Policy on Gold Panning & Mineral Collection
The National Park Service (NPS) has promulgated regulations to permit collection of rocks and minerals for personal noncommercial use in Wrangell-St. Elias. The NPS regulation at Title 36 Code of Federal Regulation, part 13.20(c) allows persons to collect all rocks and minerals except silver, platinum, gemstones and fossils.
Wrangell-St. Elias NP/P has a rich history of mining and prospecting for minerals. Most productive gold bearing stream gravel has been prospected and/or mined in the past. Many mining claims which were staked and subsequently filed upon prior to the establishment of the park are still valid. Operators on these valid claims may conduct mining operations after approval of their plan of operations by the NPS. There are large private in-holdings within the park (approximately one million acres). The owners of valid mining claims hold the existing mineral rights to their claims. Therefore, persons wanting to pan for gold or collect minerals must be aware of the land status so that they do not trespass or infringe upon the rights of the land owners.
The park was established to protect and preserve the natural resources and features for future generations. The park will not identify specific locations where gold or collectable minerals may be found. Part of the lure in panning for gold is the question, "is there gold here?" The park recognizes that recreational panning is an important visitor activity, but identification of the specific locations could result in disturbance of the ground surface due to the heavy visitor use. In addition, visitors should be aware that there was extensive underground mining in some areas. Hazardous situations such as adits, pits, toxic chemicals and old explosives may be encountered. Caution should be exercised and all such encounters should be located, avoided and reported to the District Ranger. We recommend that all visitors wishing to collect rock and minerals or do recreational gold panning check with park staff prior to conducting those activities.
Land status maps are available for inspection at park headquarters. If you have further questions or require additional information, please contact Geologist, Danny Rosenkrans at (907) 822-5234.
Did You Know?
The fishwheel, a device relied upon by many Alaskans today for harvesting salmon, was first used in the U.S. in North Carolina in 1829. A good spot to observe fishwheels in action is in the Copper River, near Chitina.