Recreational Gold Prospecting
Please Note: The State of California has passed SB 670 which prohibits the use of vacuum or other suction dredging equipment for instream mining in any California river, stream or lake effective August 6, 2009.
This moratorium will remain in effect until the Department of Fish and Game completes an environmental review of its dredging permitting program and revises its regulations.
BLM will not issue recreational use permits for suction dredging until this moratorium is lifted.
Additional information can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov
South Yuba River
BLM - Federal Register 5/13/2010:
Recreational "Hands and Pans" are the only tools you may use on the South Yuba River. No digging with shovels or other hand tools. You can only pan in stream-run gravel -- never from dry areas.
Merced River and South Fork of the American River
Both rivers are open to casual use gold prospecting which includes panning, the use of non-motorized sluice boxes, metal detectors, and hand tools. No permit is required for this type of activity.
If and when the SB 670 moratorium is lifted, suction dredging permits will be required on the Merced River and South Fork of the American River. Permits will be issued for a limited two week period.
Please contact the BLM Mother Lode Field Office for permit information.
High banking is not allowed and is not considered casual or recreational use.
The use of motorized equipment in recreational gold prospecting may require a permit from BLM.
The use of suction dredges, machinery, winches, water pumps, or explosives is not considered to be casual use. However, the use of dredges with intake diameters of 4" or less may be considered casual use in some mining claim operations.
The camping limit is 14 days within any 90 day period, except for permit holder's with a 30 day dredging permit.
Before you begin prospecting on public lands, please check for existing mining claims to avoid conflicts with claiments.