The area has been inhabited by man for
more than 10,000 years. Like much of Nevada, it was covered by lakes
and lush forests which were slowly drained and buried due to volcanic
activity, climate change and geological uplift. Remnants of this wetter
period are evident in the abundant petrified and opalized wood found
everywhere. These fossils can range in size from small twigs to huge
petrified logs, many 30-50 feet long.
southwestern portion of the valley lies the 'Last Supper Cave.' Its
bones and artifacts have been carbon dated to 10,000 to 12,000
years. Little is known about
these early inhabitants. It is
believed they were nomadic peoples following the game herds and
seasonally occupied the caves surrounding the marshy valley.
Petroglyphs carved in boulders near the area are thought to be created
by the Piute or Ute people who populated the area in later times.
The abundant common opal and obsidian in the region made an excellent
material for creating tools and weapons as shown by the numerous
artifacts which are still found nearby.
evidence that Chinese were the first opal miners in North America,
sending an expedition to mine the precious black opal perhaps 4,500
the late 1800's and early 1900's a few specimens were collected by
passing cowboys and sheep herders. These early examples were widely
reported in the press and soon prospectors and opal enthusiasts found
their way to this isolated valley. Opals were first mined commercially
in the area around 1905 with the discovery of the rich deposits which
became known as the Bonanza Mine. Other early mining operations
included the Rainbow Mine. Both are still in production today.