Description - The Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, located in the northwestern corner of Nevada, manages over 575,000 acres of high desert habitat as a representative area for native plants and wildlife.
Although established for the protection of habitat and wildlife, the refuge incorporates other historical uses. The Virgin Valley Mining District (67,000 acres) was established for the mining of fire opals, and two patented mines offer opal mining for a fee. There are remains of many old ranches and homesteads on the refuge, plus sites of archeological significance.
The area also has many natural geothermal hot springs, those located at Bog Hot and virgin Valley campgrounds can be used by the public.
The remote setting, scenic vistas and high desert country of Sheldon invite the visitor to experience the rugged landscape and observe the plants and animals that inhabit this unique ecosystem.
- The Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge supplies various recreational opportunities for visitors to the area, these include:
Boating: Boats without motors are permitted on Big Springs Reservoir. Boats are not allowed at Duferrena Ponds, however inflatable rafts or float tubes can be used.
Fishing: Fishing is allowed at Big Springs Reservoir, Dufurrena Ponds 20 and 21, and McGee Pond in accordance with the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) regulations. McGee Pond is open only to children 12 and under, adults 65 and over and handicapped individuals.
Camping: Camping is permitted only at designated campsites. Most campsites are primitive; some do not have water or sanitary facilities. Water at the campsites is not tested for human use. Campfires are allowed during times of low fire hazard. A special use permit is required for camping along the desert trail corridor. The Royal Peacock private campground offers full hookups for a fee.
Horseback Riding: Horseback Riding is allowed on the refuge. Please do not bring any hay, only pelletized feed is permitted because of the possibility of weed introduction.
Hunting: Hunting of antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep, sage grouse, California quail and chukar is allowed in accordance with NDOW regulations. Areas closed to hunting include Little Sheldon, Dufurrena, the Hell Creek bighorn sheep enclosure and other areas as posted.
Nature Study and Wildlife viewing: Vegetation is dominated by communities of big sagebrush, low sagebrush, rabbitbrush and bitterbrush. Meadow vegetation (grasses and forbs) and riparian vegetation (aspens and willows) are limited to areas around the few water sources found on the Refuge. Mountain mahogany and western juniper stands are found on higher elevations of the refuge.
The distribution of vegetation largely determines the distribution of wildlife populations on Sheldon. Antelope browse in low sagebrush and mountain mahogany communities. Bighorn sheep are found in rugged terrain vegetated in big sagebrush. Sage grouse occur mainly in areas containing sagebrush communities interspersed with upland meadows.
Other mammals common to the area include coyote, jackrabbit, bobcat and mountain lion. 180 bird species have been identified, consisting primarily of passerine species, with limited species represented by waterfowl, raptors and upland game birds. A number of amphibians and reptiles are also common to the area, but knowledge of their abundance and distribution is limited. Fish populations are limited by water availability, but the area does support several indigenous species, including cutthroat trout and chub.
Recreation - Activities in this region include, wildlife viewing, nature study, bird watching, scenic viewing, boating, fishing, camping, horseback riding, hunting, and hiking.
Climate - The area's climate is typical of northern Nevada's desert country. Rainfall is slight, averaging less than 6 inches annually. Clear, sunny skies are the rule, with summer daytime temperatures peaking near 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge is located in the northwestern corner of Nevada. The area can be reached by traveling west along Highway 140 for fourteen miles from Denio.