Citations issued by the Indiana DNR in 2007, ultimately, these citations led to the new rules being formulated and now recreational gold prospecting is a legal activity in Indiana.
Photo on right shows more than 30 pounds of toxic lead that has been removed from Indiana streams by suction dredging, improving the aquatic ecosystem for fish and invertebrates alike.
I get a lot of emails from people asking about where to get a prospecting permit for Indiana. Many of these folks have called the DNR and made other inquiries trying to find out about the non-existent permit. The fact is that you DO NOT NEED a permit for most places in Indiana.
Unfortunately, the DNR has done a very poor job on their website and in their brochure of explaining the rules to the public. They mention a “permit” that is needed to prospect and this gives folks the impression that you can’t do it without some kind of DNR permit. Let me clear this up, the only place a permit is needed is on property managed by the DNR, like State Parks or State Forests or Fish & Wildlife areas, ect. Fact is that the DNR doesn’t allow any prospecting on most of their properties, so you can’t get a permit for those properties at all, thus you can’t prospect there. There are some exceptions, like Morgan Monroe State Forest, where a permit is available to allow you to pan for gold (with severe restrictions.) The DNR intentionally uses the word permit so that the prospecting rules cannot be applied to their properties, that way they can make up whatever rules they see fit for each of the DNR managed properties. To sum this up, you cannot prospect on a DNR property without a permit, MOST DNR PROPERTIES DO NOT OFFER A PERMIT, SO YOU CANNOT PROSPECT THERE!
For the rest of the state, that is, all private property and navigable waters, NO PERMIT IS NEEDED! You are covered under what the DNR calls a “general permit.” That means everyone is permitted to do it without a personal written paper permit! But, you still must follow the rules in order to prospect. In the DNR brochure this is everything under the word “OR.” The Indiana Prospecting Rules are really very simple, I will define them in simple terms for you here:
For private property (usually this means property owned by an individual or business) all you need is written permission from the owner to prospect on their land, that is it! YOU MUST HAVE THE OWNER’S PERMISSION TO SET FOOT ON THEIR LAND OR WATER!
For navigable waterways you do not need the property owners permission unless you are going to cross their land to get to the water. You do however, have to stay 50 feet or ¼ the stream width (whichever is less) away from the bank of private property that borders navigable water, unless you have the bank owners (riparian owner) permission. It is that simple! I should note that the 50 foot rule is something that the DNR added later and is not part of the official rules. I still recommend that we follow it though, out of respect to riparian property owners.
There are some waters that are not included in the “general permit.” It is a very short list and can be viewed on the DNR website or in their brochure. Make sure you read the list before going prospecting.
As for equipment, you can use a pan, sluice, highbanker, motorized suction dredge (up tp 5”) as long as you meet the above criteria concerning permission.
I hope this clears up the issue of “permits.”