Archived documents do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy and may contain factual inaccuracies.
Regulations and Rules - Mineral Prospecting
Date Published: January 1999
Number of Pages: 36
Publication Number: GF-1-99
Gold and other minerals helped shape the history of Washington state. Many of the miners bound for the gold fields of Alaska during the Gold Rush of the late 1800's passed through Seattle and other parts of Washington. Much of the gold mined there found its way to Seattle where it influenced the development of that city and much of the state. More recently, interest in the gold-bearing streams of Washington has grown, partly because improvements in mineral prospecting equipment make it easier for the casual or part-time prospector to pursue this activity.
Previous to 1980, a permit was not required from the state to prospect for minerals in Washington state waters. Concern about the effect of certain prospecting activities on fish life prompted Washington Department of Fisheries and Department of Game to require Hydraulic Project Approvals (HPAs) for most prospecting activities after that time. In 1980 the first edition of the Gold and Fish pamphlet was issued which served as the HPA for panning and other small-scale activities, while an individual, written HPA was required for others. Since then, several editions of the Gold and Fish pamphlet have been issued, the last being published in 1987.
In 1997, the Washington State Legislature passed substitute House Bill 1565 [Chapter 415, Laws of 1997] which defined “small scale mining and prospecting” as the use of pans, non-motorized sluice boxes, concentrators and mini-rocker boxes for the discovery and recovery of minerals; prohibited any requirement of obtaining a written HPA prior to conducting small scale mining and prospecting, and required Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to update the 1987 Gold and Fish pamphlet. This publication is the result of that legislation and was produced with input from members of the mineral prospecting and environmental communities as well as representatives from various state and federal government agencies.
This publication outlines when you need a permit (HPA) from WDFW to prospect or placer mine in the State; how to obtain an HPA; what other agencies you might need to contact before prospecting or mining; what equipment and timing requirements you need to follow in order to protect fish; definitions of important terms; and what is important habitat for fish.