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I've been walking the National Forest in the Southeast for almost 50 years and it's still amazing to me just how stupid some people can be, they really think this National Land is theirs to do with as they please! I have seen many roads closed because dirt bikes, four-wheelers, and four-wheel drive vehicles couldn't stay on the forest roads. I've also seen camping areas closed because of so much trash left by others. And yes, I've seen rockhounding areas closed because of the same type stupidity, thinking they can dig where-ever and how-ever they please! Sorry... it doesn't work that way! The rockhound in the National Forest is a mighty small fish in a very large pond!

Have you ever heard of a "Hot Zone"? Well, if you've ever been in the military during war time, no one needs to explain that this "Zone" is the most dangerous in the region! So, where would you think the "Hot Zone" is in our National Forest? Any idea?

The National Forest doesn't sell "much" land (yet), but they do "trade" a very large amount! Would you like to guess what they are mostly trading for? Large, good timber tracts, maybe? No... it's WATER! One plan is to trade NF land for any private land along the Chattooga River, and they are trading for other tracts of land along rivers, creeks, and streams. The reason is ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION! So, where would you think the "Hot Zone" would be for a rockhound digging in the National Forest!? Take a wild guess!!

Call ANY Ranger District Office and ask if it's OK to dig a 3 or 4 foot deep hole in any NF creek or water-way. The first thing he'll ask you is where and when you plan to dig! He will want to know this so he can "collect" his next few month's salary... FROM YOU!! Anyone who says that it's OK to dig-up the National Forest as you please because it's public and you own it is telling you wrong! Sorry again friends, it just doesn't work that way!

You want to raise a "red flag"!? Walk down a Forest Road carrying a pick and shovel and let a Forest Ranger see you. Do you think he'll ask you if you're having a nice day? Yeah.. RIGHT! I carry a pick and shovel ever time I go to dig in the NF, I've had Rangers pass me on the road, no questions, just a friendly wave. But, I'm just out for a hike with a back-pack and a titanium walking stick! I cover the holes I dig and try to leave no sign of ever being there. Why? Greed? "Top Secret Spot"? No... I like to call it my own ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION!

Best at ya!
Henry Barwood

I remember when the forests were more forests and not so "National". Back then, old mine roads were still open and no once cared if you drove up to look at the old pits. Things have obviously changed forever, but I have to question the intent of blocking off access to anyone except healthy hikers. I'm an old tub of guts with bad knees who simply cannot hike 4-5 miles into the forest to check out an old mine.

Mike Streeter
Hey Wayne,

You make some valid points and I agree with most of what you wrote. The only thing that I would add is that there are certain areas, including creeks, in the NF where the district rangers allow hard core digging and rock busting. Good examples are Buck Creek/Chunky Gal/Corundum Knob area and the Ray Mine that have been extensively dug over many years by countless rockhounds. The local rangers pretty much allow just about any type of by hand digging, even in and around the creeks so that you can go to town at either of these locations without any fear of getting in trouble. This is especially true at the Ray Mine because the creek runs through the heart of the spoil piles so that it isn't exactly a natural setting. Moreover, Hurricane Ivan in 2004 moved more rock in two days than 30 years of rockhounding did. The small stream turned into a raging river and the incredible force of the water picked up and carried boulders and rocks of all sizes and other debris, and the stream cut down as much as 7 feet. Countless trees were toppled or weakened as the tops of their root systems became exposed. This was particularly ironic considering that the Forest Service claimed to have burmed the old two-track road there to stop silting of the creek.

There are other places in the National Forest where the District Rangers seem to be against any sort of digging. Regardless of whether or not you believe that a ranger's concerns are legitimate, it simply makes sense to give these areas a wide berth unless you don't mind paying fines or going to jail. I am sure that the rangers don't have a problem with a little prospecting and turning over a few rocks in these areas, but digging a hole in a creek is nothing but a bad idea.

Any rockhound needs to learn which areas are good for digging and those that are clearly off limits. This is best done by word of mouth, although calling a ranger station to ask about their interpretation of forest service rules can also work - or backfire, if you push too hard. One has to remember that NF rules allow rockhounding if "no significant disturbance results". But, this is a subjective measure and can therefore be interpreted differently by different rangers. Whenever in doubt - don't dig, or at the very least tread lightly with a titanium walking stick (if you have one) and cover your tracks.

Gold prospectors have been looking for gold in the NC National Forest for many years, this is what it says on the NF site...

"No fee or permit is required as long as only shovel and pan techniques are used and no significant stream disturbance results."
The main problem is the interpretation made by different Rangers and districts! This is the reason one needs to be real careful digging in creeks and streams! I would think any digging over a few inches might get you in trouble, a deep hole would just about guarantee a fine!

What do they say about rockhounds!?...
"As a rule, there is no objection to taking a handful of rock, mineral, or petrified wood specimens from the surface of the National Forest System lands."
Humm? ...handful from the SURFACE!?
Can anyone NOT see where this could get a rockhound in big trouble!?

Ah yes, Chunky Gal Mountain.
Most of the locations on the Gal have seen some pretty hard core digging and rock busting in the past! Many deep holes can be found in different locations such as, Corundum Knob, Herbert Mine, Deep Gap, Buck Creek, etc.
But, Chunky Gal Mountain has been designated as a "rockhound collecting site", BUT DO NOT DIG ANY DEEPER THAN 18 INCHES, under Nantahala National Forest Rules and fill any and all holes that you dig. I think many missed the "18 inch part"?
And this could be reason for the NF to retract the area as a collecting site, if they choose to do so!

Yes, there is a Big Bad Wolf in the National Forest, he has many faces called "interpretation", and he wears "green"!
I agree with Wayne mr green jeans will ruin your day if you let them??? also for those going to the grim shawe mine in transylvania co NC be aware of the digging restrictions in the creek there.there is a trail marker that states no digging below this point... iwas down there panning and got severely hasseled.good thing i had'nt dug a hole or they would have had me for dinner... so let his be a reminder that the national forest is policed and you should research what you are doing when you visit. also good luck Wayne on finding the big 9!!!


I just have to ask... is booodelle your real name!

I haven't been to the Grimshaw Mine in about 4 years, this was before signs and all the "police action". Years ago you didn't give much thought to a Ranger giving you a rough time, you could dig anywhere at that location.. even take time to have lunch next to the falls. The more a site in the National Forest is worked, the better the chance it will be closed or have many restrictions put in place! It's better to keep the amount of digging to a low level and cover your holes, than it is to sit across a table with Rangers trying to negotiate a way to let you dig at a site!

Just out of curiousity, if you weren't digging within the "buffer zone" what were they hassling you about? It is my understanding that the sign specifically says "Hands and Pans area only." I know they took these signs from a stockpile of signs generally used for gold prospecting areas, but basically I thought the decision was made that you could still haul buckets down and sift material in the creek. Just no digging.

hi wayne,
sorry my real name is not booodelle. just another guy interested in the #9. keep up the search!!!

was just randomly digging.was the first time to visit the grimshawe mine.had even read about it and knew not to be digging below the posted sign. but still i had a shovel,about two feet in was still tucked away in my backpack,actually stuffed on the inside.but if it would have been out of the pack i'll bet it would have been a different story.they accused me of digging a hole that was'nt even there in the creek and then asked me if i had been digging elsewhere. i told them i had not dug any holes at all!!! remind you of the fact that this was during the middle of a rain storm this spring and we waited for a clearing in the storm before we walked out to the mine they still came out there... sorry bout all the ramblin but point is your probably better off without a shovel in the ntl forest. im just glad i did'nt get falsely ticketed for digging a hole.however i did get a inspection sticker ticket for75$.they made me pack up my stuff and come back to the parking lot to take care of that issue and believe me it was a hour long ordeal. sorry man all i was wanting to do was look for a few rocks.guess i'll go 60 miles back home instead of camping here for the night. see ya mr.greenjeans...

sincerely considerate of NTL forest
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