Piñon Bridge BLM Prospecting Area – Prospecting Tips

The BLM manages what it calls the Piñon Bridge Recreational Placer Mining Area to allow casual prospecting by visitors on the San Miguel River. The land highlighted in green on the map is open to casual use but is unclaimable because it was previously private (railroad company) land and was reacquired by the Federal government. This area is in far western Colorado, south of the Grand Junction area and northwest of Telluride. There is a highway along the San Miguel River that runs direct between here and Telluride.

Topographic map of Piñon Bridge Area on the San Miguel River
Northern section of Piñon Bridge Area


Map of Piñon Bridge, Colorado area
The southern part of the prospecting area

As you can see on the map, there are a couple very basic campgrounds on the southern end of the dig area. Nothing fancy, just pit toilets and picnic tables but, hey, it’s free and it’s right next to the gold in a beautiful canyon! If you want your own clean copy of the map you can get it here: http://www.wcgpaa.org/app/download/7057492604/2013-03-26_small_PinonBr_map.pdf…with thanks to the western Colorado chapter of the GPAA for hosting the map online.


  • The San Miguel River goes from huge in the spring to almost dry in the fall…in the spring drowning is a real risk, in the fall it’s diffcult to run a sluice box
  • there are active, valid mining claims on the river right next to the campgrounds in the non-color coded areas…stay out of those areas when prospecting
  • be sure to get your permit from the BLM in advance and have it with you (see details below)
There’s some signage but you’ll need a GPS
Barely a trickle in mid August

Prospecting tips:

  • walk the river looking for “your” spot, don’t just hang out at an access point
  • there’s lots of exposed bedrock here, cleaning cracks can be fun and productive…bring crack cleaning tools, especially in  August and later in the year when the water is low

To dig here, you need a free permit from the Montrose BLM office. To get the permit, either stop in the office in Montrose during regular business hours at 2505 South Townsend, Montrose …or you can print off the form from their website, sign it and send it in via email (call for current email address) for their signature. Do this WELL in advance of your visit! Here’s the form but DON’T use the email address shown, it’s out of date so call them for the current address: https://www.blm.gov/sites/blm.gov/files/uploads/CO_MINING_05042017_DOC_Rec%20Placer%20Mining%20Notification%20Form-fillable.pdf Getting there: From the little town of Naturita, Colorado just follow Highway 141 east to the left turn onto 90. When you cross the bridge over the river, take an immediate right turn onto road BB36. BB36 barely looks like a public road at first but be bold, you are going the right way! This road is narrow and dirt with its share of potholes. We brought a high clearance vehicle and off-road ready travel trailer and loved staying in one of the campgrounds but some large, fancy trailers might not survive the road. This site costs money to keep up. The only way it makes money is shopping referrals. If you appreciate the info I’m sharing, please click thru one of my Amazon or Gold Cube ads the next time you want to shop online. It won’t cost you anything extra and it keeps the site going:

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