Guide to collect rocks, minerals and fossils - Rules and Regulations
• Bureau of Land Management
• US National Forest
• Rivers and Creeks
• Oregon Coast
• Oregon State Parks
• US Army Corps of Engineers
• County Parks
The ability to collect rocks, minerals and fossils without a permit on public lands depends on many factors including a location, type of minerals or fossils, and amount of rocks you have collected.
The legality of keeping your mineral finds is pretty complex. Each jurisdiction has its own regulations which you always need to verify and be compliant with it.
You need to make sure you follow all of rules and regulations of rock collecting for each area you go. Laws and regulations vary from state to state, from BLM land to national forests, from state and county parks to ocean beaches.
The majority of rock and mineral collecting sites are lying on the federal lands managed by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service.
According to U.S. Forest Service and BLM, collecting rock and minerals as a hobby does not require any permits while the materials are for personal, non-commercial use. Hand tools including geological pick, shovel, and jackhammer are only allowed.
BLM Rockhounding Regulations
BLM defines rockhounding as “the collection of reasonable amounts of mineral specimens, rocks, semi-precious gems, petrified wood, and invertebrate fossils”.
Invertebrate fossils are remains of living creatures that don’t have bones such as corals or shellfish as well as common plant fossils.
Generally, public lands are open to rockhounding unless it is at the National Monuments. Also, make sure to check the land you might be collecting rocks, minerals and fossils are in fact under BLM management since borders between different jurisdictions and owners are not always marked.
The BLM regulations in Oregon and Washington limit the no-fee daily limit for collecting for personal use to 25 pounds plus one piece. The yearly limit is 250 pounds in total. Those include minerals, semi precious gemstones, common invertebrate fossils, petrified wood, and other rocks.
Only hand tools like shovels, picks, and hammers are allowed. Metal detectors are allowed too. Motorized, mechanized, heavy equipment as well as explosives are prohibited.
A group of individuals can’t pool their yearly allowance to collect a mineral, rock, or a petrified wood piece larger than 250 pounds.
Rockhounding is not allowed on developed recreational sites unless those are designated as rockhounding areas.
For obtaining larger than 250 pounds of material you have to contact your local BLM office.
Check with BLM for the current regulations and specific locations to find out if there are any are mining claims in the area.
Rockhounding is restricted in Wilderness Area to the surface collection only.
Native American and other historical artifacts such as arrowheads, pieces of pottery, human burial remains, etc. can't be collected. Vertebrate fossils like fish, mammals, dinosaurs, or any other creature with a skeletal structure can’t be collected as well.
U.S. National Forest Rock Collecting Regulations
The U.S. Forest Service permits recreational rockhounding on the most National Forest lands. Recreational rock collecting is defined as
- Collection of small amounts of widespread, low-value, relatively common minerals and stones (common quartz crystals, agate, obsidian) for noncommercial use.
- Hobby mining activities; such as recreational gold panning or use of metal detectors to prospect for gold nuggets and other naturally occurring metals.
The U.S. Forest Service limits amounts of specimens up to 10 pounds. Some lands within the National Forest are closed for collecting due to wilderness designation. Contact the U.S. Forest Service for up-to-date information.
Vertebrate fossils like animals, dinosaurs, and fish bones can’t be collected. Archaeological items like fragments of pottery, arrowheads, etc. can’t be collected as well.
River and Creek Rockhounding Regulations
If the river or creek is designated Essential Salmon Habitat you may collect up to one cubic yard of wood, rocks or gravel per year using non-motorized equipment without needing a removal-fill permit.
If the stream is a designated State Scenic Waterway, you need a scenic waterway removal-fill permit to collect any materials. You can collect up to 50 cubic yards of material per year without a removal-fill permit for all other waterways.
Oregon Coast Rockhounding Regulations
While a particular part of the beach might be a part of the Oregon State Park and follows regulations given below, there are some general rules for collecting materials at the beach.
You can remove no more than a one-gallon container per person per day of agates and other non-living items such as shells, stones, and fossils and up to three gallons per person per calendar year.
Oregon State Parks Rockhounding Regulations
Oregon State Parks allow rockhounding of small amounts of rocks, minerals, and fossils for personal collection. However, digging or otherwise disrupting park property is strictly prohibited.
Larger collecting might be allowed upon approval of the park manager at some State Park locations. Collecting on the ocean shore is allowed as well, but with specific limits. Here are the specific State Park rules related to rockhounding.
US Army Corps of Engineers Rock Collecting Regulations
Rock collecting is prohibited within US Army Corps of Engineers property boundary which encompasses all reservoirs.
According to Section 327.14 of Rules and Regulations Governing Public Use of US Army Corps of Engineers Land, "Removal or any alteration of natural formations, mineral deposits, historical and archaeological features, paleontological resources is prohibited except when in accordance with written permission of the District Commander".
County Parks Rockhounding Regulations
Generally, County Parks in Oregon prohibit rockhounding.
Here is one example of Marion County's regulations. According to a program coordinator of the county parks, mineral collecting falls under the provision 12.05.220 "Damaging park property which states D. Cut or remove any sand, wood, turf, grass, gravel, stone or timber in or from any park, or make any excavation by any tool, equipment, blasting or by any other means in any park".
Contact offices of the County Parks for up-to-date information.
Miscellaneous Oregon Rockhounding Regulations and Rules
Rockhounding is allowed in wilderness areas only to surface collecting. No digging is permitted.
Abandoned mines might be appealing for an explorer. However, those are extremely dangerous and must be avoided. Open shafts, worn down support, rotten timber, lack of oxygen, and various poisonous gases can lead to the disability or loss of life.
Keeping any material remains of prehistoric or historic human life or activities like arrowheads or pottery pieces is prohibited. Vertebrate fossils (dinosaurs bones, fish, - anything with a backbone), and shark teeth may not be collected.
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Every jurisdiction can adjust their regulations for rock, mineral and fossil collection without a notice. Treat the information listed above as general rules and always check up-to-date the regulations for changes.