Locating Devils Head claims

I led a field trip with the Lake George Gem and Mineral Club to Devils Head today. Given that there were a lot of cars we parked in a popular area, one which has several claims surrounding it.  Part of the responsibility of rockhounding is to know where claims are located and not to mineral trespass, so I put together a google terrain map with these claims on it so we were sure to understand where the claims were so we dug elsewhere.  Many folks asked me how I did this, so I decided to detail the process here.

First off, it is important for anyone Rockhounding to understand the rules.  Here are useful information links for Mining Claims and Rockhounding in the state of Colorado.

As you read above, part of staking a mining claim is to produce a Certificate Of Location (COL) and file with both the County Recorder’s office and the BLM.  Part of this document is to record exactly where the claim is located, most of the time this includes a map that you can see the exact corner posts and perimeter.  These documents are public record, and you can research and request copies of them for a small fee (or free as I will demonstrate) from either the BLM or the County of record.  The BLM manages all mining claims on public land, so you will want to use their research tools to determine the status of any claim.  Note that the LR2000 online website may not contain the latest and greatest information; so getting your information direct from the BLM is the best source.

I like to create a prospecting map so I know the vicinity of where these claims corner posts are (or should be, sometimes the claim owner does not have them marked).  To do this is a 3-step process.  Luckily Douglas County has their records available to search online, so you can get this information from the privacy of your own home–but most counties are not that advanced with their software yet.

  1. Research which claims are active, this requires knowing the Meridian, Township, Range and Section where you are looking.  Review this blog posting for more information on using the LR2000 online web application.  For the popular Devils Head area “Virgin Bath”, this is
    1. Meridian:  6th Principal
    2. Township:  9S
    3. Range:  69W
    4. Section 21
  2. Once you have the claim owners information from LR2000, you can locate the COLs from the Douglas County Recorder’s website
  3. On this website, click on Documents and read and accept their rules. You will need to have a valid account, which is free, to view documents online; so you should go through the registration process.
  4. Choose Location Certificates as the document type and put in a reasonable date range.DouglasCountyRecords_LocationCerts
  5. From the search results, you can review or even download the COLs from this site.  To review, just click on the row, or add to the review list with the +.


6.  Within each document there is a map, you may need to refer to a topo map to know the Township/Range/Section, but from here you can see the claim boundaries.

7.  Print these out, or combine into a single “rough” prospecting map using Google Maps.

8.  When out prospecting you can use these maps to get the vicinity of the corner posts so you can find them and ensure you are digging on non-claimed areas.

Hope this was helpful.  Happy prospecting!



  1. I really do appreciate your help on this.

    I would really like to figure this out and do it right, but after looking around for weeks on these websites, I am still utterly confused.

    Is there anyway we could get into contact to discuss this more?

    1. Hi Jacob.

      I think the first important things to realize is everything is surveyed/mapped using the PLSS. So you need to have a working knowledge of this mapping system, and you need to work on a map with a PLSS overlay. Without that, you’re not going to get very far.

      The second important thing to realize is that mapping claims accurately is a job for a professional surveyor, so doing this without those skills is somewhat of a hack job. For me, I want to know BEFORE I go out and hike the forest where there are places available to dig as if it is pretty claimed up I’ll usually skip prospecting the area. The ultimate goal is to respect the law and the claimants rights and not claim jump. My process doesn’t require detailed accuracy but it gets me close, which serves my purpose.

      Google Maps has some nice tools that make the rough mapping of claims available to me in the privacy of my home; like the distance measuring tool and the satellite view, hence why I go through this process. Others may choose to use a BLM PLSS-based paper map or another map entirely. There are likely better ways to do this too that I haven’t figured out–I figure I share what I’ve come up with and hopefully others can give me pointers to different ways. The hope for collaboration is there–just haven’t gotten any tips thus far.

      That all said your process to do this using my method requires:
      1) You to have a working knowledge of PLSS mapping system. There are resources online to help with this.

      2) You to understand that the required tools–LR2000 and Certificate of Locations–utilize this mapping system. Having a working understanding of how claims are filed is required as you are basically reverse engineering using that process. BLM has many guides on this process.

      3) If your map doesn’t contain the PLSS system, it will need to; so you will have to make that happen. My way is somewhat of a hack, but I find a landmark on the BLM map with PLSS overlay and then find the same landmark on Google Maps and start to plot corners of the PLSS grid onto Google Maps. I now have an overlay on Google Maps of the PLSS section corners. Since these are normally square, I use the Google Maps measuring control/tool and a protractor to estimate the PLSS system on my Google Map. If you are a surveyor you are likely pretty irritated with me at this point–but remember again my purpose isn’t ultimate accuracy, just to give me the ability to find these posts on the ground which will require some hiking (which is actually kinda fun and a good way to get out and get exercise, much like geocaching).

      Now with your Google Map with PLSS corners in your target area, you can start to extract the claims and map them onto your map.

      4) You will need to use the LR2000 or Diggings sites to pull the claim information for that section. Note that the LR2000 tells you ONLY that there are claims in that section, but not exactly where they are at. This is important! You still need to get more accurate or you’ll be hiking a LOT searching an entire PLSS section (square mile). The LR2000 will give you the CMC #s of the claims and you then request the CoLs from BLM (or county recorder–which some are available online) to be able to plot the actual claim borders.

      5) Contact the BLM to get those Certificate of Location PDFs; email is easiest; but you can visit the office too. They charge a nominal fee to scan the papers into PDF–HINT: if you tell them what you are doing, they will save you money by only scanning the page that you need.

      6) The COLs should tie the discovery point of the claim to the PLSS system. Use a physical protractor and the Google distance tool to do this work on your Google Map. Drop a pin on the discovery point and label it.

      7) From the Discovery point, use your protractor and the Google Maps measuring tool to map out the claim borders, dropping and labeling a pin for each one. I make it “fancy” by adding a line between the points. You now have an close estimate on where the claim is located.

      8) Get your hiking shoes on, head out to the forest and locate the claim posts (hopefully they are there, many times they are not–which is not per the rules, but the BLM doesn’t have the manpower to certify this part for every claim). Regardless of how you feel about missing claim posts or this process, if you dig on a claim you’re the one that will get arrested, so know where you can prospect and dig!

      Good luck; if you have specific questions feel free to reply and I’ll see if I can help.

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