Rockhounding is amateur geology - looking for interesting rocks and formations that illustrate part of the long history of our planet.  The exposed bedrock of the Superior lets a rockhound see parts of history that are buried deep beneath the surface on much of the rest of the planet.  Please look, but don't break apart rocks or rock formations during your explorations.

Hand collection of small amounts (<10 lbs) of common materials and stones for non-commercial use (no trade, barter, or sale) and recreational panning is allowable. No permit is required as long as the collection of samples is on the surface and there is no digging with hand tools or mechanized equipment. If you plan to collect material from a federal gravel pit, a free use permit may be required.

Collection of small amounts (<10 lbs) of common materials for resale is allowable but a Special Forest Products Permit is required, as well as a Product Plan for issuance of the permit. Call the District Office where collection is planned for information.

The use of hand tools (shovels, etc.) and a sluice box for prospecting minerals on Superior National Forest most likely constitutes prospecting or exploration of non-coal leasable minerals. Therefore for prospecting activities on Forest Service lands, a BLM prospecting permit is required on federal mineral estates, a state lease on state minerals, and proof of your private mineral rights for prospecting on other private mineral estates.

  • Contact the BLM Northeastern States Office for information on federal prospecting permits. 414-297-4400
  • Land ownership, mineral reservations, and other encumbrances can be found by accessing county land records.

Items prohibited from collection, or collection without permit:

  1. Archeological resources including any material remains of prehistoric or historic human life or activities, which are at least 50 years old, and includes the physical site, location, or context in which they are found (36 CFR 261.2).
  2. Vertebrate fossils and sharks teeth.
  3. The collection of projectile points, pottery, or any other archeological resource or artifact (36 CFR 261.9 (h)) Projectile points include ‘arrowheads’ and any prehistoric human-modified stone.

Items/issues you should be aware of:

  • Many land ownerships exist within the exterior boundaries of the Superior National Forest. It is up to you to know where you are conducting activities and to get appropriate permissions for access. A Forest Service approval/authorization is only for activities on Superior National Forest owned lands. For information on recreational geology on State owned lands see link:
  • The owners of the mineral (subsurface) estate are often different than those who own the surface estate. You must be aware of mineral estate ownership and obtain the appropriate permissions as different laws/regulations apply depending on mineral estate ownership and your intended activity.
  • Any use of a sluice box, or any other structure that either alters the steam bed or diverts, changes, or otherwise utilizes water in a stream is under the jurisdiction of the state, and the riparian owner. The state lands and minerals department, area hydrologist, and/or fisheries departments must be contacted for information on additional restrictions/permits.
  • Commercial and non-commercial prospecting or rock hounding is prohibited in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

Rockhounding Areas

  • Gunflint Ranger District area description
  • Centennial Trail
  • Magnetic Rock Trail
  • Tofte Ranger District area description
  • Carlton Peak Trail