The Reality of Mining Claim Research


Claim markers or monuments must be maintained for the life of the claim.  There is no way to establish that a claim was ever staked to begin with without them. Protecting a claim from high graders by removing monuments fosters the trade in illegally recorded claims. BLM requires any new claimant to seek out existing claim markers before locating a new claim. Without those marks on the ground a miner cannot fulfill BLM’s requirements.

Real Field Experience

Mining claim research is essential but mired in questions that go on forever, with laws rarely followed in practice. Most miners know they need to keep paying their annual assessment fees to BLM, but those fees often cover oddly claimed ground which may lack monuments and have no record at the county assessor office.

I use for research. They pull their information directly from BLM and present it in a friendly, graphical manner. They have a zoomable map that is extremely easy to use, whereas, BLM is still single line entry, no graphical interface. You type all your PLSS information in one digit at a time and in fact you have to pad your entries with zeros. I will stop before I start ranting about LR2000, a nightmare to use since it was first put on the net.  In many ways it was easier to pull records at a State BLM HQ than it is now to use LR2000.

In any case, when you drill down to an individual claim report and click on the link at MyLandMatters, you are directly accessing any current BLM report. You will only get data, though, and not the map that the miner drew of the claim. Instead, you will find a legal land description with no GPS coordinates. Mining claims are not recorded at BLM using lat/lon. The miner’s original folder may include coordinates along with supplemental information but none of this is scanned by BLM or put online. Just the PLSS stuff. By the way, I financially support MyLandMatters and I hope you can, too.

For context, I was recently in the Goodsprings Mining District in Clark County, Nevada. Before going I noticed a very strange thing in the section I was interested in: 17 current lode claims of 20 acres each in an area of desert alluvium. What?

T.24S, R.58E, Section 8. Mount Diablo Meridian.

In checking BLM records, I saw that each of these claims were indeed filed under lode and not placer. In an area of unconsolidated rock.

When I got to the section I noticed an almost complete lack of claim markers. In theory there should be 68 but, of course, all monuments at some point get vandalized or are not maintained. I know, I am a former claim owner. But I only found two monuments in the square mile area I walked around. It is possible I missed the small pyramids of stones which often make up corner monuments?  But, really, though, just two markers?

Without any markers it was impossible to peacefully collect or prospect, never knowing if I was on claimed ground. it shouldn’t be up to me to guess. The problem is on the claim owner. Some may disagree, saying that it is up to the wandering prospector to know where they are. Without monuments being maintained, however, the whole system falls apart. Your only other choice is to pull every claim folder in the section at the county assessor’s office, provided they all exist, copy the maps in those folders, and then bring every copy into the field. At that point you will have to reconcile these maps, hoping they were each accurately done. Which most aren’t, most being hand drawn and all allowed a margin of error when filed. And you must relate them all without monuments or markers. Good luck.

What is the point of setting markers or monuments unless they are maintained? Otherwise, you just have open ground without any landmarks at all. There is no point in building something if you do not maintain it. Here’s is what BLM states, taken from the .pdf linked above:

“Staking a Mining Claim or Site Federal law simply specifies that claim and site boundaries must be distinctly and clearly marked to be readily identifiable on the ground (43 CFR Part 3832). The General Mining Law allows States to establish their own laws regarding the manner in which mining claims and sites are located and recorded. Location requirements include the placement, size, and acceptable materials for a corner post or a discovery monument. Check with the proper State agency before locating mining claims. State agencies may include the State’s geological survey, mineral resource department, lands commission, or department of environmental protection. Generally, staking a mining claim requires: • Erecting corner posts or monuments • Posting a notice of location on a post or monument in a conspicuous place (see Figures 1 and 2) • Complying with the requirements of 43 CFR Part 3830, 3832, and 3833.” Emphasis added.

One must maintain these markers since there is no other way to tell if they were ever put up in the first place. They must be clear and distinct, not invisible. To make clear, without markers on the ground, there is no way to tell if they were ever there. Someone could have filed a claim online from a thousand miles away and then maintain that someone took down their markers. After they’ve sold the claim on eBay. It happens.

The Nevada Mining Association represents commercial mining in Nevada. They know what they are talking about. In regard to staking claims, they make monument importance quite clear in a teaching guide focused on fundamentals, “The markings on the ground that outline a mining claim’s boundaries establish the claim’s location. These markings take control over descriptions given in location notices or deeds. As much, it is very important that the markings adequately define the limits of the claim.” Again, it’s not the paper map in that folder ultimately controlling, it’s the marks on the ground. They are the only real, hard, physical  proof that the claim exists.

BLM puts it another way:

“Federal law specifies that claim boundaries must be distinctly and clearly marked to be readily identifiable. Most states have statutes and regulations concerning the actual staking and recording of mining claims so claimants should refer to the appropriate state agency for additional requirements before locating a claim.

Prior to locating a claim, a prospector should check BLM records for prior recorded claims. Ultimately, the prospector must check for prior existing claim markings on the ground.”

Check for prior claim markings on the ground. Exactly. You can’t post and then neglect them. They must be there for the life of the claim. We as miners must make an effort to keep them up. What if BLM wanted to check on your claim? How would they find it without markers? Or any other government agency? Fraud has run through mining from the beginning. People sell claims on eBay, only to have the new owner wind up at a local rock shop to get help finding it.

For anyone thinking of locating a new claim, as BLM says, you must check for prior existing claim markings on the ground. Not maintaining them makes this BLM requirement impossible for another miner to fulfill. We as fellow miners can’t participate in this. I some know people want the system to work overall, but not have it apply to them. They fear people will raid their claims.

It’s often said the biggest problem with having a claim is keeping people off of it. I think, though, that people would seek good ground if a claim is well marked or not. Anyone who has identified a claim through BLM and is willing to travel to a distant area will not be deterred by a lack of markers. You may slow them down but you won’t stop them. High graders will always be around.

I have been citing the law and BLM statements and I wish anyone disputing what I am writing would cite the law as well. It gets very distressing to argue with people who cite nothing. We may disagree on a law, but a cite a law! Throw me bone to chew on. I edit and revise content for law firms across the United States and Canada. Specifics are everything. What law? What rule? What reg? If it is a court case, which one? Give me a cite. Otherwise, you have nothing but an opinion based on nothing. A judge won’t listen to that and neither should you.

No system can be built on file and forget. This attitude is completely disrespectful to our fellow miners and the rockhounding community. We inform, we communicate, we make clear. We don’t hide our claims. I maintained my markers since I was and am a good miner. I fully expect the same from everyone else.

This impacts the entire mining and rockhounding community. If I am traveling to Virginia City, for example, I will pass through five different counties as I drive along I-95. I might make ten to twelve stops along the way to check different outcroppings and desert washes. I have my BLM surface status maps and I can usually expect to connect to MyLandMatters to see how heavily claimed the ground is. If I have cell phone service.

It is totally impossible to expect any rockhound or prospector to find each county assessor’s office for copies of claim maps on such a three hundred mile run, especially on a weekend when those places are closed. Collect maps and then go back? Every time? To pick up a quarter bucket of sand or an interesting piece of andesite? Some offices are dozens of miles from a collecting spot in a poorly monumented section. That’s an entirely impossible mission. Back to Goodsprings.

BLM says some states only require a monument at the place of discovery, not all four corners. Nevada, though, does require four corner staking.

And who are these claim owners without monuments?

In doing my research, claim names like Cindy seemed innocuous and the stuff of small scale mining. But there were a lot of Cindys. One was named Cindy #288. Opening up my browser window further, I saw that Cindy was owned by ASARCO which is a world wide mining company. Every commercial operator on the planet knows ASARCO . (They offer a fine tour of their open pit Mission Mine property south of Tucson, by the way, and I highly recommend it.) The other claims were held by COVADA LLC, a corporation registered on Ellis Street in San Francisco.

Both corporations are, in effect, absentee landlords. While ASARCO and other “majors” have the money to keep claims going, they won’t want to spend money putting people in the field to keep up their markers. What kind of penalty would they face, anyway? Are you really going to sue ASARCO in federal court over a missing marker? Is BLM going to penalize them? Both situations are laughable. So, nothing gets done. Only the seven Jet Silver claims seemed owned by locals since their mailing address is in Jean, Nevada, only ten miles from Goodsprings. Click on the image below to enlarge.

Another interesting thing about the BLM reports was that only the COVADA claims had a county book and page number. The paperwork for a valid non-patented mining claim must be filed with BLM and with the county assessor’s office for the county in which the claim exists. Both places. Otherwise, the claim isn’t valid. This information may not appear on a BLM claim report but you’d have to check with the county in question to be positive that the claim wasn’t registered. Information goes missing with records, it happens. It means, though, more research and time wasting. Do you really want to do this? Far more simple to get on the ground.

In the field, though, you could come across someone who filed with BLM and not the county. Some miners don’t like to pay county filing fees. In this case, you might be right that they don’t have a valid claim. You could also be dead right. Depending on the circumstances, it is usually best to move down the road if a dispute comes up. Always have your research printed out before prospecting on well claimed ground and always be prepared to move on. At least for that moment.

Further fun ensues when you realize BLM allows a margin or error when recording the corners of a claim. Most miners don’t have their claims professionally surveyed. And there is no way to determine where a missing marker should be anyway, since none of this is based on GPS coordinates. This is all legal land description stuff, again, the public land survey system of meridian, township, range, and sections. And quarter sections and on and on. A lode claim cutting diagonally through two sections, for example, is mind bending to put down on paper using the PLSS and nearly impossible to recreate on the ground if you are not the claim owner.

The only way you can see what the miner has mapped out is by pulling their claim folder at the State BLM headquarters or at the local county assessor’s office. Claim boundaries for non-patented claims are not available through BLM. Or anywhere else that I know of unless the claim owner has put them online themselves. You may see boundaries on GoogleEarth but these are for patented claims. All you will see online is the number of claims in an area, not their location.

I once saw a miner at BLM headquarters in Sacramento trying to figure out where open ground was on the Trinity, always a good producer. He had photocopied at least ten claim maps and was trying reconcile one with the other, seeking some place to claim. Tricky. Still, he was trying in the only way possible, by pulling folders.

I’ve written enough here, it will make me only mad to continue. Below is some miscellaneous info from various sources that may make sense now that you have read this far.

Disclaimer from MyLandMatters

The mining claims represented on these maps are only displayed to the nearest section and DO NOT display the actual claim location. Sections are about one square mile and actual mining claim locations can vary considerably from their mapped location.

The only way to determine an actual claim location is to obtain the County Recorder Location Notice and amendments for the claim in question, study the mapped location and then find the location marker on the ground. Members of the public and other prospectors do not have the right to determine whether an existing claim location is valid, only a court of record can make that determination. Emphasis added


As established by Section 314 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), as amended, claims and sites must be recorded with the proper BLM state office within 90 days of the date of location and recorded with the proper county in accordance with their requirements. In Alaska, claims and sites can also be recorded with the BLM district office located in Fairbanks.

County: State laws require filing the original location notice or certificate in the county recorder’s office, county clerk’s office, or borough office. The proper county or borough is the one in which the claim or site is located. Each state has its own requirement for when a location notice must be filed and recorded. The maximum period is 90 days from the staking of a claim or site on the ground. However, some states require earlier filings, such as 30 or 60 days from the date of location. Location notices must contain the following basic information (43 CFR 3832, Subpart A, and 43 CFR 3833, Subpart A):

The date of location on the ground;
The names and individual mailing addresses of the locator(s);
The name of the claim or site;
The type of claim or site (lode or placer claim or mill site or tunnel site;)
The acreage claimed; and
A description of the parcel on the ground Local printing companies, office supply stores, stationery stores, appropriate state agencies, and BLM offices are some sources where state location notices and certificate forms might be obtained.

Nevada Law

Nevada State law (NRS 517.050) requires that locators must record their claims by filing duplicate copies of a certificate of location (Exhibit 3) with the County Recorder within 90 days after posting the notice of location. (The certificate of location is a separate document from the notice of location which must be posted on the monument when the claim is located). The certificate of location must state the name of the claim, the name and mailing address of the locator or locators, the date of location, the number of feet claimed along the length of the vein in each direction from the location monument, the number of feet claimed on each side from the center of the vein, the general direction of the vein, a statement that the work of location consisted of making a map as provided in Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS517.040), and the location and description of each corner and its markings. A claim is void if a certificate of location containing the above information is not filed within the 90-day period. The required map must be filed with the County Recorder simultaneously with the location certificate.
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Map Videos Coming

I’ll take a stab at why certain hardcopy maps are still essential, providing a big picture view that a small screen cannot begin to give. For prospecting and traveling to new areas, maps like BLM’s Surface Status Management Maps (Status maps), still lead the way to new ground and new adventures.

Click on the link below if a video preview does not appear above:


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Burro Creek Campground Near Wikieup, Arizona

Updated February 1st, 2020

Burro Creek Campground is about ten miles or fewer from Wikieup, Arizona. This campground is base camp for rock clubs from as far as Utah. Agate is the main draw in the surrounding area, not at the camp itself. Potable water, first-come, first serve, the small group camp by reservation. $14 a night for the individual camp sites. Good pull throughs. Would advise smaller vehicles, ideal tent camping. No day use fee!

The creek is pretty but pedestrian access is through narrowly spaced pipes and a nasty barbed wire fence encloses the entire campground. Watch your kids around it. Good, clean water flowing right now. Great canyon setting, about 1,900 feet. Didn’t check cell coverage, I assume none. Anybody not enjoying rockhounding would still enjoy this campground.

View from the bridge over Agate Creek. The canyon invites exploring although get a BLM surface status management map of the area to show public land ownership.

The bridge abutments are nicely done in Southwestern Art Deco style.

Don’t drive across the bridge with any large vehicle or a trailer in tow. Single lane dirt road beyond the bridge, I don’t know at what point you could turn around. Ask first. Logical place to turn around is the campground with its pull throughs in the Day Camp and regular campsite areas. Group camp looks tricky to turn around a large vehicle.

The following is from my SW travel list which is free

Burro Creek Recreation Site (BLM managed)

Burro Creek Campground
Burro Creek Campground Road

34°32.163′ N 113°27.112′ W Coordinates for BLM campground

These are the coordinates for the preferred intersection of Burro Creek Campground Road and Highway 93:

34°32.02667′ N 113°25.935 W

BLM’s Burro Creek Recreation Site, known to rockhounds as Burro Creek, is frequented mostly for agates. It is approximately 60 miles northwest of Wickenburg. Wikeiup is Burro Creek’s nearest town, with gasoline and limited supplies available. Rock and Gem Clubs from as far as Utah make field trips to Burro Creek, sometimes each year. It is a beautiful area.

For your first visit, go with a group to find the best spots. People camp at BLM’s Burro Creek Campground since there are no local hotels. Fee charged. Most collecting is done on the other side of Highway 93. Consult Gem Trails of Arizona if nothing else. The most sought agates are those with purple or violet. The slab pictured here was gifted to me, it has a nice violet tinge when seen in the right light.

The Kingman Field Office manages the area as well as the nearby Upper Burro Creek Wilderness Area. Inquire about the group campground of somewhat small size. A nasty barbed wire fence encloses the campground, a few fence breaks allow creek access.

How about a Google Map to the right intersection?

All 4X4 owners want a picture of their rig. It’s a thing.

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Prospecting Thoughts While Traveling in Southern Nye County, Nevada

The fun stuff: Instagram — tgfarley

I went driving today to my club’s claims in the Johnnie Mining District in the hills outside Pahrump, Nevada. I never made it.

Instead, while driving HWY 160 west toward Pahrump, I thought about all the BLM land to the south of that road that may have not been recently prospected or rock hounded. The reason? A sturdy and nasty barbed wire highway fence with few breaks in it, only one faint road into the area in several miles, and few good pullouts to park. That’s enough to deter most prospectors even if the land is open and the ground unclaimed.

Compare that to Crystal Road, which strikes north from HWY 160 about four miles from I-95. No highway fence on either side. Fairly soon after leaving HWY 160, 15 to 20 large piles of dirt appear somewhat randomly over a mile or so to the east of Crystal Road as one travels to Crystal. Backhoe produced. Someone searching for gold.

I looked over some of these piles and their trenches. Must have been fairly old workings as BLM now requires a plan and  permit to operate heavy machinery on a claim. Unless some locals went rouge one day, possibly sampling on a large scale.

While I didn’t see any claim markers I felt uneasy about investigating further. Normally I would break out my metal detector or a bucket to take some rock and gravel. The more rural you get, however, the more testy locals become. I did have my laptop and there was cell coverage. I could have pulled up LandMatters to see if the area was under claim. But all map drawing websites are painfully slow with an average cell connection.

When I got home I researched the area a little. That ground was indeed unclaimed, with the only a large set of claims around the rough settlement of Crystal. If I go again to sample I will print out some maps first. In thinly populated areas, any truck parked on the side of the road gets attention. A person with a metal detector, a pick, and some five gallon buckets may be the highlight of the day for a nearby resident. Word will get out fast. If you prospect, you must handle the attention it attracts.

When I was last at my club’s claims, a fellow member pointed out the view east to I-95. “There’s gold all the way to the highway.” Hmm. Maybe washed from the hills. But in paying amounts? Some people think so, judging by those exploratory diggings and the fact there are so many claims around Crystal.

With temperatures now climbing, and my book deadline getting closer, I won’t be going back soon. But I will keep wondering about the area. And wondering what lies on the other side of HWY 160, the same looking ground but prospecting seemingly defeated by a wire fence. There is much to explore.

Okay, I will admit it. I got under that fence to sample a wash. Brought the gravel home. I don’t hope for gold when sampling blind, I look for black sand. Hardly any. But I didn’t get out my Whites GMT, which has a black sand tracking feature. It produces a  numerical readout to close in on areas with a greater likelihood of paystreaks. It’s far easier to search a gravel bar or a desert wash than with any other method.  But I ramble.




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My Apologies to the BLM

I wrote previously that the BLM doesn’t recognize rockhounding anymore as an activity. While that may be the case at the national level, the BLM in California still recognizes rockhounding as the vital and rewarding hobby that it is.

This page recognizes rockhounding with a video featuring Bill Depue, Founder and President of Diamond Pacific Tool in Barstow, perhaps the leading manufacturer  of lapidary equipment in the world. I had the great privilege of meeting Bill a month or two ago and I wrote about it here. In keeping with his modest character, Bill wears a Diamond Pacific hat but never mentions his involvement.

Interestingly, that page does not list all California BLM  rockhounding sites, it just mentions that the activity exists. Their Needles field office once had no reservation about describing sites.

Click here for an archived page that list sites under Needles’ management along with photographs showing what might be collected at each one. This is true endorsement. But I appreciate any effort that BLM California makes. Thank you!

Photograph below of Bill Depue.





BLM Doesn’t List Rockhounding As An Activity Anymore

This is so depressing. It’s like there is a war against rockhounding. Nearly fifty activities listed by BLM and none of them rockhounding. It’s not that all BLM land is closed to rockhounding, much is open, but there is something wrong when BLM hides our hobby. It’s even more strange because BLM has areas they’ve specially set aside for rockhounding, with no claims permitted in most of these designated areas. So why aren’t they listed at their search site?

I get the feeling they think we are destructive. And yet a BLM permitted quarry or mine can destroy countless fossils or specimens of copper and turquoise that any rockhound would love to have.

In a commercial ore mine, most mineral or crystal specimens are not economical to recover so they are run through the mill. Rockhounds treasure even the smallest specimens. We don’t tear up thousands of acres or make pits eight hundred feet deep. Yet today on much of BLM land we’re not allowed to pick up a single rock.

On a current BLM page I read this:

“Collecting may not be allowed in special management areas, such as wilderness and national historic sites or on mining claims.” That’s totally misleading. Unless expressly prohibited, wilderness areas, both USFS and BLM managed, are completely open to casual collecting. I’ve been in correspondence with top people at BLM management in Washington D.C. and I have their written assurances that such collecting is allowed. This is that misleading page:

On another current BLM page, this is stated: “In most instances, public lands are open to rockhounding although no collecting is allowed in National Monuments. BLM can help you make this determination.” Again, completely misleading. Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada and Mojave Trails National Monument in California allow rockhounding. There are probably others. This is that misleading page:

As Jim Boone points out, most BLM land that has not been shut down to collecting remains open to rockhounding or claiming. But that acreage dwindles every year, as former BLM land is moved into National Parks or Monuments.

The area now known as the Mojave National Preserve had a rich history of rockhounding as well as commercial mining. But in going to Preserve status, the Federal government ended all mineral entry, including specimen collecting by rockhounds. Every one of its 1.6 million acres is now totally closed to picking up a single rock. I once had to ask staff personnel if it was permissible to make a plaster cast of an animal track. They debated that for a while and then said it would be legal as long as I didn’t step on any other tracks while I was making one. Sheesh.

Here’s a web page that shows you how to determine land BLM still considers public rockhounding areas. You have to search for rockhounding by that name. Know, too, that many BLM pages which featured rockhounding areas are now gone, like the one for Burro Creek, Arizona.



















And if you want an idea of an area that has been closed down, get a look at what 1.6 million acres looks like:

Rockhound Alert! Comments to BLM Needed Now!

BLM is considering opening the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and surrounding areas to casual collecting of rocks, gems, and minerals, as well as non-vertebrae fossils. This vast area in Southern Utah has been closed to collectors since 1996.

BLM needs your comments by November 30th. The following .pdf file gives you ways to comment electronically and by post. It also links to other valuable resources.

The Southern California Paleontological Society is at the forefront of the comment movement, having drafted an excellent letter supporting the opening of this rugged yet beautiful land.

Original letters  are strongly urged. I typed up a letter this morning and it is already in the mail. Here’s wishing you get involved, too. Thanks in advance!

Copy of my letter sent to BLM:

11/06/ 2018

669 S. Hwy 89A
Kanab, UT 84741
Attn: Matt Betenson

Re: GSENM-KEPA RMPs-EIS Vol. 1-508, Comment on Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Kanab-Escalante Planning Area Draft Resource Management Plans and Environmental Impact Statement

To Whom It May Concern:

Hello, my name is Thomas Farley and I am an outdoor writer living in Las Vegas, Nevada. I support a decision to open up the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) and the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area to casual rock collecting.

The request for comments suggests that  proper identification of the subject be made so I am forced to use boilerplate in this paragraph.  Specifically, I am commenting on the “Management Actions incorporated in Alternative D specific to the Kanab- Escalante Planning Area listed under Record # 1050 and #1051 (in the Draft Resource Management Plans and Environmental Impact Statement), and the Management Actions incorporated in Alternative D specific to units of the Grand Staircase National Monument listed under Record # 1048 and #1049, which would allow casual collecting in designated and posted areas within the monument.”

As to my comments, I belong to several rock, gem, and mineral clubs, as well as two  prospecting clubs. I am currently writing a book on rockhounding for beginners in the Southwestern United States. Adventure Publications is my publisher and the book will be out in early 2020. In my writing for the book I’ve encountered countless rockhounds who are aggrieved with the constantly diminishing amount of public land to collect on. I would urge all planners in this matter to consider allowing casual collecting in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) and the Kanab-Escalante Planning Area (KEPA). These grounds have been closed for too long. Nearby Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada allows casual collecting of rocks and minerals and has suffered no ill effects. As land withdrawn from mineral claims, these kind of areas allow rockhounding without the worry of trespass and as such provide a stress free exploring experience.

Rockhounding is an enjoyable solo and family activity. Sadly, the hobby seems to be gentrifying as fewer and fewer young people participate in the hobby. I think these numbers would increase as ground open to collecting increases. As an adjunct to camping or even day trips,  rockhounding is a terrific pastime that encourages an appreciation for our public lands. It increases tourism and brings money to rural towns and villages.  I strongly advise the committee to allow casual collecting.

Best regards,

Thomas Farley
3250 S Town Center Drive Unit 2036
Las Vegas, NV 89135

A BLM Permit for Rockhounding?

I visited the BLM office in St. George, Utah yesterday morning. It’s well done  with some interesting displays and local maps and books available. This is BLM’s Arizona Strip Office, which manages land in Arizona north of the the Grand Canyon, mostly remote, rugged ground with no services. An empty quarter if you will.

When I mentioned that I was a rockhound they asked me to sign a permit. I have never encountered this. Good for a year, it outlines the rules and regulations for casual collecting in the Arizona Strip District, much of which is closed. Rather than being an actual permit that one has to possess, I think it is  more of an official way of notifying rockhounds as to the ground rules. An employee explained it as “a backup” to have when rockhounding.

Although the BLM people were very friendly, they knew much more about ground that was closed than open. I received no information on good places to collect. Unless you happen to run into a district’s geologist by sheer chance, you may find that better open ground information will come from BLM web pages and telephoning the Right People before you visit. Frustratingly, some information handed out at the office was simply wrong.

Literature at their office said that BLM managed National Monuments are closed when in fact some are open, like Gold Butte in Nevada. Just check BLM’s website of the monument. This office had maps and brochures of Gold Butte, but, again it is open to casual collecting, not closed. Print out web pages disclosing open ground information of any area before going. This may save you from arguments in the field.

To add to all the contradictory language you will find on the web, this BLM reviewed document entitled Mining Claim Procedures for Nevada Prospectors and Miners explicitly states that no permit is required for rockhounding. In general, BLM and USFS offices act as their own fiefdoms, enforcing whatever rules they see fit to run their area.

“No permits are required for ‘weekend” or ‘amateur’ prospecting and rock collecting including using hand tools, pans, and metal detectors on land open to prospecting (Nevada BLM “Collecting on Public Lands,” BLM/NV/GI-98/0031), but if you are planning to use a dredge of any kind, you must contact the Nevada Division of Wildlife, 1100 Valley Road, Reno, NV 89512; telephone: (775) 688-1500 for information and permits for that type of prospecting.”

On a positive note, I visited the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area outside of St. George and found the scenery beautiful. BLM notes it as a rockhound area. Although I didn’t have time to search, only to take pictures, I would like to spend more time there in the future. See the photo below.

Update: I understand that the campground is closed for renovation, this now being February of 2020.


A happy hiker in the Virgin River Gorge area looking for petroglyphs.