In most cases, only the use of gold pans, shovels, pry bars, picks, and manually fed sluice boxes and rocker boxes are allowed in streams on public lands without a permit or authorization. In Chugach and Kenai Peninsula State Parks, (the only state parks which are presently open to any recreational mining activity) an individual is limited to one gold pan, one shovel, and one sluice box which is three feet or less in length and fifteen inches in width. In national parks and preserves, only surface sampling with a hand-held gold pan is allowed. No digging tools are allowed. Regardless of land status, the use of motorized earth-moving equipment, hydraulic mining either by gravity or mechanical methods, or the use of chemicals is not permitted by recreational miners.
Motorized vehicles are limited to existing roads and some trails. In certain situations, trails and some river outwash plains may open for official travel. Sometimes off-road vehicle permits are required for cross- country travel. Check with the agency in the area of interest.
Suction dredges with a suction hose diameter of four inches or less and sixteen horsepower or less may be used under certain conditions in national forests and on BLM lands. Check with the managing agency.
If you are using a dredge of any size, you must check with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sportfish Division. Streams may be restricted because certain fish use them for migration, spawning and rearing. Some streams are restricted during certain times of the year. The list of streams is quite long and you must know which stream you are interested in working before requesting a permit.
On any land in Alaska, a suction dredge with a nozzle diameter greater than six inches or a motor with more than sixteen horsepower or which processes more than 220 cubic yards a day requires a tri-agency permit which can be obtained from the Alaska Division of Mining. Suction dredges with a suction hose diameter greater than four inches require that a “Notice of Intent” be filed with the district manager.
A recreational miner should work only in the active stream channel or on unvegetated gravel bars. No digging or excavating should be done in the stream banks. Environmental impacts should always be considered and minimized. Mining activities in streams might be restricted or have certain time constraints to protect fish and other organisms. Even with simple tools, damage can be done. Care should be taken to minimize scarring the terrain or destroying natural resources. Fish and the aquatic insects they eat have difficulty surviving in heavily silted streams. You should not wash soil and vegetative material directly into the stream flow, as the silt and the decay of organic matter can cut off the oxygen supply to fish eggs buried within gravel spawning beds. Digging in the gravel beds can also destroy fish eggs.
Respect archeological, paleontological, and historical objects that you may find. It is unlawful to remove such artifacts from the site. In national parks, mineral specimens, except platinum, silver, gemstones, and fossils may be collected by hand in areas not specifically closed to mineral collecting.
GOLD PANNING EQUIPMENT