Rockhounding on Public Lands
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A "Rockhound" is generally an amateur geologist who enjoys collecting unusual or interesting rock, mineral and gem specimens. Rockhounding is one of many recreational pursuits on 16.5 million acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and 28.1 million acres of federal lands managed by the US Forest Service and other federal agencies in Oregon and Washington. Collecting not more than 250 pounds per year of 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. Also, rock cannot be collected on public lands for construction or decorative purposes in landscaping without a permit. 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 Some lands are withdrawn or reserved for certain purposes such as outstanding natural areas, research natural areas, recreation sites, national historic sites, etc.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.
Historic Artifacts and Fossils
The Antiquities Act of 1906, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (PDF), 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. Leaf and invertebrate fossils may be collected on public lands. 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 a complete description on those items that cannot be collected on public lands including vertebrate fossils, Indian artifacts, and meteorites, view the noncollectables page.
- Know whose property you are on.
- Get permission when collecting on private property and mining claims.
- Don't use explosives or mechanized earth moving equipment.
- Limit excavation depth to four feet and fill in holes before you leave.
- Collect only what you can reasonably use until your next trip.
- Leave all gates as you found them.
- Find out if any fire restrictions are in effect.
- Make sure your campfire is completely out before leaving the area.
- No vehicles or mechanized or equipment are allowed in wilderness areas
- Take all trash with you and dispose of properly, donít leave it for the next person.