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BLM>California>El Centro>Recreation>Rockhounding
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El Centro Field Office


Rockhounding is one of many recreational pursuits on 14 1/2 million acres of lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in California. Collecting small, non-commercial quantities of rock by rockhounds is allowed free of charge on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Commercial collecting for the purpose of sale or barter is not allowed without special authorization. Rockhounds may use hand tools such as shovels and picks, but must not use explosives or power equipment for excavation.
Rockhounds are welcome to collect limited amounts of rocks, minerals, and gemstones from most federal lands, but there are some exceptions. Some lands are withdrawn or reserved for certain purposes such as outstanding natural areas, research natural areas, recreation sites, national historic sites, etc. Other lands are not open to collecting due to the presence of mining claims. The local BLM offices can provide you with information about available collecting areas and those areas that are closed to rockhounding including any fire or vehicle use restrictions.
Petrified wood is available for collection on a free use basis in limited quantities as long as the collection is for personal, non-commercial purposes. According to Federal regulations (43 CFR 3622), free use collection weights are limited to 25 pounds plus one piece per day, not to exceed 250 pounds in one calendar year, and no specimen greater than 250 pounds may be collected without a special permit. The petrified wood must be for personal use only, and shall not be sold or bartered to commercial dealers. A material sale contract must be obtained from a BLM Field Office for collection of more than 250 pounds a year, or for commercial use. Mining claims may not be staked for petrified wood.
The Antiquities Act of 1906, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, and the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 prohibit the excavation, collection or destruction of any archaeological materials (including fossils) located on lands under federal jurisdiction. The indiscriminate removal of artifacts and certain fossils could affect scientific and educational uses of public lands creating unfortunate gaps in scientific understanding. Petroglyphs, human remains, dwellings, and artifacts of Native American cultures are protected by law because they are integral to the preservation of the cultural heritage of these ongoing traditions and also may provide important information concerning populations who lived here long ago. For more information on the collection of fossils, please download the following brochure "They Walked Here Long Ago" or visit
Rockhounding on mining claims is not advised without the mining claimant's consent because the claimant has a legal right to the minerals on the claim, including gemstones. Most mining claims can usually be identified in the field by claim posts or markers, but you should contact a local BLM office to find out which areas have mining claims. Also, it is illegal for a mining claimant to charge fees to the public for recreational use of a mining claim, such as rock collecting.
Material such as agate, chert; jasper, petrified wood, obsidian, cinders and other volcanic products are not considered locatable under the 1872 Mining Law. Most commonly collected rocks and minerals are not subject to mining claim location even though people occasionally stake claims for these minerals anyway. The mere fact that some stones may be cut and polished does not give them a distinct or special value to make them locatable.
Collecting Limits
Collecting rocks for landscaping and other personal uses is allowed without a permit, as long as the use is non commercial and no mechanized equipment is used (other than a car or pickup truck). A permit is not needed if you limit your collecting 25 pounds plus one piece per day, not to exceed 250 pounds in one calendar year, and no specimen greater than 250 pounds may be collected without a special permit. The material must be for personal use only and shall not be sold or bartered to commercial dealers. Taking rock from stockpiles is not allowed.
  • Know whose property you are on.
  • Get permission when collecting on private property and mining claims.
  • Do not use blasting materials or mechanized earthmoving equipment.
  • Collect only what you can reasonably use until your next trip.
  • Leave all gates as you found them.
  • Find out if any fire or vehicle use restrictions are in effect. 


Metal detecting is a recreational activity that people do to find coins, jewelry and precious metals. Metal detecting is allowed on BLM lands as long as no artifacts are removed.  Artifacts should be left alone and reported to the approriate Field Office.  For more information regarding metal detecting please visit: Metal Detecting

Bureau of Land Management
El Centro Field Office
1661 S. 4th Street
El Centro CA 92243
Phone: (760) 337-4400
Fax: (760) 337-4490
Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., M-F
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