Minerals and Geology - Rockhounding Rules for the Ouachita National Forest


Rockhounding and Mineral Collecting Activities

Rockhounding and mineral specimen collecting on the Ouachita National Forest is considered to be hobby or personal activity involving the occasional removal of small amounts of material by hand from surface exposures of rock and quartz veins. Such material obtained in this manner should be for personal use only and cannot be sold. Rockhounding under this condition does not include excavating or any kind of digging to expose quartz crystal bearing veins. The removal of material from lands already under mineral contract, claim, permit or lease, must be with the permission of the operator. Consequently, under these conditions there is considered to be no adverse environmental impacts from rockhounding activities on the Ouachita National Forest. However, if persons and groups are interested in pursuing a short-term organized recreational rock collecting activity on the Forest that may result in access and/or excavation impacts, they can submit their proposal in writing to the District Ranger for consideration. Any such activity approved by the District Ranger may require the submission of a reclamation bond.

Within the Ouachita National Forest boundary there are many good mineral collecting localities on both Forest lands and adjacent private lands. The mineral in this area of primary interest to collectors is quartz crystal. The Federal mining laws do not distinguish between mining related activities conducted primarily for recreational versus commercial purposes; consequently, the two interests often overlap in many areas on the Forest. There are commercial crystal mines in the area that charge a daily fee for digging and removal of quartz. For the serious quartz rockhound, the commercial mines will likely provide better collecting opportunities simply because they are constantly opening new sources of crystal, increasing the potential for finding nice quality pieces.

The Forest has one developed quartz crystal collecting area: Crystal Vista on the Womble Ranger District near Mount Ida, Arkansas. This is not an active mine site. There is no fee to collect quartz from this site. For more information on Crystal Vista, contact the Womble Ranger District at telephone (870) 867-2101. Please Note: Because this is no longer an active mine, it has been well picked over and provides a limited collecting experience for most folks.

Ouachita National Forest Quartz Rockhounding Policy:

If the following simple rules are being followed, those interested in rockhounding and collecting quartz crystal from Ouachita National Forest lands do not need to make further contact with nor obtain additional permission from the District Rangers. This applies to the general Forest area and to developed quartz collecting areas on the Ouachita National Forest:

  1. Only small amounts of crystal, less than 25 pounds, is to be removed by hand.
  2. Tool, if needed, is limited to small screwdriver sized hand prying tool.
  3. Digging is not allowed under this condition unless written permission is granted by the local District Ranger.
  4. Collecting is not authorized on quartz contracts unless the permission has been granted by the contract holder.
  5. The material is for personal use only and is not to be sold (otherwise the activity could be considered a commercial venture, and one that would come under other permitting procedures and regulatory authorities).

Ouachita National Forest "Gold" panning Policy

There are no historic gold producing locations in Arkansas or Oklahoma. However, folks in or near the Ouachita and Ozark mountains can practice their panning skills under the rules listed below in preparation to going to historic gold producing locales in other parts of the country. You may want to bring some steel shot or copper BB's (NO LEAD PLEASE) to count out and mix in the gravels. Then hone your panning skills by attempting to recover the same number of steel shot or copper BB's.

Rules for panning in National Forest streams:

  1. Standard and traditional gold pans and panning methods are employed.
  2. Activity is conducted in the bed of the stream, not the bank.
  3. The activity cannot in any way alter the stream channel, nor undercut boulders nor result in creating any hazards.
  4. Only the edge of the pan or a small hand garden trowel can be used to loosen bed gravels.
  5. Any holes created in the panning process are immediately backfilled when finished.
  6. The material is for personal use only and is not to be sold (otherwise the activity could be considered a commercial venture, and one that would come under other permitting procedures and regulatory authorities).