Rockhounding Rules & Information For Rock Hounds

Please help keep it fun for everyone by knowing and following the rules and guidelines laid out by the BLM.

Rock Collecting General Information:

A wide variety of rocks, minerals, and semi-precious gemstones are available for collecting on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Utah. Most BLM lands are open to rock collecting. Collectors should note that there are some restrictions, and a BLM permit may be needed depending on the amount of material you collect, how you collect it, where or when you collect, and whether or not it is used commercially. The following information is provided for the public to be used as a general guide for collecting on public lands managed by the St. George Field Office. Please collect responsibly.


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Collecting limits & permits: You can collect a reasonable amount of rocks and minerals from BLM lands, but a permit or fee may be needed if you exceed certain amounts as described below. Permits can be obtained by contacting the Geologist at the St. George Field Office.

A Reasonable Daily Collecting Amount:– fits into the trunk of a car or,- is a partial pickup truck load and,- and the material is for non-commercial use,- weighs less than 250 lbs.,- hand tools only.   

No fee or BLM permit required.

More Than a Reasonable Daily Collecting Amount:– is a full pickup truck or load or,- involves more than one trip (or partial load) and,- weighs more than 250 lbs.,- or the material is for commercial use,- or explosives or power equipment is used.    

Fee and BLM permit required.


Mining claims: Collecting on mining claims is not advised without the mining claimant’s consent because the claimant has a legal right to the minerals on the claim, including gemstones. Although mining claims should be marked with posts or markers, not all mining claims can be easily identified in the field. Check with the St. George Field Office to find out if there are any mining claims to watch out for in the area you want to collect. Many commonly collected rocks such as chert, petrified wood, obsidian, and cinders are not subject to mining claim location, even though people sometimes mistakenly stake mining claims for these minerals.


Rock stockpiles: Some BLM rock quarries have stock piles of crushed rock in them that have been established by BLM specifically for road maintenance work or by a local government agency (such as city, state, or county) or a company or individual under permit. Removing this stockpiled material is prohibited and considered theft of federal property.


Closed or restricted areas: Although most BLM lands are open to collecting, some areas such as campgrounds, cultural and historic sites, and natural areas are off limits to collecting. Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, national parks and monuments, including BLM-managed monuments are closed to collection. Other types of closures or restrictions, some of which are seasonal, include fire and wildlife. You should check with the local BLM office for more detailed information before starting out on your collecting excursion. In the St. George Field Office, collecting on Gooseberry Mesa, Little Creek Mesa, and the Santa Clara/Land Hill Area of Critical Environmental Concern is not permitted to protect cultural sites.


Other things to remember when collecting:

  1. Know whose property you are on.
  2. Get permission to collect on private property.
  3. Limit your excavation to using hand tools only.
  4. Fill in any holes that you have dug.
  5. Leave the area and all gates as you found them.
  6. Find out if there are any fire restrictions in effect.
  7. Stay out of old mines.

Maps and other information: You should contact the St. George Field Office for more detailed information about restricted areas or use restrictions. Many bookstores and rock shops may also have information or sell books and maps that can help you find other, privately-owned collecting areas.


Fossil Collecting

The BLM administers the public lands of this nation for the use and benefit of all Americans. The fossils found on public lands are part of our national heritage, so there are some special rules for their protection. The following information is provided for the public to be used as a general guide for fossil collecting on public lands managed by the St. George Field Office (SGFO).


What are Fossils?
Paleontological resources (fossils, tracks, fossilized wood) are the remains or traces of plants and animals that lived during periods of Earth’s history.   Fossils are unique, non-renewable resources that provide clues to the history of life on earth, and many are considered to have important scientific value.


Hobbyists May Collect Some Fossils for Personal Use
Most BLM managed public lands are open to exploring and hobby collecting, but some areas are managed with special restrictions to protect their natural and cultural resources. Collecting and access may be limited in these areas. Contact the SGFO to find out about areas where fossil collecting is limited.


Collection Etiquette
Fossil collecting activities that damage the public lands and resources, or that make them dangerous for others, are not permitted. Uprooting large areas of grass, sagebrush, and other plants, or digging large holes, may create hazardous conditions and can contribute to erosion. An archaeological site might even be damaged or destroyed and this is prohibited by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. Many fossil specimens are found right on the surface, and digging is often unnecessary.


Petrified Wood

You may collect as much as 25 pounds of petrified wood, plus one piece per day, for your personal use. You may collect as much as 250 pounds of petrified wood in any calendar year. But, you may not “pool” the quotas of several individuals in order to collect pieces larger than 250 pounds. Petrified wood collected for personal use may not be traded, bartered, or sold to anyone else. If you want to collect larger amounts, you may apply to the BLM Geologist for a mineral material sale permit.


Commercial sales are not authorized in BLM’s St. George Field Office (public lands in Washington County, Utah) to avoid depletion of the resource.


Invertebrate and Plant Fossils

Invertebrates are animals without backbones, such as clams, snails, ammonites, trilobites and corals. Common invertebrate and plant fossils may be collected in reasonable quantities for personal use, but they cannot be traded, bartered or sold to anyone else.

Commercial collecting of invertebrate and plant fossils from public lands is not allowed. Over-collecting of invertebrates that once were common has made some of them difficult to find. Please remember to leave something for your children and grandchildren to enjoy!


Vertebrate Fossils

Vertebrates include sharks and other fish, dinosaurs, turtles, mammals – in fact, any animal with a skeleton of cartilage or bone. Because vertebrae fossils are rare and scientifically important, they may be collected only after obtaining a permit from the BLM’s State Office.


Who May Obtain a Permit

Permits for collecting vertebrae fossils on public lands are issued to scientists with education and experience in paleontology. These scientists must arrange to put all fossils they collect in a museum or other public institution where they remain the property of all Americans.


Laws and Policies

Federal laws and regulations under which these policies are interpreted include the American Antiquities Act of 1906, the Materials Act of 1947, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, and various laws that deal with the theft, damage, or interstate transport of stolen goods (e.g.,18 USCA 641, 18 USCA 2314, 18 USCA 1361).

Information from BLM website