Rocks & Minerals


The Salmon-Challis does not have a designated recreational gold panning area.  The Forest Service does not generally regulate incidental recreational panning as long as the activity is short-term; however, digging in streams or banks with picks, shovels, or other equipment is not allowed without a specific authorization from the Forest Service.  Occasional collection of small “pocket size” rock and mineral specimens is generally not regulated by the Forest Service.  

Use of metal detectors to locate mineral deposits, such as gold or silver, or to search for treasure troves or historical and pre-historical artifacts and features requires Forest Service authorization.  Metal detectors can be used without a permit to search for recent (non-historic) coins and lost metal objects only in campgrounds and other such recreation sites. However, digging or other disturbance of surface resources to recover such objects is forbidden without prior authorization. 

Most other mineral-prospecting activities require specific authorization from the Forest Service.  More information about rocks and minerals on the Salmon Challis National Forest is provided in the attached pamphlet.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Idaho issue suction dredge permits with attachments indicating rivers and streams where the dredges are not permitted.  The Salmon River and its tributaries within the Salmon-Challis National Forest are CLOSED to suction dredging.  The permits do not cover these rivers and streams.

The Central Idaho Wilderness Act of 1980 withdrew the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness from mineral location (cannot stake claims) and prohibits all forms of placer mining in the Middle Fork Salmon River and its tributaries in their entirety.  Among the Middle Fork Salmon tributaries where placer mining is prohibited are: Loon Creek, Marsh Creek, Elk Creek, Bear Valley Creek, and Rapid River. 

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities