How to Stake your Own Gold Claim

In the United States

I will cover how to stake your own gold claim:

Mineral Discovery,

Claiming Procedure

Claiming & Maintenance Fees.

There are different types of Gold Claims, we will focus on placer mining claims because that is what I love and know.

Rules & regulations change depending on where you stake your gold claim. I will go over the process to follow in the United States.

There are federally-administered lands in 19 states where you may locate a mining claim or site.

These states are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

A placer gold claim covers land that is located in one of the 19 states & contains deposits of mineral-bearing sand and gravel containing free gold or other detrital minerals.

You are in a sense asking the federal government if you can prospect and recover valuable minerals in a specific area.

Don’t think that you can just stake a claim somewhere and build a house and live on your claim. You can unfortunately get in serious trouble.

You do not own the land in any way, you just have the right to extract valuables from the claim.

You need to actually discover gold on a parcel of land if you want to stake a claim on it.

The government doesn’t define what a “valuable mineral deposit” is, so it follows another rule.

To determine if there is anything of worth on the land, they want to see if someone thinks can exploit it and make a profit. If somebody wants to invest the time and energy in recovering the gold and selling it, there is probably something of value on the land.

This is called the “Prudent Man Rule”.

To constitute a valid discovery upon a claim, three elements are necessary:

  1. There must be a vein or lode of quartz or other rock-in-place;
  2. The quartz or other rock-in-place must carry gold or some other valuable mineral deposit;
  3. The two preceding elements, when taken together, must be such that as to warrant a prudent man in the expenditure of his time and money in the effort to develop a valuable mine.”

For placer gold claims, every 10 acres must be shown to be mineral-in-character; proving that there is a reasonable expectation of discovering gold and making a profit.

Therefore, actually discovering a gold vein is not necessary. Proving there is gold in the gravel and sand over an actual exposure of the valuable mineral acres is enough.

How to discover gold over 10 acres of land?

No secret, it’s hard work but here are some tips:

Check the BLM records first to ensure someone has not already claimed the land. (

Spend as much time as possible scouting the property.

Use the tips I gave in my previous guide on how to find gold: How to find gold

You are looking for:

  • Changes in the geology and soil around you.
  • Iron-stained rocks are a good sign.
  • Black Sand (magnetite) is also a good sign.

We need to seriously prospect so, look for bedrock with the deepest crevices.

Don’t forget to search on the inside of the river bend, the water travels slower there and has a higher chance of bearing gold.

Locate several areas before you begin panning. The objective is to prove the soil is mineral-in-character over 10 acres.

The maximum size of a placer claim for a corporation is 20 acres per claim.

20 acres is a very large area.

I have spent many long back-breaking days with a pan, pick, and a shovel cleaning out crevices and cracks with absolutely no luck.

Adding a small sluice box to my gear really helped when finding my first Gold claims to stake.

Sluice boxes work by washing water and material in a channel, with regularly spaced riffles. Each riffle creates a backflow of water that allows the gold to get caught in the slower-moving water.

Place your material at the top of the box and add a water current.

A normal sluice box is around 10″ buy 40″ and there are really 2 types pumps for prospectors.

Normal pumps and high-pressure pumps.
Normal pumps will move large amounts of water with not too much PSI. Most 2″ and 3” normal pumps are rated about 36–43 psi.

High-pressure pumps have a much higher PSI but it is not needed honestly.

I recommend these ones to get started prospecting your first claim.

Water pump:

Sturdy 2-inch water pump that will last you forever. Easy to set up.

Sluice box: (affiliate)

This sluice is light and easy to transport without being too small.

This will allow you to cover enough land and justify a discovery to the state.

Mining operations involving equipment larger than a 4″ suction dredge generally require permits from various federal regulatory agencies.

Check the regulations of your state before using the pump but, with the gear linked above you should avoid any problems.

How to Stake your own Gold Claim

Now that you have proven and know that every 10 acres are mineral in character, the administrative process officiating your claim can begin.

You must be a US citizen to claim land in one of the 19 states but you may hold as many claims as you want.

State laws require filing the original location notice or certificate in the county recorder’s office, county clerk’s office, or borough office.

The county is the one in which the claim or site is located. Each state has its own requirement for when a location notice must be filed and recorded.

The maximum period is 90 days from staking a claim on the ground but this varies depending on the state.

Claiming on the ground means setting a monument (a post of at least 3″ in diameter and at least 3′ visible above the ground, or a rock monument at least 3′ in height) at the northeastern corner of the claim. This is known as the Number 1 corner, and this is where you place the location notice.

Three additional monuments, one at each corner of the mining claim, must be set, and numbered in a clockwise direction.

When this is done, file your location notice at the appropriate office;

Location notice includes:

  • The date of location on the ground;
  • The names and individual mailing addresses of the locator(s);
  • The name of the claim or site;
  • The type of claim or site (lode or placer claim or mill site or tunnel site;)
  • The acreage claimed; and
  • A description of the parcel on the ground Local printing companies, office supply stores, stationery stores, appropriate state agencies, and BLM offices are some sources where state location notices and certificate forms might be obtained.

How much does it Cost?

There is a cost attached to staking your claim as well as a yearly fee to keep it.

Claiming Fees: Within 90 calendar days after the date of claim

  • Processing Fee — $20
  • Location Fee — $40

Yearly fee: On or before September 1

For placer claims, $165 for each 20 acres or portion thereof.

Failure to properly stake or record a claim, or to pay fees and meet annual filing requirements will result in you losing the claim, this is known as “abandonment”.

Once the claim is abandoned you cannot restake it for one year, during which time the ground is open to location by other persons.

In Short:

  • Discover gold over 10 acres
  • Stake claim on the ground with 4 posts around the perimeter
  • File location notice within +/- 90 days
  • Pay Claiming fee (60$) & Renew every year (165$)

Thank you for reading,

I hope you learned something about how to stake your own gold claim. Check out my other guides if you are into gold prospecting!

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