Rockhounding in California State Parks

During the last several months there have been several incidences where
Rockhounds have had an encounter with an authority figure over the
collecting of specimens in a California State Park or on a California State

After lengthy searches on the internet, hours of reading regulations and
several trips to the local State Senator’s office there is light at the end of
the tunnel, and it is not the headlight of the approaching train. Yes, Virginia, there really is rock collecting within the boundaries of
California State Parks and California State Beaches. The collecting
regulations are intermixed within several dozen California Code of
Regulations documents, which give explicit collecting requirements and

This does not mean that collecting is allowed at all parks and beaches or
does it exclude collecting from all parks and beaches. As it turns out each
unit within the California State Parks System, through its own regulatory
processes, may, can and will regulate rockhounding within its own boundaries within the regulations established at the state level.

During the search of the regulations covering Rockhounding it was discovered that there is no actual reference to the collecting of paleontological resources, such as fossils, petrified bone or petrified wood nor is there any exclusion for these. So, during visits to California State Parks and Beaches for rockhounding activities, just keep in mind their definition of Rockhounding as defined in the California Code of Regulations.

There are over 200 units within the California State Parks System and
therefore there could be over 200 different collecting regulations. After
surfing several State Park and State Beach Websites it was discovered
there is no consistency in the published unit regulations.

For example, Hearst San Simeon State Park allows Rockhounding as
published in the California Code of Regulations, Carpinteria, El Capitan
and Gaviota State Beach Websites had no mention of Rockhound opportunities. Some of the State Park websites included Providence Mountains, which includes Mitchell Caverns, Silverwood Lake, which  borders the National Forrest, had no mention of Rockhound Collecting and
Red Rock Canyon State Park states that “All plant, animal, natural and
cultural features are protected. Collection is prohibited without a permit”.

So to be on the safe side and to avoid any confrontation with that big guy
with the gun, check at the entrance to the park for the bulletin board where
there will be the “Posting of Notices” where special instructions pertaining
to areas where activities are curtailed or restricted are to be found for the
particular State Park or State beach. If there is no posting of restrictions
then check with the Park Personnel before collecting to avoid loosing the
collected specimens or worse yet, receiving a citation from a Park Ranger
where the fine could be between $10.00 and $1000.00 or more.

Just remember to follow the California Code of Regulations for Rockhounding and you should be safe. “Check before you collect”.