Many people enjoy the challenge of searching for gold in Idaho's streams and rivers by means of recreational mining. The alteration of stream channels by using recreational mining equipment in a stream is regulated in Idaho by the Stream Channel Protection Act. Recreational mining equipment can be any implement that is used to dig, scrape, dredge, or otherwise move stream bed materials from below the mean high watermark in search of minerals. If powered, your mining equipment may not exceed specific size and capability requirements. For example, if you use a suction dredge, it must have a nozzle diameter of 5 inches or less and be rated at no more than 15 horsepower and be capable of processing no greater than two (2) cubic yards of material per hour. Other powered and non powered mining equipment also have capacity restrictions. The Stream Channel Protection Act also requires that a miner must obtain a permit from the Idaho Department of Water Resources before the miner alters any portion of the stream bed. State regulations also specify the streams where recreational mining is allowed.
WARNING: It is a misdemeanor in Idaho to alter a stream channel without the permit or to violate the conditions of the permit. You can be fined from $150-$500 per day for violations. Also, it is important to understand that an IDWR permit does not allow you access to private lands or on another person's mining claim or lease. Mineral removal from streams on private lands requires permission or a mineral lease from the owner.