How to Find Federal Lands That Are Open to Gold Mining Claims

The federal government owns thousands of acres of property where members of the public can prospect for gold. Individuals who find an area with significant amounts of gold will want to file a claim for the area, which gives you a right to remove the gold from the property and provides certain protections from other people mining the property. The first step in filing a federal mining claim is to determine which pieces of property are available and still eligible for claims. The process will involve searching specific maps and contacting both county and federal government officials.


    • 1

      Pick a state to begin your search for federal lands that can be claimed. The U.S. Department of Interior lists the following states as being the most likely areas to find valuable minerals on federal land: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

    • 2

      Order a Surface Management Edition map from the appropriate regional office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Once you've selected a state to begin your search, you can determine which regional office of the Bureau of Land Management to contact by visiting the bureau's website. The Surface Management Edition maps show which areas of a state are owned by the federal government, and thus potentially available for a mineral claim.

    • 3

      Narrow your search to a specific plot of ground on federal property. Generally a federal mining claim must be made on a piece of property 20 acres or less. Once you've identified a piece of property that you believe has mining potential, very clearly mark its location on your Surface Management Edition map. If you have access to GPS technology, also mark its GPS coordinates.

    • 4

      Contact a property ownership officer in the county courthouse in which the property is located. Often property ownership information can be found in county offices with names such as Register of Deeds, County Assessor, County Appraiser or County Clerk. Show the appropriate county officer the map location or GPS coordinates of the plot you are researching. Ask for a legal description of the property. The legal description lists the township number, range number, section number and section quadrant.

    • 5

      Use the legal description to request a claim report for the plot of ground you are researching. The regional office of the Bureau of Land Management will have the claim report. The claim report will list any mining claims that have been filed on the property, and list whether they are active and in good standing. If the plot of property does not have any active claims, it then can be considered a piece of federal ground open to a mining claim.

Tips & Warnings

  • Just because a property is owned by the federal government does not make it available for a gold mining claim. National parks, for example, generally are not eligible for gold mining claims.
  • Once you've found a plot of federal ground open to a gold mining claim, there are many additional steps required to actually file the claim.
  • Federal and county offices have the right to charge you fees for copying maps and legal documents.
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  • Photo Credit Pyrite (fool's gold) isolated on white image by Tamara Kulikova from

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