Recreational Gold Panning and Dredging Regulations

What is recreational gold panning and dredging?

Recreational Panning* – using non-mechanized equipment such as a pan, sluice box, or pick and shovel that does not disturb the earth above the water line or outside a dry stream bed.

Recreational Dredging* – using a suction dredge with an intake diameter of four inches or less and having a rating of twelve horse power or less, or using hand-operated sluice equipment and related tools. Dredging must occur beneath the existing water surface or upon non-vegetated sand and gravel bars within the active stream channel for a period not to exceed 45 days annually.

*from U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Utah Division of Water Rights information.

What are the regulations regarding recreational gold panning and dredging?

(See Additional Information for addresses of government agencies.)

Regulations differ depending on which federal or state agency administers the land on which you wish to pan or dredge. These agencies have maps showing the land under their jurisdiction, and land-ownership maps for the entire state can be obtained at U.S. Bureau of Land Management offices.

School & Institutional Trust Lands (formerly State Lands): You need a lease for recreational gold panning and dredging. Contact the School & Institutional Trust Lands Administration for lease information

Utah Division of Water Rights: Prospecting is only allowed on streams open to this type of activity (which depends on fish spawning and other factors). Contact the Utah Division of Water Rights for a list of open streams. Recreational dredging on any stream requires a permit from the Utah Division of Water Rights (see permit information below).

U.S. Forest Service: Most of the National Forests in Utah are open to prospecting, including gold panning. However, some areas within the National Forests are privately owned or already contain mining claims; therefore, you cannot prospect in these areas without permission from the owner or claimant. Additionally, other areas are closed to all types of prospecting and mining. Contact the local District Ranger’s office for information about these areas and land ownership. Recreational dredging on any stream requires a permit from the Utah Division of Water Rights (see permit information below). A “Notice of Intent” is required to be filed with the local District Ranger if your dredging operation might cause a disturbance of surface resources in a National Forest.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM): You need to determine if the land is open to prospecting, withdrawn from mineral entry, or already covered with mining claims. No mining can occur on withdrawn land. If current mining claims are present, you need to obtain permission from the mining claimant before panning or dredging. To obtain withdrawal and claim status, contact the BLM with the township, range, and section coordinates for your location (shown on topographic maps). Recreational dredging on any stream requires a permit from the Utah Division of Water Rights (see permit information below).

Restricted Areas: National parks, monuments, and recreation areas, state parks, Indian reservations, military reservations, wildlife refuges, and officially designated wilderness areas are closed to prospecting. The entire Utah stretches of the Green, Colorado, and San Juan Rivers are closed to dredging and sluicing activity under the Recreational Dredging and Sluicing Application (see permit information below) due to Threatened and Endangered Aquatic Species. Contact the Utah Division of Water Rights or the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining for additional permit information regarding activities along these rivers.

Do I need a permit?

You do not need a permit for recreational gold panning on BLM or Forest Service land, as long as you follow the regulations stated in the section above.

However, recreational dredging on any stream requires a permit from the Utah Division of Water Rights. The Recreational Dredging and Sluicing Application must be filed with both the Division of Water Rights and the local BLM office. With this permit, recreational dredging is only allowed for a total of 45 days during the calendar year. If a longer time is desired, contact the Utah Division of Water Rights, the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, or the appropriate federal land management agency for additional information and requirements. Contact the Division of Water Rights for the application and additional information.

If you cannot operate within the Utah Division of Water Rights conditions or want to conduct activities on streams closed to prospecting or mining, other forms of permitting are required. Contact the Utah Division of Water Rights, the Utah Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining, or the appropriate Federal land management agency for additional information and requirements.