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.