Metal Detecting In Alabama
Digital Alabama assumes no responsibility and shall be held blameless for any inaccurate, misquoted, out-of-date, superseded or otherwise incorrect information contained within this website.
Digital Alabama also warns that if you are in a park that is designated as “historical” in any sense of the words, then you should consider it off-limits.
The information posted here is based on personal experiences and research of the author. The author suggest that the reader check with local authorities before beginning a dig where there is any question regarding ownership of the site, ordinances or special restrictions regarding metal detecting or digging on public land, or removal or sale of archaeological finds.
This information is as timely and accurate as its author can make it; nevertheless, the author and Digital Alabama disclaim all liability and cannot be held responsible for any problems that may arise from its use. Please do not use this information if you are unwilling to assume the risk.
IT IS ALWAYS BEST TO CONTACT LOCAL AUTHORITIES WHEN DETERMINING WHERE TO DETECT.
Like most other states, metal detecting and treasure hunting in Alabama has its laws and restrictions. There are many good locations just make sure you know the law and get written permission to enter private property.
Civil War battlefields, historical sites, American Indian properties and other protected lands are off limits, many people have come to find some incredible relics and artifacts, including belt buckles and musketballs, on the outskirts of where battles were fought as well as the fields where plantations once were.
During the Civil War many families buried their personal items as a means to keep their prized possessions out of Union hands, so former plantations and crop areas are great places to look as well.
Metal Detecting Federal Laws
The Antiquities Act of 1906 was written before metal detectors existed; however, the law still exists and states that it is illegal to “appropriate, excavate, injure or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States.
The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 defines an “archaeological resource” to include “weapons, projectiles and tools.” This law makes it illegal to pick up, disturb, or dig up any artifacts that are more than 100 years old on federal property.
Metal detectors are banned in all US federal and national parks. Additionally, no monuments or historical sites allow you to use a metal detector on their grounds.
Additionally, in theory, you could be arrested for simply having a metal detector in your vehicle.
Alabama Metal Detecting Laws
Code of Alabama Title 41 – State Government Chapter 3 – Aboriginal Mounds, Earthworks and other Antiquities Section 41-3-1
Reservation of exclusive right and privilege of state to explore, excavate or survey aboriginal mounds, earthworks, burial sites, etc.; state ownership of objects found or located therein declared.
The State of Alabama reserves to itself the exclusive right and privilege of exploring, excavating or surveying, through its authorized officers, agents or employees, all aboriginal mounds and other antiquities, earthworks, ancient or historical forts and burial sites within the State of Alabama, subject to the rights of the owner of the land upon which such antiquities are situated, for agricultural, domestic or industrial purposes, and the ownership of the state is hereby expressly declared in any and all objects whatsoever which may be found or located therein.
Section 41-3-2 Nonresidents not to explore or excavate remains or carry away, etc., from state objects discovered therein, etc. No person not a resident of the State of Alabama, either by himself personally or through any agent or employee or anyone else acting for such person, shall explore or excavate any of the remains described in Section 41-3-1 or carry or send away from the state any objects which may be discovered therein or which may be taken therefrom or found in the vicinity thereof.
Section 41-3-3 Explorations or excavations of remains not to be done without consent of owner of land and not to injure crops, houses, etc., thereon.
No explorations or excavations shall be made in any of such remains without the consent of the owner of the land first had and obtained and unless such work is done in such way as not to injure any crops, houses or improvements on the land adjacent to or forming a part of such remains.
Section 41-3-4 Explorations or excavations not to destroy, deface, etc., remains; restoration of remains after explorations or excavations.
No explorations or excavations shall be made which will destroy, deface or permanently injure such remains; and, after any such explorations or excavations, they shall be restored to the same or like condition as before such explorations or excavations were made.
Section 41-3-5 Disposition of objects taken from remains. No objects taken from such remains shall be sold or disposed of out of the state, but when removed therefrom the objects so gathered shall be retained in state custody and either placed in the collection of the Department of Archives and History or in the museums or in the libraries of the educational or other institutions of the state or they may be exchanged for similar or other objects from other states, museums, libraries or individuals.
Section 41-3-6 Exploration or excavation of aboriginal mounds, earthworks, etc., contrary to law. Any person who shall explore or excavate any of the aboriginal mounds, earthworks or other antiquities of this state contrary to the laws of this state shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not more than $1,000.00 for each offense.
National Park, Recreational Area or at a National Monument
Bureau of Reclamation Lands and Water Ways
Law: Section 423.29 Natural and Cultural Resources
(f) You must not possess a metal detector or other geophysical discovery device, or use a metal detector or other geophysical discovery techniques to locate or recover subsurface objects or features, except:
(1) When transporting, but not using a metal detector or other geophysical discovery device in a vehicle on a public road as allowed under applicable Federal, state and local law, or:
(2) As allowed by permit issued pursuantto subpart D of this 423.
Army Corps of Engineers
CHAPTER III–CORPS OF ENGINEERS, DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
§ 327.14 Public property.
(a) Destruction, injury, defacement, removal or any alteration of public property including, but not limited to, developed facilities, natural formations, mineral deposits, historical and archaeological features, paleontological resources, boundary monumentation or markers and vegetative growth, is prohibited except when in accordance with written permission of the District Commander.
(b) Cutting or gathering of trees or parts of trees and/or the removal of wood from project lands is prohibited without written permission of the District Commander.
(c) Gathering of dead wood on the ground for use in designated recreation areas as firewood is permitted, unless prohibited and posted by the District Commander.
(d) The use of metal detectors is permitted on designated beaches or other previously disturbed areas unless prohibited by the District Commander for reasons of protection of archaeological, historical or paleontological resources. Specific information regarding metal detector policy and designated use areas is available at the Manager’s Office. Items found must be handled in accordance with §§ 327.15 and 327.16 except for non-identifiable items such as coins of value less than $25.
Metal Detecting In Alabama State Parks
*4 It shall be unlawful for any person to use any metal detection device in any State Park for the purpose of finding and removing, from said park, any items that are not his/her personal possessions without permission from the Park Manager.
Many state parks do allow metal detecting on the swimming beach, but ask first. Some parks like De Soto, are not friendly.
- Bladon Springs State Park
- Blue Springs State Park
- Buck’s Pocket State Park, located in Grove Oak, Alabama
- Cathedral Caverns State Park, located in Grant
- Cheaha State Park
- Chewacla State Park
- Chickasaw State Park
- DeSoto State Park
- Florala State Park
- Frank Jackson State Park
- Gulf State Park
- Joe Wheeler State Park, located near Rogersville
- Lake Guntersville State Park, located outside Guntersville
- Lake Lurleen State Park
- Lakepoint Resort State Park
- Meaher State Park
- Monte Sano State Park, located in Huntsville
- Oak Mountain State Park
- Paul M. Grist State Park
- Rickwood Caverns State Park
- Roland Cooper State Park
- Wind Creek State Park
- Historic Blakeley State Park
- Brierfield Ironworks Historical State Park
- Chattahoochee State Park
- Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park
Great Places to Metal Detect in Alabama
Start With The History Of Your Hometown
Metal detecting is like the real estate business – it’s all about location. The places you choose to detect will dictate what you find and how much. Hinting on beaches gives the opportunity to find lost jewelry and coins. Ares near Civil War battles yield buttons, bayonets and a wide variety of other items. Note that you can not detect on designated historic areas but there are plenty of private properties located to Civil War sites and other locations of historical significance.
Think and research. What would you like to find? Then, go to places where those items may have been lost. Go where the people were.
Historical Research Pays Off Better Than Random Hunting
If available, research of your area’s history will help you narrow your search locations to the more interesting and profitable areas. Ask local librarians to direct you to past articles about celebrations, sporting events and closed businesses. Seek out information on old maps, such as this one at the Library Of Congress, and land records. Earnestly search out old roadways, ball fields, meeting halls and boarding houses. Include the following locations to your areas of interest:
Whatley Hotel, Whatley, Alabama, Clarke County
Built ca. 1888; closed ca. 1962
The Whatley Hotel is a two-story, wood frame, building with a steep hip roof and an attached, wraparound, two-tier gallery displaying Queen Anne design elements such as turned posts with comer brackets and a spindled balustrade. The foundation for the Whatley Hotel was laid in early 1888. It is believed that Alexander David Whatley, the eldest son of F. B. Whatley, constructed the building. The Clarke County Democrat reported in February 1888 that he was laying the foundation for a hotel. The August 1888 issue of the Clarke County Democrat stated that “Messrs Nettles & Dacy are putting up a handsome, commodious building at Whatley, to be used as a hotel.” Presumably, Nettles and Dacy were the first owners. The first manager of the hotel was Mrs. Tracy Bettis Anderson. Later on, Alexander’s wife, Nancy A. Spinks Foreman Whatley, operated the hotel for many years. It was then managed by Mary Simian Coleman. From the 1930s or 1940s until c. 1962 when the hotel closed, it was managed by Velma Garrick Coleman.
Explorers and Expeditions
Guido de las Bazares
Tristan de Luna
- Canyon Land Park, near Fort Payne
- Lake City Amusement Park, Guntersville
- Space City USA, near Huntsville – park was abandoned in the early 1960s before construction was completed
- Styx River Water World, Loxley
Discovery of gold and treasure
Natural disaster destruction
New roads and bridges
Research These Old Wagon Trains Routes and Native American Trails
The Great Southern Trading and Migration Trail
The Great Pensacola Trading Path (Wolf Trail)
Upper Creek – Vicksburg Path
The McIntosh Trail
The Big Trading Path
The Apalachicola-Alibamo Trail
The Mobile-Tuckabatchie Trading Path
The Alamuchee-Creek Trail
The Federal Road
The Great Savannah-Mississippi River Trail
The Great Charleston-Chickasaw Trail
The Great Cumberland River War Trail (Jackson Trace)
High Town Path
Jackson’s Military Road
Social and church events
Old town dumps
Some Historical Areas Of Interest For Metal Detecting:
Our historical research leads us to belive that ghost towns should produce some interesting finds.
Visit our Ghost Towns in Alabama page for more information.
Commonly Overlooked Places to Metal Detect
- Old sidewalk tear outs
- Alabama rivers and their creeks and streams
- Railroad tracks
- Swimming areas around lakes and rivers
- Old Home Sites
- Seaside Beaches