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Metal Detecting In California?
You Should Know The Law

Metal detecting in California follows the ARPA (Archeological Resources Preservation Act).

Here is the amended law of 1979.

I am showing an abbreviated portion of this law that is the most important part to understand.

Although, the term “metal detecting” does exist in this law, the law does specifically state that no artifacts can be removed if there is any disturbance of the area.

However, you better follow ARPA's law to the letter and not remove anything that is 100 years or older.

Here Is The Entire ARPA Law

This Act became law on October 31, 1979 (Public Law 96-95; 16 U.S.C. 470aa-mm), and has
been amended four times. This description of the Act, as amended, tracks the language
of the United States Code except that (following common usage) we refer to the “Act”
(meaning the Act, as amended) rather than to the “subchapter” or the “title” of the
Code.

Metal Detecting In California? Be Careful What You Dig!

Metal Detecting And Digging A Relic

Section 6
(a) No person may excavate, remove, damage, or otherwise
alter or deface or attempt to excavate, remove, damage,
or otherwise alter or deface any archaeological resource
located on public lands or Indian lands unless such activity
is pursuant to a permit issued under section 4 of this Act,
a permit referred to in section 4(h)(2) of this Act, or the
exemption contained in section 4(g)(1) of this Act.

Metal Detecting In California State Parks Prohibits Disturbance

The California Code of Regulations, Title XIV, Division 3, Section 1 contains four sections applicable to the use of metal detectors in State Parks.  Section 4305 prohibits the disturbance of any animal, Section 4306 prohibits the disturbance of any plant, Section 4307 prohibits the disturbance of any geological feature, and Section 4308 prohibits the disturbance of any archaeological feature. These regulations define, plant life as including; leaf mold, grass, turf, and humus; and geological features include earth, sand, gravel, and rocks.
 
The act of passing a metal detector over the ground in a State Park is not against the law.  The prying up or digging out of an object however may be, as this may not be done if it disturbs the animals, plants, geological or archaeological features. Section 4309 gives the Department the authority to grant permits to disturb resources if it is in the best interest of the Department to do so.

Metal Detecting In California Park Rules
 
Since the units of the Department are extremely varied, we have delegated the authority to regulate activity related to metal detectors to our District Superintendents. Therefore, you will need to contact personnel in the park in which you wish to perform metal detecting and follow their instructions as to where and how you may metal detect.
 
The recovery of lost items or property is subject to the conditions of Civil Code Sections 2080.1 through 2080.6.  All items with a value of $100.00 or more must be turned in to State Park officials.  If no one claims the item within 90 days, it may then be transferred to the finder.

 § 4307.  Geological Features.
(a) No person shall destroy, disturb, mutilate, or remove earth, sand, gravel, oil, minerals, rocks, paleontological features, or features of caves.
(b) Rockhounding may be permitted as defined in Section 4301(v).

Be sure that if you metal detect in California you follow the law.
 
§ 4308.  Archaeological Features.
No person shall remove, injure, disfigure, deface, or destroy any object of archaeological, or historical interest or value.

Understand, the laws change all the time - bookmark this page for future notices. 

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