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Do You Need a Permit to Suction Dredge in Oregon?

Do You Need a Permit to Suction Dredge in Oregon?

Oregon has been a prime destination for gold mining since the nineteenth century. The southwest coast, in particular, is known for its visible gold deposits. These days, most gold prospecting is done with dredges instead of old-fashioned pans.

However, prospectors must keep the integrity of the environment in mind as they dredge. Excessive dredging activity churns up riverbeds and clogs the gills of the fish that live there. To protect its natural resources, Oregon mandates that you need a permit to suction dredge in its waterways.

Prospecting vs. Mining

Oregon recognizes a distinction between prospecting and recreational and small-scale placer mining, with definitions as follows:


Permit regulations in Oregon define prospecting as searching for small samples of gold using non-motorized methods. If you’re prospecting with old-fashioned methods like pans, you are not allowed to remove more than one cubic yard of material from any one site.

Recreational and Small-Scale Placer Mining

This form of searching for gold incorporates the use of motorized methods like suction dredges. However, your suction dredge must not exceed 4 inches in diameter. A high-quality 4-inch dredge is legal to use in Oregon as long as you secure the proper permit.

Waterways You Can Dredge

Before you head out to an Oregon river or stream with your dredge, do some research on your intended destination. Some waterways in the state are classified as Essential Salmonid Habitats, where dredging is prohibited in order to protect salmon populations.

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) provides an extensive list of resources on its website (, including a list of all rivers and streams where suction dredging is permitted.

The 700-PM Water Quality General Permit

If you want to suction dredge in Oregon waterways, you’ll need to secure a 700-PM permit. It’s valid for five years and includes the restrictions discussed above. The requirements for the permit have been updated in recent years to include provisions from environmental advocates. To qualify for and retain a 700-PM permit, you must:

  • Display an identification number on your suction dredge
  • Keep a detailed log of all your dredging operations
  • Steer clear of protected waterways as outlined by the DEQ

So, do you need a permit to suction dredge in Oregon? The answer is a resounding yes. Securing a permit and abiding by its regulations can help you stay mindful of your environmental impact as you search for gold in Oregon’s waterways.

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