and cutthroat trout.
The Dufurrena complex which consists of nine ponds offers fishing for warm water fish such as largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and yellow perch.
Fishing in the pond at the Virgin Valley Campground is allowed for children under 12, adults over 65, and disabled people. A Nevada fishing license is required. Check current regulations for seasons, limits, and other guidelines at the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
Boats may be used on Big Springs, Catnip Reservoir, or Dufurrena Ponds. Electric motors are allowed.
A limited number of tags are issued for seasonal (late summer and fall) hunting for mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. Check at the Nevada Department of Wildlife
The open terrain of the refuge provides a great opportunity for hiking but trails are not clearly defined. Hiking into remote areas provides better opportunities to spot wildlife and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the vast and rugged landscape.
Wildlife Viewing and Photography
Wildlife watching in its natural environment is a great adventure and rewarding activity. Deer, wild horse or mustang, pronghorn antelope, wild burro, sage-grouse, pygmy rabbit, waterfowl, and other desert creatures. The best time to encounter animals is the early mornings and late evening when they are more active. Good-quality spotting scope or binoculars are incredibly useful for observing wildlife at a distance across the great expanse of the desert.
Virgin Valley is known for a variety of opals including the black fire opal and prized black opal. A maximum of seven pounds of rocks may be collected per day for personal use only, except in the Virgin Valley Mining District which covers 67,000 acres of refuge lands. Surface collecting only, no digging. Removing artifacts, arrowheads, petroglyphs, and plants is prohibited.
Several mines offer opal hunting for a fee. One of the fee sites is the Royal Peacock Opal mine, located eight miles from the Virgin Valley Hot Springs.
Note: Fire opal is famous for its many hues, with the unique brilliant fire. A fee site, the Royal Peacock Opal mine is located eight miles from the Virgin Valley Hot Springs.
Other Soaking Opportunities
Soaking is available in the much hotter Bog Hot Springs, 23 miles west.
Also, check Dyke Hot Springs that can be found 63 miles southeast.