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Non-Motorized In-Stream Placer Mining

In rivers, streams, and some other waters of the state, a removal-fill permit from the Department of State Lands (DSL) is required for any activity that will cumulatively fill, remove, or move 50 cubic yards or more of material below the ordinary high water mark. An Essential Salmonid Habitat (ESH) removal-fill permit is required to fill, remove, or move any amount of material below the ordinary high water mark.

To facilitate permitting for placer mining in ESH, DSL adopted a general authorization (GA) for placer mining in 2011.

Notice: Senate Bill 3 went into effect January 1, 2018 

Senate Bill 3 (2017) places new restrictions on motorized recreational placer mining and lifts the moratorium put in place in 2016 by SB 838 (2013).

In response to this legislation, DSL substantially revised the GA for placer mining. The GA now authorizes only non-motorized methods or activities (gravity and siphon dredges are considered non-motorized). The eligibility requirements, covered activities, and conditions of the GA have also changed.

To be eligible:

  • The activity must be for the specific purpose of non-motorized in-stream placer mining;
  • The activity must occur in ESH;
  • The activity must not occur within a State Scenic Waterway (SSW);
  • The activity cumulatively fills, removes, or moves less than 25 cubic yards of material in a year; and 
  • If the person seeking authorization was authorized under a GA for placer mining during the preceding calendar year, the person must have submitted a completed annual report by February 28 of this year. 
The GA conditions now include, but are not limited to:
  • Activities can only occur at times of the year that are recommended by ODFW (in-water work periods), unless otherwise approved in writing by DSL. Work is prohibited when fish eggs are present within the reach where activities occur.
  • Any gravity or siphon dredge used may not have an intake nozzle or hose that has an inside diameter exceeding four inches.
  • Mining equipment may not be used where freshwater mussels or Pacific lamprey are present.
For a complete description of the covered activities, eligibility requirements, and conditions, please see OAR 141-089-0820 through -0835.


Some waterways have been closed to recreational mining by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. Others are closed or their use is limited by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) because of water quality problems.

Individual Permits

A person that wishes to obtain authorization for in-stream mining that does not meet eligibility criteria or does not comply with the GA conditions may apply for an individual removal-fill permit, except for within state scenic waterways. For example, the following types of activities cannot be authorized under the GA.
  • Activities will disturb 25 cubic yards or more in ESH streams.
  • Activities will disturb 50 cubic yards or more in non-ESH streams.
  • Operating a large suction dredge with a hose intake greater than four inches in diameter.
  • Mining in a SSW. Suction dredging is not allowed in State Scenic Waterways under the GA or an individual permit.