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Can You Collect Rocks in State Parks? All 50 States Answered

Can You Collect Rocks in State Parks? All 50 States Answered
The entrance of Rockhound State Park

If you’re visiting a state park it’s completely natural to want to take a piece of it home with you to remember the trip. Lots of people like to collect rocks to remember their trips by, or just because they found something really cool while spending time outdoors. But if you’re visiting a state park and are thinking about taking a piece of it home with you, you might have that nagging question in the back of your mind – “Are you allowed to take rocks from a state park?”

In most states, taking rocks from state parks is not permitted. The vast majority of states forbid it entirely in order to protect their parks from damage. However, it is allowed in some states – especially with a permit. Some states even have entire parks devoted to rock and mineral collecting.

I decided to put this resource together for anyone wondering about their particular state’s parks. I researched every single state and found whatever I could about the laws and regulations regarding rockhounding in state parks and condensed it here for ease of reference. Please note that the laws and rules may change over time or by location, so make sure to check with your park officials before taking anything.

State Park Rockhounding Laws: State-by-State

If you’re planning on heading to the field, make sure you have all the gear you’ll need! To get started, you can check out my recommended gear page. That page contains my full reviews for every Geologist’s favorite rock hammer and the best hiking backpack I’ve ever owned.

Alabama

Status: Illegal

Statute: “It shall be unlawful for any person to destroy, disturb, deface, collect or remove any natural, cultural, historical, archeological, geological, mineralogical, etc., objects or artifacts from any Alabama State Park.” Source

See my Alabama Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Alaska

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “You are prohibited from taking rocks, flowers, plants, fossils, and historical artifacts from Alaska State Parks.Source

See my Alaska Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Arizona

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Arizona State Parks & Trails (ASPT) prohibits the removal of items from any park facility. ASP’s mission is to manage and conserve Arizona’s natural, cultural and recreational resources for the benefit of the people. This policy is similar to National Parks and other protected natural resources. Other agencies throughout the (AZ State Land, BLM, National Forests, etc.) may provide permits for these activities.” Source

See my Arizona Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Arkansas

Status: Illegal, but with some exceptions

Statute: “The destruction, defacing, or removal of any public property, including trees, plant, signs, and equipment, is unlawful” Source

Comments: The statute does not explicitly mention rocks, but the intent seems to cover taking rocks from state parks. They also specifically mention encouraging their patrons to adhere to the “Leave No Trace” principles, which would rule out taking rocks from the area.

One notable exception is Crater of Diamonds State Park. This is one of the best family-friendly rockhounding locations in the entire country, where you can spend all day searching for you own diamonds. If you want to know more about it, I wrote about this park and other locations like it in my article about the best places to find crystals.

See my Arkansas Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

California

Status: Permitted (mostly)

Statute(s): “No person shall destroy, disturb, mutilate, or remove earth, sand, gravel, oil, minerals, rocks, paleontological features, or features of caves except rockhounding may be permitted as defined and delineated in Sections 4610.” Source

That last bit about rockhounding being permitted is important. Looking at the statue it refers to, we see:

  • Rockhounding is authorized by Section 5001.65 of the Public Resources Code.
  • “Rocks or mineral specimens gathered within a unit may not be sold or used commercially for the production of profit.”
  • “One person may gather, in one day in one unit, not more than 15 pounds of mineralogical material or not more than one specimen plus 15 pounds of mineralogical material.”
  • “Tools, except goldpans to be used in gold panning, may not be used in rockhounding within a unit.”

Comments: What this all means is that you can pick up rocks and minerals in most areas as long as you don’t take too much, you don’t sell what you find, and you don’t use any tools. There are some other stipulations around recreation areas and how you pan for gold, but otherwise it looks you’re in the clear.

See my California Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Colorado

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “[It shall be prohibited] to remove, destroy, mutilate, modify or deface any structure, water control device, poster, notice, sign or marker, tree, shrub or other plant or vegetation, including dead timber and forest litter, or any object of archaeological, geological, historical, zoological or natural/environmental value or interest on Parks and Outdoor Recreation Lands. (This regulation does not include removal of firewood from designated firewood areas, noxious weeds as defined by statute, or recreational gold mining within the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, except where prohibited as indicated by posted signs.)” Source

See my Colorado Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Connecticut

Status: Prohibited, with rare exceptions for educational clubs

Statute: “Collecting rocks and minerals on State land is NOT allowed, however, a limited number of mineral localities on state property are accessible on a permit basis for public educational mineral collecting.” Source

See my Connecticut Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Delaware

Status: Unclear – not expressly permitted or prohibited

Statute: There are regulations protecting wildlife, plants, and historical artifacts, but nothing explicitly mentioning rocks and minerals. Source

See my Delaware Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Florida

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Individuals that are conducting ‘observational research’ are not required to apply for a research/collecting permit but will be required to pay normal park entry fees. Observational research is limited to the types of activities that the typical park visitor can engage in; must be conducted during normal park operating hours; must not involve collecting or handling natural objects.” Source

See my Florida Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Georgia

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “All wildlife, plant life, driftwood, artifacts and any other natural or man-made features are protected and may not be disturbed or removed. Please do not leave painted rocks or other structures in parks. Painting, carving or vandalizing rocks, structures or other natural resources is not allowed. Please leave wildflowers for other visitors to enjoy. Possession of metal detecting equipment is prohibited.” Source

See my Georgia Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Hawaii

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Leave all plants, geological, historical, and archaeological features undisturbed.Source

See my Hawaii Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Idaho

Status: Prohibited with rare exceptions

Statute: “The digging, destruction or removal of historical, cultural or natural resources is prohibited. Collection for scientific and educational purposes will be through written permission of the park manager or designee only.” Source

See my Idaho Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Illinois

Status: Illegal

Statute: “It shall be unlawful for any person to remove, take, alter, construct, mutilate, deface or destroy any natural or man-made property, equipment, improvement, sign, trail or building.” Source

See my Illinois Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Indiana

Status: Illegal

Statute: “Except as authorized by a license, a person must not do any of the following within a DNR property: … Damage, interfere with, or remove a rock or mineral.” Source

See my Indiana Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Iowa

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Removal or defacement of other types of natural features such as bird nests and rock formations is prohibited, as is removal or defacement of cultural features such as Native American artifacts and mounds.” Source

See my Iowa Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Kansas

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Digging holes, removing geological formations, archeological relics or ruins, or vegetation (except for noncommercial use of edible wild plants, wild fruits, nuts, or fungi) is prohibited.” Source

See my Kansas Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Kentucky

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “The Department of Parks prohibits all collecting of plants, animals, and geological materials for any purpose, including scientific, unless written approval is obtained from the Commissioner of Parks. No other permission, written or verbal, is acceptable.” Source

See my Kentucky Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Louisiana

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “No person shall intentionally remove, damage, disturb, or destroy any OSP property or the property of another person, without the consent of the owner. “Property” shall include but is not limited to structures, watercraft, movables, signs, markers, natural features, cultural features wildlife, and plants.” Source

Comments: I could not find any specific references to rocks or geological features but I assume that is covered under ‘natural features’ in the statute.

See my Louisiana Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Maine

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “The removal, molesting, injury or damage of anything natural, physical, prehistorical, or historical within these areas is strictly prohibited.” Source

See my Maine Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Maryland

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “In a State park an individual may not:. 1) Remove, disturb, damage, or destroy a plant, rock, mineral, or animal” Source

See my Maryland Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Massachusetts

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “No person may damage, disturb or remove any DCR property or resource, real, natural, personal, cultural or historic, except through hunting, fishing, or trapping…” Source

See my Massachusetts Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Michigan

Status: Permitted, within limits

Statute: “Remove from state-owned land more than the aggregate total weight of 25 pounds, per individual per year of any rock, mineral specimen (exclusive of any gold-bearing material), or invertebrate fossil for individual or non-commercial hobby use.” Source

See my Michigan Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Minnesota

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Rock collecting is not allowed in the state parks and state scientific and natural areas.” Source

See my Minnesota Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Mississippi

Status: Prohibited

Statute:To destroy, cut, break, remove, mutilate, injure, take, or gather in any manner any
tree, shrub, plant, rock, mineral, or historical artifact within a park property is prohibited unless
authorized by the Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks
or his designee.
Source

See my Mississippi Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Missouri

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Removal of plants, animals, rocks, downed timber, artifacts or relics is prohibited without written permission from the state park director.” Source

See my Missouri Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Montana

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “No person may destroy, injure, remove or otherwise damage any natural or other state park property. Persons cannot willfully or negligently cut or destroy any tree, shrub or plant, or geological, historical, or archaeological feature.” Source

See my Montana Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Nebraska

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “The possession, destruction, injury, defacement, removal or disturbance in any manner of any building, sign, equipment, monument, statue, marker or other structure, or of any animal or plant matter and direct or indirect products thereof, including but not limited to petrified wood, flower, cane or other fruit, egg, nest, or nesting site, or of any soil, rock or mineral formation, artifact, relic, historic or prehistoric feature, or of any other public property of any kind without prior permission of the Park Superintendent is prohibited.” Source

See my Nebraska Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Nevada

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “The destruction or removal of any buildings, parts of buildings, other structures, tables, stoves or any appurtenances thereto, as well as any historical relics, natural specimens such as petrified trees, petroglyphs and other relics or material within the jurisdiction of the Division is hereby prohibited.” Source

See my Nevada Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

New Hampshire

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “No person shall remove, damage, deface, disturb or alter any structure, plant, marine or freshwater aquatic life with the exception of lawful fishing, natural or geological feature or property on DRED properties. No person shall introduce, abandon or leave any plant, aquatic or terrestrial life, or other foreign object or item on DRED properties without the prior written permission of the director.” Source

See my New Hampshire Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

New Jersey

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “A person shall not dig up, deface, or remove any soil, rock, historic or fossil materials or artifacts without written permission of the Director of the Division of Parks and Forestry or the Assistant Director of the Division for the State Park Service.” Source

See my New Jersey Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

New Mexico

Status: Permitted in designated areas and in Rockhound State Park

Statute: “Rock collecting is permissible in areas designated by the secretary and posted at the rockhound unit of Rockhound state park. Rocks removed from Rockhound state park shall be as souvenirs only, not for resale, trade or commercial use. Rock collecting is limited to small hand tools only.  The following are prohibited:  mechanical or motorized tools and equipment, tools with a handle longer than 12 inches, wheeled devices such as wheelbarrows, carts or wagons” Source

Comments: Rockhound State Park is one of the rare exceptions in the country that allows for rock collecting. While not known for especially good specimens, you can often find jasper, perlite, chalcedony, geodes, and thundereggs here.

See my New Mexico Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

New York

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “No person shall make an excavation on or injure, destroy, deface, remove, fill in, tamper with or cut any real or personal property, tree or other plant life.”

Also from the State’s ‘Trail Tips’ page: “Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.” Source

See my New York Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

North Carolina

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “The removal, destruction or injury of any tree, flower, artifact, fern, shrub, rock or other plant or mineral in any park is prohibited unless with an approved collection permit for scientific or educational purposes.” Source

See my North Carolina Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

North Dakota

Status: Illegal

Statute: “No person may destroy, deface, or remove, or disturb, in any manner, any real, personal, or public property, including geological formations or features and historical and cultural artifacts. Any person who violates this subsection is guilty of a noncriminal offense.” Source

See my North Dakota Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Ohio

Status: Allowed with a special permit

Statute: “A Collecting Permit is required for the collection of plants, fungi, geologic materials or animals within a state park.” Source

Comments: If you want to collect with a permit, make sure to submit one at least 30 days prior to your visit to allow time for review and processing. Not everyone will be approved – they usually only allow collecting for specific purposes and you’ll need to complete a project report once the permit expires.

See my Ohio Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Oklahoma

Status: Illegal

Statute: “Notwithstanding any other provision or law, no person may… injure, destroy, mutilate or deface any building, structure, sign, rock, tree, shrub, vine, or property.” Source

See my Oklahoma Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Oregon

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Plant life and natural resources may not be picked, cut, removed or mutilated.” Source

Pennsylvania

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “The following activities are prohibited except with written permission of the Department, or except as provided in subsection (b):
Damaging, defacing, cutting or removing rock, shale, sand, clay, soil or other mineral product, natural object or material.”
Source

See my Pennsylvania Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Rhode Island

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Campers / visitors will not deface, remove, destroy or injure any living tree, flower, shrub, fern or other plant, rock, fossil or mineral found or growing on state lands.” Source

See my Rhode Island Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

South Carolina

Status: Illegal

Statute:Unlawful Acts In State Parks include (but are not limited to) the following: Destroying, cutting, breaking, removing, defacing, mutilating, injuring, taking or gathering any tree, shrub, other plant or plant part, rock, mineral, or geological feature except by permit issued by the Department.” Source

See my South Carolina Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

South Dakota

Status: Illegal

Statute: “It is against the law to remove or damage any plants, rocks, natural formations, historic relics, antlers, skulls or any other natural features from state parks. Please protect our cultural resources.” Source

See my South Dakota Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Tennessee

Status: Permitted within limits

Statute: “The intentional or wanton destruction, defacement, or removal of any natural or cultural feature or non-renewable natural resource is prohibited without a permit granted.”

“The gathering or collecting of small quantities of pebbles or small rocks by hand for personal use is permitted; however, the collection of such objects for the purpose of commercial sale or other commercial use is prohibited.” Source

See my Tennessee Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound

Texas

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Take only memories and photographs. Federal and state laws prohibit collecting plants, animals and artifacts.  Preserve the past for the future by leaving artifacts in place and reporting locations to park staff.” Source

See my Texas Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Utah

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “A person may be found guilty of a class B misdemeanor… if that person engages in activities within a park area without specific written authorization by the division. These activities include… removal, extraction, use, consumption, possession or destruction of any natural or cultural resource.” Source

See my Utah Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Vermont

Status: Permitted within limits

Statute: “Removal of any earth material, including but not limited to rock, sand, gravel, topsoil and minerals, is allowed only with a special written permit from the Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation or their designee. Exempt from this requirement is the personal collection of small stones for educational or hobby collecting purposes unless the stones contain fossils or are otherwise historically significant.” Source

See my Vermont Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Virginia

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Individuals, educational institutions and research agencies must have a completed and approved Research and Collecting Permit to research and collect on state park property.” Source

See my Virginia Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Washington

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “Engaging in activities in a manner or at a location that subjects people or personal property, park resources, or park facilities to injury or damage is prohibited.” Source

See my Washington State Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

West Virginia

Status: Illegal

Statute: “Unlawful Acts in State Parks and State Forests include (but are not limited to) the following: Destroying, cutting, breaking, removing, defacing, mutilating, injuring, taking or gathering any tree, shrub, other plant or plant part, rock, mineral, or geological feature except by permit issued by the Division.” Source

See my West Virginia Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Wisconsin

Status: Illegal

Statute: “In order to preserve state parks’ natural beauty for future visitors to enjoy, it’s against Wisconsin law to destroy, molest, deface or remove any natural growth or natural or archaeological feature from the parks… No one may collect rocks, minerals or fossil materials on state natural areas, state wild rivers, state parks, state trails, Havenwoods state forest preserve, state recreation areas or Point Beach or Kettle Moraine state forests.” Source

See my Wisconsin Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.

Wyoming

Status: Prohibited

Statute: “The destruction, injury, defacement, removal or disturbance in any manner of any building, sign, equipment, monument, statue, marker or other structure, or of any animal or plant matter and direct or indirect products thereof, including but not limited to petrified wood, flower, cane, or fruit, egg, nest, or nesting site, or of any soil, rock or mineral formation, artifact, relic, historic or prehistoric feature, or of any other public property of any kind on park lands is prohibited without prior permission of the superintendent.” Source

See my Wyoming Rockhounding Location Guide for more places to rockhound.