Metal Detecting in Indiana: Secrets and Tips to Know

Indiana is a beautiful state known as the Crossroads of America. It has a rich history and culture and is a fantastic place for metal detectorists. Native American tribes are known to have inhabited the region as far back as 8000 BCE. 

Are you ready to go metal detecting in Indiana?

Tools and weapons can be found around the state. Indiana was also the scene of the Battle of Corydon during the Civil War. Civil War battlefields are typically off limits to metal detectorists, but buttons and badges are commonly found in areas where the troops marched. Look for areas with old homesteads, too. These areas may be filled with relics from the past. 

Metal Detecting Laws in Indiana

As with all states in the United States, metal detecting is regulated in Indiana by federal laws like the Archaeological Resources Preservation Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. Both can be confusing but suffice it to say you cannot take any item over 100 years old off state or federal lands, nor can you metal detect and disturb any area considered culturally or historically important. 

When in Indiana, always be aware of metal detecting laws.

You can metal detect in most areas of Indiana with the proper permit. Some state parks will allow metal detecting with a permit, but always check with the park ranger for the permits and permissions before you metal detect. Developed campgrounds and picnic areas are typically okay for metal detectorists. Areas like The Dunes require a special use permit which you can obtain from park rangers. 

Private property falls under a different category as far as laws go. So long as you receive written permissions from the property owners that dictate that you are allowed to metal detect and dig on their property, you can hunt, dig, and keep whatever you find (work out the issue of keeping the finds with the property owner, as well). 

Places to Go Metal Detecting in Indiana

Indiana is in the Great Lakes region, making it a beautiful state to visit. There are many places that allow metal detecting, and you can see some fantastic scenery while you hunt! 

Each place is ideal for metal detecting but also gives you a chance to see some of the most unique places in Indiana. Some of the best places to metal detect in the state of Indiana are:

  • Bluespring Caverns
  • Empire Quarry
  • Bean Blossom
  • Rose Island
  • Kesling Wetland and Farmstead
  • Nappanee
  • City West Ghost Town
  • Mooresville’s Gravity Hill
  • 100 Steps Cemetery
  • Pogue’s Run
  • Market Street Catacombs
  • Bedford Limestone Pyramid
  • The Roofless Church
  • Smith Memorial Labyrinth
  • Near the East Pierhead Lighthouse in Michigan City

There are also many great rivers to explore with your metal detector in Indiana. Make sure your search coil is waterproof before you begin. It is best to take a metal detector that is fully waterproof when detecting in water just in case you drop the detector. 

  • Big Blue River
  • Fawn River
  • Elkhart River
  • East Arm Little Calumet River
  • Joseph River
  • Ohio River
  • Big Pine Creek
  • Patoka River
  • Yellow River
  • White River
  • Wabash River

Rivers are wonderful places to search for relics, dropped items, and even gold! 

Metal Detecting in Indiana State Parks

Indiana State Parks, like all state parks in the country, do not always allow metal detecting. Most state parks in Indiana that allow metal detecting will require a permit before you begin detecting. 

Metal Detecting in Indiana State Parks

They may also limit your activities to sandy areas, or other locations, at their discretion. No large or motorized equipment is allowed when digging for targets. Only handheld tools are permitted. You must also fill any holes you dig back to their original state. 

How to Get a Metal Detecting Permit in Indiana

Many locations in Indiana require a permit for metal detecting. These must be obtained prior to metal detecting, or you could face fines. Aside from the permit, some areas will have additional restrictions for detectorists. 

For example, Elkhart County Parks Ordinance states that metal detecting may only be done in established parking areas. Metal detecting can only be done on the surface, with no ground disturbance. Permits are issued free of charge. Metal detectors may be used in other limited public use areas with special use permits issued by the park administration. Permits must be in the possession of the user while detecting. 

In the Hoosier National Forest, some metal detecting activities are limited to protect historical remains on public lands. Searching for treasure troves can be done with a special use permit. Prospecting can be done in the forest if you avoid other people’s claims. This can be avoided by searching the County and Bureau of Land Management records, which will show the locations of active claims. 

Remember, if you prospect and take items off someone’s claim, it is theft. If you are searching for historic or prehistoric artifacts, you may only obtain a permit if it is for scientific research purposes. For recreational metal detecting, you may search in campgrounds, swimming areas, and picnic areas with no permit required. If you find historical or culturally important artifacts, however, you must stop and notify a Forest Service Office. 

If you wish to detect in the city of Mishawaka, the Parks Department requires you to annually obtain a permit sticker to place on your metal detector. These may be obtained at the Parks Office. When a permit is obtained, a cart stating you are authorized to metal detect will be provided. You may not detect on golf courses or in parks where it interferes with the public. The card will include the detectorists name, age, and permit number, and should be always kept with you. 

Metal Detecting Clubs in Indiana

As with all states in the country, Indiana has multiple metal detecting clubs. Metal detecting clubs are a great resource for all detectorists.

You can visit with likeminded people, discuss metal detectors, discuss, and learn about laws, and gain help identifying your finds. Some detecting clubs in Indiana are:

  • Miami Valley Coin Relic Hunters Club
  • East Central Indiana Research & Recovery
  • Hoosier Exploration and Recovery
  • Duh-Tektors of NW Indiana
  • Hoosier Hills Treasure Hunters
  • Northern Indiana Research & Recovery Society
  • Indiana Recreational Gold Prospector
  • GPAA Southern Indiana Chapter
  • GPAA Cutler Chapter
  • GPAA Kokomo
  • GPAA Ninevah Chapter

Best Metal Detecting Spots in Indiana

Indiana is full of great places to metal detect. Some of the best spots for metal detecting in Indiana are:

1) Pokagon State Park

Pokagon State Park is in the northeast corner of Indiana and is a popular destination in the Midwest. This is a great place to do some metal detecting along the shore. Make sure you get your permit from the park ranger before you metal detect within the park. 

2) Dream Lake State Recreation Beach

Dream Lake is aptly named because of its beautiful scenery. This is a nearly 200-acre property with perfect views of the lake. Again, stop by the park ranger office to get your permit before you metal detect. 

3) Summit Lake State Park

Summit Lake State Park is located near New Castle in mid-Indiana. The area is beautiful, and you can metal detect here with permission from the park ranger. 

Metal Detecting in Northern Indiana

In the northwestern corner of Indiana, you can visit the southern edge of Lake Erie. This is a wonderful place for those who wish to detect in water. The Great Lakes are a fantastic place to metal detect because they are highly visited. Anywhere people congregate you are likely to find dropped treasures. 

As mentioned above, you can metal detect in Elkhart with the proper permits. Logansport is a beautiful place to gold prospect. Wabash River is known for having gold. Gold prospecting is easiest when you use a metal detector specifically built for prospecting, like the Fisher Gold Bug 2, or Garrett’s Goldmaster 24K. You can also use a detector with an operating frequency above 18 kHz. This is the lower end for finding smaller gold, so the higher the frequency the more small and fine gold you will be able to find while detecting in northern Indiana. 

Secrets and Tips for Metal Detecting in Indiana

Always check the laws for metal detecting in your area of Indiana. They vary by location and must always be followed.

Check your local laws before going metal detecting.

Check with your local government, park rangers, and forest service personnel prior to metal detecting in Indiana.

While Indiana does not have lode veins of gold like the western states, many of the state’s rivers contain gold and even small diamonds. 

Indiana is reported to have several treasure troves scattered throughout the state.

Notorious gangster John Dillinger is said to have buried several treasures of stolen money on his father’s farm near Mooresville. The FBI estimates that approximately $600,000 is buried somewhere on the 10-acre farm. 

Native Americans buried a gold bullion cache in a cave on Ricky McBride Bluff, overlooking the White River north of Shoals.

Pirates are said to have hidden in a cave on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River south of Mount Vernon. They hid several treasure caches in the area.

Robbers stole approximately $80,000 in gold bullion, coins, and paper money from a passenger train in 1828 near Marshfield. The robbers were caught, but their treasure whereabouts were never revealed before they were tried and put to death.

If you have, or know someone with private property, search theses areas. They can contain many relics and artifacts, coins, and jewelry.

Metal detect in areas where tourists and locals gather. Check during the off season for less interference from the public.

Be sure your metal detector’s search coil is waterproof if you hunt near or in water. If you want to shallow or deep dive with your detector, make sure it is fully waterproof and always check how deeply it can be submerged. 

Conclusion

Indiana is a beautiful state with a rich history. Metal detecting in this picturesque state can be extremely rewarding. You not only get to experience some breathtaking scenery, but you can find buried treasure while you do it! 

Always remember to check for permit requirements and ensure you are detecting in an area open to you. It is worth the time to check into where you can and cannot metal detect, and where you need a permit. If you are caught detecting somewhere it is banned, or without the proper permissions, you can be fined, have your detecting equipment confiscated, have your finds confiscated, and may even serve jail time. 

It is not worth it! 

The authorities also do not take “I did not know” as a valid excuse. So, take your time and research the area you want to metal detect so you do not find yourself in trouble. 

Most of all, have fun!

FAQ

Typically, metal detecting is quite safe. However, if you are in an area with perils, such as moving water, deep water, traffic, cliffs, and wildlife, it can become dangerous. It is a good idea to always be aware of your surroundings. If you are metal detecting in an area, like a forest, I would not recommend using headphones. That way, you can hear what is going on around you. 

Headphones should only be used in areas where you can remain relatively safe. You may find that you get so focused on detecting, you stop looking around you. You can end up walking quite a distance before you realize, running the risk of getting lost. Just be aware of your surroundings and where you are heading, and you will be fine. 

There are many models that are suitable for gold prospecting. Some are gold-specific metal detectors, while others are catered for all treasures. One of my favorite, although expensive, detectors for gold is the Minelab CTX 3030. 

This detector is very advanced and should be used by someone familiar with detecting. Other great gold detectors include Garrett’s Goldmaster 24K, Fisher’s Gold Bug Pro and Gold Bug 2, Minelab’s Gold Monster 1000, and Garrett’s ATX. These detectors are all designed to be sensitive to small and fine gold, because they operate at higher frequencies or multiple frequencies. Because Indiana is not known for lode gold, you would be fine using an all-treasure metal detector rather than a gold specific detector. 

A: There are many models that are suitable for gold prospecting. Some are gold-specific metal detectors, while others are catered for all treasures. One of my favorite, although expensive, detectors for gold is the Minelab CTX 3030. 

This detector is very advanced and should be used by someone familiar with detecting. Other great gold detectors include Garrett’s Goldmaster 24K, Fisher’s Gold Bug Pro and Gold Bug 2, Minelab’s Gold Monster 1000, and Garrett’s ATX. These detectors are all designed to be sensitive to small and fine gold, because they operate at higher frequencies or multiple frequencies. Because Indiana is not known for lode gold, you would be fine using an all-treasure metal detector rather than a gold specific detector. 

A: There are multiple ways to identify finds. You can take them to a metal detecting club and see if anyone knows what they are. You can take them to a coin dealer, relic dealer, or jewelry shop, depending on the item. Many of these people are professionals in their realms and can help you identify items. 

You can also take them into a university historian to identify or take it to a local library to see if you can find something similar. You can also try posting on a social media site in a forum regarding metal detecting to gain some insight into your finds.

A: Your best option would be to contact your local officials. If you wish to detect in a city or town, visit your local town hall and ask about the laws and rules. If you wish to detect in a local park, check the parks and recreation website or visit the park manager. Their information is typically available online. 

If you are looking at a state park or national forest, you can visit a ranger station or a park manager and ask about permits. Never start metal detecting until you are sure you have the proper permissions. You can be found, have your equipment and fines confiscated, and even serve jail time. It is better to be prepared and do some research first!

A: First, you will need a decent quality metal detector. These range in price from under $100 to several thousand dollars. Do some research and find one that caters to your needs and wants. You will also want an excellent quality digging tool. I say excellent quality because if you take a cheap digger out, you may end up breaking it before you have finished digging a target. 

This is frustrating! 

I also recommend taking a finds pouch or something like keep your finds safe. You may also want a trash bag because I can guarantee you will find trash. As detectorists, we should always try to pack out any trash we find. Leave an area cleaner and better than when you found it! 

Always take along water, too. Dehydration is not only common in hot months, but in colder months, too. Keep water with you to avoid this. One last thing to consider is taking extra batteries (if your detector operates on standard batteries). It is frustrating when your detector batteries die, and you have not finished your hunt!

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