The Minerals Program manages the state endowment lands mineral estate, which covers approximately three million acres. The program also manages the Idaho public trust lands mineral estate. The public trust lands consist of the beds of Idaho's navigable rivers and lakes. In addition, the program administers several regulatory programs covering dredge and placer mining, surface mining and abandoned mine lands.
QUESTIONS? Contact one of our statewide Area Offices by using our Interactive Map or visit our Area Offices web page.
Idaho is truly the Gem State. Since the origin of the earth, geologic processes combined to make the rocks of Idaho a mineral collector's storehouse. This, coupled with the beautiful forests and streams, makes Idaho the place where the rock collector's dreams come true.
• I will respect private property and do no rockhounding without the owner's permission.
• I will use no firearms or blasting materials in rockhounding areas.
• I will take all garbage home or deposit it in proper receptacles.
• I will leave gates as found.
• I will cause no willful damage to materials or take more than I can reasonable use.
• I will fill excavations which may be dangerous to humans or livestock.
• I will discard no burning material, matches, tobacco, etc.
All Idaho State endowment lands are open to casual exploration for gemstones and mineral specimens providing they are not under a valid exploration location or mineral lease. Information regarding status of State endowment lands can be obtained from the Idaho Department of Lands' Supervisory Area Offices.
Rockhounds are welcome to collect rocks and gemstones from most public land administered by the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management, but there are some exceptions. Some lands are withdrawn or reserved for certain purposes such as national landmarks, outstanding natural areas, research areas, recreation sites, national historic sites, etc. Rockhounding is usually not permitted in these areas. Rockhounding on valid mining claims is not advised without the locator's consent because of legal problems which might arise between the locator and the collector. Additional information concerning public lands can be obtained from the Idaho Bureau of Land Management, 1387 South Vinnell Way, Boise, Idaho 83709, Telephone (208) 373-3890.
A state mineral lease allows you to mine and remove minerals from state endowment land. Leases cover up to 640 acres on lands, or one river mile on navigable streams. To hold a mineral lease you must obtain a bond and pay an annual rental of $1.00 per acre per year with a minimum of $160.00 per year. There is also a $25.00 application fee. Royalties must be paid to the state for any minerals removed. Leases on navigable streams require a prepaid royalty. Application forms are available at the Idaho Department of Lands offices and on our web site.
Panning for gold and recreational suction dredging may require a Recreational Mining Permit issued by the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR). Please check with them for more details at this location:
In addition to this permit, panners and dredgers must be careful about obtaining the landowner’s permission. Once you have identified your area of interest, review county records in the county assessor's office or other maps to determine ownership. Navigable rivers and streams are under the control of the State of Idaho, and many are open for casual exploration if no one has filed an exploration location or mineral lease on that portion of the river and a Recreational Mining Permit is obtained from IDWR. A number of navigable rivers have been withdrawn from mineral entry. For additional information concerning these withdrawals check with the Idaho Department of Lands.
If you want to prospect in a small river or stream, be sure to check the ownership of the property. If the creek is on privately owned land you may be able to obtain permission from the landowner. If the creek is within public land administered by the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management, check with those agencies for any mining claims which may have been filed and for current regulations. If the creek is on state endowment land, an exploration location or a lease is required for any recreational activity because these lands are managed for the benefit of public schools and other endowment beneficiaries. Please contact the local Idaho Department of Lands Area Office for information on exploration locations and mineral leases on state lands.
A state exploration location gives you the exclusive right to explore and prospect for gold and other locatable minerals on state endowment lands not already under location or lease. Exploration locations may also be filed on the beds of navigable rivers and streams between the ordinary high water marks. An exploration location covers 20 acres or one-half (½) of a surveyed government lot. Exploration locations are valid for a two-year period beginning on the first of the month following the date of filing. There is no limit to the number of exploration locations you may file and you will have a preferential right to a mineral lease when the exploration location expires. If you do find commercial quantities of minerals on your exploration location, you must obtain a mineral lease from the state before removing the minerals. Exploration location forms are available at the Department of Lands office in Boise as well as all area offices statewide. Fees: Lands $100.00 per location; Navigable Streams $250.00 per location
The Idaho Geological Survey has publications for sale that describe the geology and mining history of many mineralized areas in Idaho. The collector will find the publications a help in researching for Idaho minerals.
Publication inquiries can be forwarded to: Idaho Geological Survey, University of Idaho, Morrill Hall, Third Floor, P O Box 443014, Moscow ID 83843, (208)885-7991. Other publication that might be of interest to the mineral collector: Gem Minerals of Idaho (by John A. Beckwith); Idaho Minerals (by Lanny R. Ream); The Minerals of Idaho (by Earl V. Shannon).
Maps showing land status (federal, state, private) can be purchased from the Idaho State Office of the Bureau of Land Management. These maps also show roads, major trails and other useful features.
More specific information on the geology of Idaho and the distribution of various minerals is available from geologists in the office of the Idaho Geological Survey in your area.
Idaho Geological Survey
Third Floor Morrill Hall, room 303
University of Idaho campus
Moscow, Idaho 83844
For the Boise location:
Idaho Geological Survey
322 E. Front St., Ste. 242 (office 324G)
Boise, ID 83702
NOTE: Documents on this page are available in either WORD or PDF format.
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