Metal detector use is legal in many places across the United States.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allows it on its public lands, including national forests and some designated state parks. Nevada State Parks allow it as long as you have written permission from the park superintendent or manager.
There’s so much open space throughout the country that finding an area where you cannot legally hunt with a metal detector might seem hard. But don’t worry — we’ll show you how to find your spot!
Metal detecting on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) lands is a popular activity for those searching for and finding metal objects such as coins, jewelry, and artifacts. BLM lands are managed by the federal government and are open to the public for recreational activities such as metal detecting.
However, it is important to follow all laws and regulations related to metal detecting on BLM lands to ensure that this activity is conducted responsibly and sustainably.
To get started with metal detecting on BLM lands, you must obtain a metal detector and familiarize yourself with its operation. You should also research the history of the area you will be searching and any relevant laws and regulations.
It is important to obtain a permit if required and to follow all guidelines for metal detecting on BLM lands, such as obtaining permission before searching on private property and respecting sensitive cultural and natural resources. Be sure to follow all local, state, and federal laws related to metal detecting and artifact collection.
What Is Metal Detector Use All About?
Metal detectors use electromagnetic waves to send signals into the soil and objects buried within it. These signals bounce back when they hit something metallic. A receiver picks up these signals and converts them into digital sound waves for us to hear.
This technology allows modern-day treasure hunters to search dirt for gold nuggets, silver bars, and other valuable metals. This hunting has been around since ancient times, but technology has recently become advanced enough to make it possible.
There are also newer uses for metal detectors, such as archaeology and mineral exploration. Archaeologists use metal detectors to locate artifacts underneath layers of Earth or sand. Mineral explorers often use metal detectors to look for deposits of minerals underground that could lead to new mines.
You can even use a metal detector to help identify the age of different rocks and fossils. For example, if you want to know whether a rock was formed before or after dinosaurs roamed the Earth, you can take a sample of it and run it through a metal detector to determine its material.
What Are the Rules & Regulations?
As far as federal regulations go, metal detectors are entirely legal on public lands managed by the BLM, provided that you obey all local laws while doing so. On private property, however, things are a little bit trickier.
The National Park Service (NPS), which oversees national parks, monuments, and related properties, prohibits using metal detectors on those sites unless you have written permission from the site manager. Likewise, the NPS discourages their use in areas containing archaeological remains because they damage fragile artifacts and disturb burial grounds.
However, the NPS does allow the recreation of metal detectors on parts of Grand Canyon National Park that aren’t protected by law, provided that you get approval from the Superintendent before using them. Similarly, the NPS allows metal detector use on the north side of Custer Battlefield National Monument near Cody, Wyoming, provided that you obtain advance approval from the Superintendent.
Nevada State Parks generally prohibit metal detector use except under particular circumstances. They allow metal detectors to be used during guided tours by trained guides who have obtained proper training and equipment certification.
How Do You Get Started?
If you decide to try metal detecting, here are a few things you should know before you start:
- Before going anywhere, contact the agency responsible for managing the land you plan to visit. Most agencies will require you to fill out paperwork stating exactly why you intend to use a metal detector and how you expect to conduct yourself. If you’re unsure about what information to provide, ask one of the staff members on duty.
- Ensure you bring plenty of water, sunscreen, insect repellent, and other essential supplies.
- Be prepared to spend several hours outdoors, especially if you’re interested in finding hidden caches of valuable treasures.
- Don’t forget to dress appropriately for the weather conditions.
- Always stay alert and keep track of your location. It’s easy to lose sight of landmarks while walking through the wilderness.
- Remember that you must always abide by the rules set forth by the agency you’re visiting.
What Should I Know Before I Start?
Here are a few tips for making the most of your time spent exploring with a metal detector:
- Take note of the location of any archaeological ruins or burial grounds nearby. If you accidentally disturb anything, notify the authorities immediately.
- Don’t dig holes without knowing what you’re digging for. Leave it alone if you discover something unusual until someone else arrives to investigate.
- Never collect any artifacts that date back more than 100 years. This includes coins and other valuables that were left behind by early settlers.
- Keep an eye out for signs indicating that you shouldn’t collect artifacts. If you come across one of these, stop immediately and notify the nearest ranger station.
- Try not to walk too close to streams and lakes. Metal detectors pick up many false signals, so it’s best to avoid these areas altogether unless you are experienced in water safety.
- Stay away from areas known to contain dangerous wildlife. Never approach bears or wolves.
- If you happen to stumble upon a rare artifact worth thousands of dollars, consider contacting a museum instead of selling it to a private collector.
Where Can I Go?
Metal detector use varies depending on where you live. Here are just a few places where you might find an excellent place to hunt:
National Forests – Most public lands in America fall under the jurisdiction of the U .S. Forest Service. As a result, nearly every national forest offers some level of metal detecting opportunities.
State Parks – Many state parks offer free access to their beaches and outdoor spaces, meaning you won’t need to pay admission fees to participate. However, some state parks charge entry fees.
State Game Preserves – In addition to protecting animals, game preserves protect important archaeological and geological features. Therefore, these areas tend to be very sensitive and should never be disturbed.
State Historical Sites – Some states designate specific locations as “historic sites” for preservation purposes. These include battlefields, prehistoric villages, and other significant places. While metal detectors are typically prohibited on these sites, exceptions exist.
National Monuments – Similar to state historical sites, national monuments preserve our nation’s history. Unlike state historical sites, visitors must pay entrance fees to enter national monuments.
What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Using a Metal Detector?
While metal detector use is relatively safe, it isn’t risk-free. There are a few common mistakes that people often make, which can put themselves and others in danger:
- You are not researching the area you plan to explore beforehand. If you’re unfamiliar with the site, it’s difficult to tell what kinds of artifacts you might find.
- You are using outdated maps. Old maps are less accurate than current ones, meaning you might miss spots worth checking out or have significantly changed from an outdated version.
- You are not taking precautions against the elements. Even wearing gloves, you must protect yourself from the sun and wind. Otherwise, you might end up getting burned or becoming dehydrated.
- Not being aware of what you’re looking for. It’s easy to overlook small, valuable items when trying to find more significant pieces of metal that stand out more prominently.