Panning for gold and rock collecting on the Chequamegon-Nicolet
The collection of minor amounts of rock samples and gold panning as a
recreational activity is allowed on National Forest land, but is strictly
limited in the type of collecting activity and intensity of activity allowed.
Recreational rock collecting and gold panning activities do not grant
any rights to any discovered valuable mineral deposits. The 1872 General
Mining Law does not apply to Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest lands.
The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest authorizes recreational mineral
collecting, such as panning for gold or rock collecting without the need
for a permit. Gold panning is only allowed with the use of small hand
tools (pan, small shovel, and hand pick). Occasional recreation panning,
for an individual or group is limited to extremely small areas of stream
disturbance: A few scattered areas of less than 1 square foot and totaling
less than 40 square feet within a 500 foot segment of a stream and would
occur less than 5 days per year. The Forest does not issue permits for
more substantial recreational collecting.
The use of suction dredges, any type of motorized equipment, mercury or
any king of chemical, and sluice type devices is prohibited.
Gold panning activity is not permitted in classified trout water before
April 15th and after September 15th. You must also avoid disturbing fish
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) has the responsibility
and jurisdiction concerning water quality. Past contacts with the WDNR
have indicated that occasional recreational panning with no equipment
other than small hand tools (pan, small shovel, and hand pick as defined
in Wisconsin Administrative Code NR 345.03(8)) would not have substantial
effects on water quality and a permit would probably not be required.
Recreational rock collecting or "rock hounding" means the collecting
of surface rock samples without the need for digging tools or surface
disturbance. Rock hammers or geo-picks are allowed for use to break off
small hand samples from larger rock outcrops on surface boulders.
Digging for Quartz Crystals is prohibited at a specific historical quartzite
crystal collecting area known as "Quartz Hill", located in Oconto
County, north of Townsend and a 1/4 mile east and northeast of the junction
of FR 2123 and State Highway 32. This are has had unauthorized digging
activity that has resulted in adverse visual and environmental impacts.
You may collect small amounts of surface rock samples but may not do any
kind of digging or other surface disturbance.
The Forest Service needs to know the locations and dates of your proposed
recreational panning or rock collecting. Please contact the individual
below in advance of this activity.
Contact Greg Knight, Forest Geologist, Medford-Park Falls Ranger Station,
850 N. 8th, Hwy. 13, Medford, WI 54451, 715-748-4875, ext. 26, or email