Needles Field Office


image of a mining pick  Abandoned Mine Safety                             Printable Rockhounding Brochure

GENERAL INFORMATION:   Rockhounding is one of many recreational pursuits on 141/2 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.

While rockhounds are welcome to collect limited amounts of rocks, minerals, and gemstones from most federal lands, 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  Some lands are withdrawn or reserved for certain purposes such as outstanding natural areas, research natural areas, recreation sites, national historic sites, etc.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. Non-commercial/non-barter collecting is allowed within BLM Wilderness.  However access is limited to hiking and horseback, vehicle use in wilderness is prohibited.   Rockhounds must get permission from the land owner to collect rock, minerals, and gemstones on private property.  

PETRIFIED WOOD:   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), limits free use collection weights 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.

HISTORIC ARTIFACTS AND FOSSILS:   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 vertebrate 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.  

MINING CLAIMS:   Rockhounding on mining claims is not authorized 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 or visit the Lands & Minerals Legacy Rehost System,  LR2000 to find out which areas have mining claims.  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.


1. Know whose property you are on.
2. Get permission when collecting on private property and mining claims.
3. Don't use blasting materials or mechanized earth moving equipment.
4. Limit excavation depth to four feet and fill in holes before you leave.
5. Collect only what you can reasonably use until your next trip.
6. Leave all gates as you found them.
7. Find out if any fire restrictions are in effect.
8. Make sure your campfire is completely out before leaving the area.
9. No vehicles or mechanized or equipment are allowed in wilderness areas.
10.All Vehicles are limited to designated/signed open routes.  If a route in not signed it is not open to vehicle travel.
11.  Off road trails in the Needles Field Office Trail System are not maintained. Four wheel drive vehicles are always recommended .



Banded Agate.  Photo courtesy Needles Rock and Mineral Club

Rockhounding Locations:

1. Turtle Mountain.  Parker Dam Desert Access Guide (DAG). Needles California Trail Users Coalition(CTUC) map

The Turtle Mountain Wilderness and surrounding areas have long been known for it's beautiful rocks, good jasper, opalite, and much more.  Each rain seems to uncover something new.  Three proven locales are Mohawk Spring, Mopah Peak, and Negro Peak.  In addition chalcedony rose and agate can be found on either side of Turtle Mountain Road.

To find these locations drive approximately (approx)23 miles south of Needles on U.S. 95 and turn west on Turtle Mountain road.  This is a formerly maintained dirt road and most standard vehicles can safely operate for the first few miles, but if you want to reach the best collecting areas a 4 wheel drive vehicle is highly recommended.  Mohawk Spring, Mopah Peak, and Negro Peak are inside the Turtle Mountain Wilderness.  Rock collecting is allowed in wilderness, however use of vehicles is not.  For that reason the best specimens can be located in wilderness where the less adventurous don't go.

2. Chemehuevi Wash. Parker Dam DAG.  Needles California Trail Users Coalition(CTUC) map

 Havasu Lake Road is located approximately 21 miles south of Needles on U.S. 95.  Turn east and drive approx. 5 miles.  When you reach the Needles to Parker Wagon Rd. turn south and then almost immediately turn left on route NS513.  Take time to walk both sides of this route as well as route NS510, you can find red, yellow, white and brown moss, banded and picture agate, as well as blue opal, agate, and rhyolite.  After investigating these areas take route NS520 south 1 mile from it's junction with NS510 to find colorful agate, brecciated red and white jasper, opalite in pastel shades of pink, yellow, chalcedony rose and crystal-lined geodes. 

  Turtle Mountain And Chemehuevi Wash rock collecting site map

Chalcedony. Photo courtesy Needles Rock and Mineral Club

3. Vidal Junction . Parker Dam DAG

The large wash north of U.S. Highway 62 just 2 miles east of Vidal Junction is an excellent site for collecting Chalcedony, which can be found from Highway 95 extending east approximately 1 mile.  More can be obtained near the Whipple Mountains, about 4.5 miles to the north.

Vidal Junction rock collecting site map 

4. Flat Top Mountain. Needles DAG

This area contains plentiful jasper and can be reached by taking the Water Road exit (Camino) off I-40 and traveling approximately 4 miles south to an intersection with the pipeline road then turning east for 3 miles.  Keep in mind the area just to the north of the pipeline road is wilderness and although rock collecting is allowed motorized travel is not.

5. Chambless. Amboy DAG

Explore this area in the Marble Mountains for hematite and magnetite, found in reddish-brown iron deposits near mining shafts, and apple green epidote found in the washes.  An abandoned quarry yields sizable chunks of limestone and marble.  The next canyon has a tiny mountain of garnet, with dark red and brown crystals forming small clusters.  Green epidote is scattered about and much of it contains bright metallic hematite blades.  Further east is yet another canyon with gray ridge of limestone embedded with many interesting fossils.  To reach this site start at the intersection of Route 66 (R-66) and Cadiz road.  Proceed west on R-66 approximately .9 miles to Route NS 325 and turn north (right).  Follow this route roughly 2.2 miles and park at the boundary of the Trilobite Wilderness.  From here walk north up the canyon directly in front of you and keep your eyes open.

Trilobite. Photo courtesy Needles Rock and Mineral Club

6. Marble Mountain Fossil Beds. Amboy DAG

One of the classic Cambrian trilobite fossil sites in the western U.S. is located at this beautiful outcrop in a 60 foot thick formation over 550 million years old.  Trilobites were small marine crustaceans that resembled modern day horseshoe crabs.  You can identify the site by the quarry holes and pink, dark green and light brown shale spread along the hillside.  By splitting the shale you stand a good chance of finding a complete trilobite. 

This area can be found by taking historic route 66 to the town site of Chambless then taking Cadiz Road approximately 4 miles south.  At this point  the road turns sharply to the left (east) You will see Cadiz Farms housing on the left side of the road. Continue on east for two miles and just before reaching the rail road crossing turn north on Route (Rt.) NS376 for .4 miles at the intersection with Rt. NS299 drive east for .2 miles. your final turn will be north on NS380 for .7 miles park here near the base of the mountain and hike west to east along the wash.  Hiking up the mountain and looking down hill will allow you to see where others have excavated pits in the shale and help indicate where fossils have been found.

Over the years this site has been used heavily and it is recommended that only one trilobite per person be removed.

7. Marble Mountain Rock collecting area

In addition to many Trilobite fossils found here, this rock collecting area yields green epidote, dolomite, chrysocolla, chalcedony, serpentine, marble, garnet and specular hematite, iron and kenatite, chalcedony crystals, geodes and gold.  You can access this site by taking one of the many dirt roads that lead into the area from Route 66 in and around the town of Chambless.

Chambless and Marble Mountain  fossil collecting area site map 

Opalite.  Photo courtesy Needles Rock and Mineral Club

8. Ship Mountains. Amboy DAG

Nodular masses of beautifully colored and patterned opalite can be found in the Ship Mountains.  The combination of pastel colors and fine quality make this material highly prized by collectors although it is necessary to dig into the blown sand to obtain it.  To access this site drive east 12 miles from Chambless on Old Route 66 then turn south on Danby road for 1.7 miles to the old Danby town site.  hen drive west for 6.9 miles and turn south. Drive .6 miles. To access the second site drive an additional .4 miles and turn south and drive .9 miles. The last .4 miles to the site require 4 wheel drive or may be covered on foot.

Bureau of Land Management
Needles Field Office
1303 S Highway 95
Needles, CA 92363
Phone: (760) 326-7000
Fax: (760) 326-7099
Office Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., M-F
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