One of the more restrictive states when it comes to metal detecting, finding a good spot to detect in the bluegrass state will require careful planning. Below is a collection of information on the laws pertaining to metal detecting in Kentucky both on the state and local levels.

Can you metal detect in Kentucky?

There are communities throughout the state that will allow metal detecting in their public parks. Most cities and counties default to the state rules when it comes to their city parks, and while smaller towns and communities don’t have rules directly prohibiting metal detecting they will have rules against digging or disturbing the soil or sod.

If you’re going to try and take advantage of the lack of rules in smaller towns and communities, I highly recommend contacting local officials to get permission before making the trip. These communities respond well to respect and by requesting permission (and getting it in writing if possible) you will save yourself the inevitable headache of a wasted day. I’ve contacted many of these communities directly and when there hasn’t been a clearly defined rule, they are open to those that go through the proper channel to request permission.

While the above can be discouraging, it does mean Kentucky is a state less traveled by metal detecting enthusiasts. By putting in the effort, and reaching out to private property owners for permission, you can be handsomely rewarded with unsearched territory.

State-Wide Metal Detecting Laws in Kentucky

Can you metal detect in Kentucky State Parks?

No, you are not allowed to use a metal detector in Kentucky state parks. This is very clearly stated directly on the Kentucky state park website FAQ. The specific ruling prohibiting the use of a metal detector is 304 Ky. Admin. Regs. 1:050.

Can you metal detect on Kentucky BLM Lands?

There aren’t many Bureau of Land Management properties in the state and what is available is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. There are no clear guidelines regarding these properties online, but as with most DoD-designated properties, you will need permission from the governing administration.

How to Get a Metal Detecting Permit in Kentucky? (if applicable)

Permitting for metal detecting is handled by Kentucky’s Department of Environmental Analysis. Unless you’re a professional archeologist, it’s unlikely you will be issued a permit.

Kentucky City Guidelines for metal detecting

Louisville, KY

Metal detecting is not allowed in city parks or Jefferson Memorial Forest. The complexity of Lousiville’s park system and the continual discovery of historic locations, items, and other records has caused the parks and recreation department to operate with caution when it comes to metal detecting. As a result, they have adopted the state’s guidelines and prohibited the use of metal detectors and digging in parks and park property in Jefferson County.

Lexington, KY 

While the use of a metal detector is not strictly prohibited, you are not allowed to dig or disturb the ground in Lexington Parks. This makes the use of a metal detector strictly for searching for recently lost items on the surface. This information is not listed online and was confirmed through direct contact with the Lexington Parks and Recreation Department.

Bowling Green, KY

Using a metal detector is allowed in Bowling Green parks but there are a few rules you will need to keep in mind. The most important to keep in mind are: You can only use a metal detector during daylight hours and you can only use ice picks, screw drivers, or a small knife to dig. A full list of metal detecting laws for Bowling Green can be found here.

Owensboro, KY

Parks in Owensboro are managed by Daviess County. The use of a metal detector is not allowed in city/county parks which is noted on this document shared with me by the Daviess country parks and recreation team. There is also a reference to this ban on a brochure for Yellow Creek Park.

Covington, KY

The use of a metal detector on city parks requires written permission from the Covington Parks and Recreation Department. The Manager of the department also shared that digging is not allowed within the parks making metal detecting there limited to finding lost items on the surface. There are also more strict requirements for metal detecting in Devous Park which require an organization and archeologist present, making it more aligned with the state regulations.

It was also noted that these rules are outlined in the recently updated Chapter 28 of Covington, KY Code of Ordinances but that has proven difficult to locate during my search online. If I come across that record I will update this entry.

Georgetown, KY

The use of a metal detector is allowed in Georgetown parks the park administration requests that the depth of holes is limited to ~10 inches and leave-no-trace is strictly followed. It’s also suggested that you reach out the to park team to let them know what your plans are and to get permission. In order to keep this city Metal Detector friendly, I suggest you review the proper way to cut a plug and backfill holes before heading to their parks.

Richmond, KY

Metal detecting is allowed in city parks but it is not allowed on any ball field. It’s also suggested to steer clear of heavily used areas where recreational teams often play to prevent injury that can be caused by holes. The Richmond Park and Recreation team also requests that holes be kept to a minimum depth and that leave-no-trace practices be followed properly to maintain this permission.

Florence, KY 

Florence is another city that prohibits digging or disturbing the ground in any way. The use of a metal detector is only allowed to find lost items on the surface of the ground. While talking to the Florence Parks and Recreation director, she noted that the authorities are often keeping an eye out for metal detectors due to past and present issues with people breaking the digging rules. If you take a metal detector out in Florence, leave any digging tools at home.

Elizabethtown, KY

The use of a metal detector is allowed in City parks, but this is another city that prohibits digging or disturbing the ground in any way. The Elizabethtown Parks and Recreation team also wanted me to note that certain areas in the city also fall within the Kentucky Archeology Act (KRS 164.705-720).

Paducah, KY

Metal detecting is allowed in Paducah parks but there are limitations on digging. The Parks Department requested that soil disturbance be kept to a minimum and that holes must be filled with the grass properly placed to preserve this permission. This information was gathered through direct contact with the Paducah parks department and can be reverified by contacting their team.

Rules on Specific Parks and Federal Properties in Kentucky

Can you metal detect in Daniel Boone National Forest?

No, metal detecting is not allowed in Daniel Boone National Forrest. While recreational metal detecting is allowed in some national forests, there are specific metal detecting rules issued for the Daniel Boone National Forrest that were passed in 2015 that prohibit it there. You can review the specific rules on the US National Forestry site linked here.

Can you metal detect in the Land Between The Lakes?

No, you are not allowed to metal detect at Land Between the Lakes. This is clearly stated on the Land Between the Lakes website in the FAQ. 

I do want to note that at the time of writing this, they incorrectly state that metal detecting is not allowed on any federal public land. After thorough due diligence, that appears to be true for federal land in Kentucky but there are plenty of federal properties, federal forests, and non-national parks you are allowed to metal detect on. Resources contradicting this statement can even be found in other areas of the USFS website and I’ve had direct conversations with officials overseeing other federal public properties confirming this.

This is a great reminder that you need to research each individual park for their specific rules and not to let broad statements like this directly on a specific park’s federal website scare you away from the hobby.

Can you metal detect at Lake Cumberland?

No, Lake Cumberland is a state park and metal detecting is prohibited in any Kentucky state park.

Can you metal detect in Jefferson Memorial Forest?

No, due to the historic sites and ongoing research being conducted in the forest metal detecting is prohibited.