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The state not only owns the beds and banks of the navigable waterways below the ordinary high watermark, it also owns the mineral rights associated with this land.  The Idaho Department of Lands (IDL), acting under the direction of the State Board of Land Commissioners manages the mineral estate of these lands.

All beds of navigable rivers which have not been located, leased or withdrawn in accordance with statute or the terms of these rules, are free and open to casual exploration* and recreational mining** on a nonexclusive and first come basis.

IDL administers riverbed mineral leases and exploration locations for the extraction of precious metals, minerals, and construction materials from a placer deposit situated in state-owned submerged lands under Idaho Code Title 47, Chapter 7, Mineral Rights in State Lands and IDAPA 20.03.05 Riverbed Mineral Leasing in Idaho.

IDL maintains a list of navigable rivers with restricted mineral entry and not open for casual exploration, recreational mining, leasing, or locating.

While fees and rent for riverbed mineral leases and exploration locations are used for the administration of these instruments, royalties are deposited in the Public School Permanent Endowment Fund and used to fund public education in Idaho.

*Casual Exploration – Entry and/or exploration which does not appreciably disturb or damage the land or resources thereon. Casual exploration includes, but is not limited to, geochemical and/or geophysical exploration techniques, sampling with hand tools, and entry using wheeled vehicles for transportation to conduct such exploration. Exploration using suction dredges having an intake diameter of two inches (2”) or less shall be considered casual exploration when operated in a perennial stream and authorized under the stream protection act, Title 42, Chapter 38, Idaho Code. Refer to Section 015 for further clarification regarding casual exploration and recreational mining.

**Recreational Mining – Mining with a suction dredge having an intake diameter of five inches (5”) or less, and attendant power sources, rated at fifteen (15) horsepower or less, pans, rockers, hand tools, hand operated sluices and other similar equipment.

Riverbed Mineral Lease

A riverbed mineral lease grants the exclusive rights to specific mineral(s) below the ordinary high water mark of a navigable river within a one-mile segment.  A riverbed mineral lease is required for the use of a suction dredge with an intake diameter larger than five inches (5”) or attendant power sources rated greater than fifteen (15) horsepower on a navigable river.  A person may still apply for a riverbed mineral lease even if it is not required. 

For additional information, review the Idaho Department of Lands Riverbed Mineral Leasing Procedures.

  1. Ensure the section of riverbed is available by contacting your local IDL Supervisory Area Office.
  2. Submit the following to your local IDL Supervisory Area Office.
    1. Application Form
    2. $95 nonrefundable application fee
    3. Idaho Department of Water Resources Stream Channel Alteration Permit, if required. This may be submitted later, but must be received before a lease may be issued. 
  3. IDL will publish a notice of application to solicit public comments. A hearing will be held if requested. 
  4. If the application meets all application regulations, a lease will be granted with a 10-year term


Minimum annual rent is the greater of $160 or $1 per acre.  Actual rent is based on the expected annual cost of administering the lease.


Royalty rates are set by the Land Board.  Minimum annual royalty is $500 for commercial operations and $350 for noncommercial operations.


A $5,000 bond for commercial operations or a $1,000 bond for noncommercial operations is required.  These bonds are in addition to the bonds required by the Idaho Dredge and Placer Mining Protection Act (Title 47, Chapter 13, Idaho Code).

Exploration Location

A riverbed exploration location grants the exclusive rights to specific mineral(s) below the ordinary high water mark of a navigable river within a half-mile segment for the purpose of exploration for two years.  At the end of the two years, the locator must obtain a lease in order to maintain control of the mineral rights.  IDL may deny applications for exploration locations if the proposed activities do not constitute exploration or if the Department determines that an exploration location is not an acceptable use of that state land.

  1. Ensure the section of riverbed is available by contacting your local IDL Supervisory Area Office.
  2. Submit the following to your local IDL Supervisory Area Office.
    1. Exploration Location Certificate
    2. $250 nonrefundable fee
  3. IDL issues a copy of the recorded exploration location certificate. 


$100 worth of work must be performed each year of the location.


Annual Royalty is 5% of the gross value of the minerals recovered.


An annual report documenting performance requirement and amount of minerals recovered is due annually.


Department Contact – Boise State Office

Eric Wilson, Bureau Chief
Resource Protection and Assistance Bureau
Navigable Waterways
(208) 334-0261

For questions specific to a location, please contact the nearest Supervisory Area


Riverbed mineral leases and exploration locations may be assigned upon approval by IDL. To apply, submit the Assignment Application Form along with the $50 application fee to your local Supervisory Area Office

Other Authorizations

Certain mining activities may require prior authorization forms:

Idaho Department of Water Resources

United States Army Corps of Engineers

United States Environmental Protection Agency

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