Thursday, September 21, 2023


RV Prospector: Adventures in prospecting and boondocking, Part 4

Before reading this, make sure you read Randall’s wonderful parts one, two and three of this prospecting and boondocking series first. 

After a week’s hard work in the bramble patch mucking the gravel of the prospect, I found sufficient minerals to meet the federal “prudent man rule,“ pursuant to the 1905 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Chrisman v. Miller:

Where minerals have been found, and the evidence is of such a character that a person of ordinary prudence would be justified in the further expenditure of his labor and means, with a reasonable prospect of success, in developing a valuable mine, the requirements of the statute have been met.

That meant it was time to stake a mining claim, so work was interrupted to do the physical marking of the claim boundaries as required by federal and Idaho state code.

How to stake a mining claim

I published an article in RV Travel in April 2022 about the process. However, the two things a prospector must do to stake a mining claim properly and legally are to place markers at the corners of the claim and file the notice of claim with the recorder or clerk in the county where the claim is located. The latter must be done within 90 days of the former, so I would get to that in the weeks ahead.

metal federal mining claim placard
A proper, legal, and durable metal claim placard.

Under federal law, location notices must contain the following information:

  • The date of physical location of the claim
  • The names and mailing addresses of the locator(s)
  • The name of the claim
  • The type of claim, i.e., lode or placer
  • The total acreage included in the claim
  • A geographical description of the parcel

Requirements for the type of boundary markers required and allowed have changed over the years. In the old days, stone cairns were used, primarily for lack of any alternative in wild country. They are still permitted but are labor intensive, to put it politely. In the 1970s, it was common to see steel or PVC pipe used; that practice has been banned by the Bureau of Land Management due to the threat of injury to wildlife.

I use 4”x4” treated timbers, which are spelled out specifically as allowable claim markers in Idaho and federal regulations.

Types of mining claim markers

Digging the holes for the marker posts is no easy task, either, but with the use of a post-hole digger and some luck in finding good soil at the required boundary locations, the task can be completed in about an hour per marker, barring a heart attack or heat stroke.

Once a post is set, it is simply a matter of attaching a suitable mining claim marker on the post and moving on to the next claim boundary corner. Idaho law technically requires no mineral location marker, but it is sufficiently vague that, to be safe, I set one anyway. Again, once the boundary markers are set, a valid legal claim has thus been established. The prospector then has 90 days in which to file the paperwork with the county.

Describing the location of a placer claim within a land Section.

After a hard day of fighting thick brush, poison oak and stinging nettles, mosquitoes, and rocky ground, I was exhausted. We headed back to camp, as the sun was low in the southwest.

I built a small fire and fed Bebe a bison heart and liver dinner. Next I threw together a bison liver, onion, and potato camp special supper of my own and cooked it over the open fire.

Time to move

I was pleased with the day’s work but needed to start thinking about the hassle of breaking camp. We were about to wear out our 14-day welcome here. I hated to move because we were as close to our mining claim as we could get.

We hadn’t seen or heard a Forest Service ranger on the road or anywhere since we’d been here, but still, I hadn’t ever knowingly violated a USFS rule and wouldn’t start now. So, we would break camp and move at least 5 miles to stay in compliance with the national forest rules.

I knew of a nice site in the same drainage, but it was only about two miles away as the crow flies.

But we weren’t going by crow.

By road, the site on the other side of our claim was at least five miles. Hmm. An interesting question. But before I could completely overanalyze it, another thought struck me: We now had a federal mining claim a stone’s throw from our present location. Federal law allows a miner to camp thereon for the purposes of working the claim. So we’d be moving about 800 yards. As the crow flies.


Randall Brink
Randall Brink
Randall Brink is an author hailing from Idaho. He has written many fiction and non-fiction books, including the critically acclaimed Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart. He is the screenwriter for the new Grizzly Adams television series and the feature film Goldfield. Randall Brink has a diverse background not only as a book author, Hollywood screenwriter and script doctor, but also as an airline captain, chief executive, and Alaska bush pilot.


  1. We often find the PVC claim markers when boondocking in our home state of NV. I always pull out the claims to see how old they are. Surprisingly, most are SO old they are probably no longer in force. No evidence of any work being done either.

    • I find claims marked by PVC pipe too, and like you, all 10-20 or more years old, from back when PVC was allowed. Many of them are abandoned, but it would take a check of the BLM MLRS database to know for sure.

  2. I really enjoy your articles. Prospecting has been a dream of mine for 60 years. I’m living some of that vicariously through your articles. Thank you.


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