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Rockhounding/Gold Panning

Rockhounding and recreational mining are permitted activities on public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management.  The usual rockhound materials, including agates and stones, may be collected in reasonable quantities for hobby use.  Petrified wood collection on BLM lands is limited to 25 pounds plus one piece per day to a maximum of 250 pounds per year.  Panning and sluicing for gold may be arranged through permit at certain areas.
For detailed information on specific sites, visit the websites below.
  • Bakersfield Field Office  (Recreational Mining: Kern River - Keyesville)
  • Barstow Field Office (Rockhounding)
  • El Centro Field Office (Rockhounding)
  • Central Coast Field Office (Rockhounding, fossil collecting: Panoche-Tumey Hills)
  • Mother Lode Field Office  (Recreational Mining: South Yuba River, Merced River)
  • Needles Field Office (Rockhounding, fossil collecting)
  • Palm Springs-South Coast Field Office (Rockhounding)
  • Redding Field Office  (Recreational Mining: Forks of Butte Creek)

    1. Know whose property you are on.
    2. Get permission when collecting on private property and mining claims.
    3. You are strongly encouraged to contact the BLM Field Office that administers the area you are planning to visit. Site specific restrictions may be in effect.
    4. Don't use blasting materials or mechanized earth moving equipment.
    5. Limit excavation depth to four feet and fill in holes before you leave.
    6. Collect only what you can reasonably use until your next trip.
    7. Gravel can not be excavated and removed from Public Lands for processing off site.
    8. Leave all gates as you found them.
    9. Find out if any fire restrictions are in effect.
    10. Make sure your campfire is completely out before leaving the area.
    11. No vehicles or mechanized or equipment are allowed in wilderness areas.
    12. All Vehicles are limited to designated/signed open routes.  If a route in not signed it is not open to vehicle travel.


    Casual use prospecting includes those activities which cause very little or no surface disturbance. For example: collection of geochemical, rock, soil, or mineral specimens using hand tools; hand panning; or non-motorized sluicing. It also generally includes use of metal detectors, gold spears and other battery-operated devices for sensing the presence of minerals, and hand and battery-operated dry washers. Operators may use motorized vehicles for casual use activities only if the use is consistent with the regulations governing such use (43 CFR 8340) including following off-road vehicle use designations and temporary closures ordered by BLM. Casual use operations do not require notification of the BLM; except where specific land use or recreation area plans call for a recreational mining permit. You must reclaim any casual-use disturbance that you create.

    Additional information about fossil collecting and the use of metal detectors may be found below: