Recreational Gold Panning and Dredging Regulations
What are the regulations regarding recreational gold panning and dredging?
(See Additional Information for addresses and links to 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: This agency does not regulate recreational panning when conducted beneath the existing water surface of an active stream channel. 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.
U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM): You need to determine if the land is open to prospecting, withdrawn from mineral entry, or already covered with mining claims. No mining can occur on withdrawn land.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.
U.S. Forest Service (USFS): 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. 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.
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 due to Threatened and Endangered Aquatic Species. Contact the Utah Division of Water Rights 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 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 the Division of Water Rights and the federal land management agency (BLM or USFS) must be contacted prior to any activity or the permit will be void. With this permit, recreational dredging is only allowed for a total of 45 days during the calendar year.
If a longer time is desired, or you cannot operate within the permit conditions, or you 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. Contact the Division of Water Rights for the application and list of open streams.