Do not refer to my page as your “permission”.  Follow the links and review the official information.  Do your own homework.

UPDATED 02-14-24 – this page is kept fresh as new info is gathered.  Before contacting me with debates, please get your sources together and send those along as well.

Metal Detecting in Kentucky State Property

No detectors on any State park, KY owned property without an Archaeology permit. Penalties are severe and enforced.  If a KY official tells you to go ahead, they are incorrect.   (Exception:  If you’re needing to help someone find keys, etc., chat with the ranger station first and do not take a shovel/digger with you.  Play tricks and you’ll pay with your gear and a fine, and hurt the hobby.   )

Metal Detecting in Daniel Boone State Forest – Laws and Rules


Metal Detecting in Kentucky Wildlife Management Areas

No detecting is permitted in historic or archaeological sites (pretty much anywhere you need a digger to recover is considered historical in my experience) in KY Wildlife Management Areas per 301 KAR 3:010, which states: “Section 4. Prohibited Activities. Except as authorized by the department, on a WMA a person shall not Deface or collect artifacts from historical or archeological sites”  Learn more here:  

Metal Detecting in Kentucky Streams, Rivers and Waterways
YES, with Guidelines

This is one where there are a lot of “experts” spewing non-truths.  I get arguments from people who haven’t bothered to look this up in the books more than almost any on this page. 

Kentucky has public trust / public use easement for commercially navigable (not recreationally navigable) waterways.  This means if you can use the waterway for commerce most of the year, then the waterway may be considered public property, and state property rules apply.    Here is a really well done article on this matter with references.  Almost every waterway you can detect in is going to be private property with no public easement.    Good article here on this.

Metal Detecting in Land Between The Lakes – Laws and Rules

No detecting is permitted


Metal Detecting in Federal Property in Kentucky

No.  Just no.  Don’t even pretend to do it.  You’ll lose your detector and even the vehicle you used to drive there.  Archaeology permits are required for this (in case you’ve seen my posts about detecting in Gettysburg, etc.) and it is extremely unlikely that you’ll ever gain one of these as a non-professional.

The Antiquities Act and Federal Preservation laws laws apply and are very strict.

Metal Detecting in Louisville City Parks and Property

No detecting on Louisville city parks or city owned property is allowed. Mayor Fischer told me that Louisville will always follow the State’s lead. If a city employee tells you to go ahead, they are incorrect. So same link applies to Louisville parks:

Metal Detecting in Lexington City Parks and Property

No Guidance 

Lexington does not have any specifically applicable ordinances for metal detecting on file or listed online but has ordinances related to “excavations.”   In short, they don’t want you digging holes.  After 20 years of detecting in this city, I have never heard of this ordinance being used against a metal detectorist in Lexington.  I think the safe rule here is to be an expert about filling holes, be heroic about removing trash and use common sense. I would say, given the destruction I’ve covered up from novice “christmas present” metal detector users in Lexington this is just a matter of time

Metal Detecting Laws/Ordinances in Bowling Green, KY City Parks
YES, with Extensive Guidelines

Metal detecting is permitted during daylight in most public areas of City parks, excluding golf courses, athletic ball fields, the Russell Sims Aquatics Center, and other places designated by the Parks and Recreation Director. When engaging in metal detecting, adhere to these rules (  Limited probing and digging are allowed using an ice pick, screwdriver, or small knife. “Larger digging tools are prohibited. After digging, restore the turf and dirt to their original state, being cautious of tree roots. Do not dig deeper than six inches. Any damage to utilities or irrigation systems is the detector’s responsibility.”  Thank the city / parks staff for their generosity and tolerance when you see them.  

Metal Detecting in Covington KY Parks – Ordinances / Laws

 No digging allowed in parks.  Written permission required from the Covington Parks and Recreation Department to search surface only.  Source:  Covington KY City Code of Ordinances.

Metal Detecting in Georgetown KY Parks – Ordinances / Laws
YES, with Guidelines

 Allowed, but max depth of hole is 10 inches and skilled hole closure is required.  Getting permission from the (friendly) park team is suggested.  Thank the city / parks staff for their generosity and tolerance when you see them.  
Metal Detecting in Richmond KY Parks – Ordinances / Laws
YES, Never in Athetic Fields

Allowed in parks, but no ball fields.  Hole closure/covering is required.   Thank the city / parks staff for their generosity and tolerance when you see them.  


Metal Detecting in Florence KY Parks – Ordinances / Laws

No digging allowed in parks in Florence per parks dept.  Finding items on the surface is usually tolerated but don’t have a digger with you and be polite.  

Metal Detecting in Elizabethtown KY Parks – Ordinances / Laws

No digging allowed in parks in Elizabethtown per parks dept.  Finding items on the surface is usually tolerated but don’t have a digger with you and be polite.  

Metal Detecting in Small Town Parks and County Parks in Kentucky

No Guidance 

Many small town parks lack any real enforcement, and if you’re friendly, most city officials will leave you alone.  But this is more because of the nature of relaxed small towns than any lack of ordinances. As we know, many city officials are easy-going if you’re friendly to them, haul out trash and fill plugs.  And please don’t dig holes in a drought – it doesn’t matter if you fill them in, the grass dies.  

Metal Detecting in Kentucky County or City Schools
No Guidance

Most school boards will say “no” if you ask them,  but they are usually pleased to see litter removal.  School grounds staff are usually very friendly and curious, but if they ask you to leave, don’t make life hard on them.  If there’s a school you really want to detect, you can approach a member of the school board in question with the usual “leave it better than when I arrived” promises.  PS: Nobody wants holes in athletic fields, so avoid areas where ankles can be broken, etc..

Metal Detecting in City or County-Owned Roadway Easements
See Above – Always Get Adjacent Property Permission

Powder Keg!  Easements in just about every city in KY are owned by the government (state, county or city.) City easements are usually maintained by the landowner.  Landowners usually don’t want you digging on “their” easements without permission no matter what the city /county says.   Permission is the way to go.  This is a “flash point” for pissing off property owners, and easements are usually a junk-filled mess anyway in my experience.   

Metal Detecting on Private Property in Kentucky
YES with Permission

Metal detecting on private property is allowed with owner permission.  Private property includes private schools, churches, farms and residences.  Written permission is always best.  Even just a text from the property owner can be helpful.  Always know the owner’s name and how to reach them in the field if a neighbor challenges you.

Counties & Cities DO NOT need a metal detecting ordinance to ask you to stop.  

I’m sick of hearing of metal detectorists arguing with city officials to “tell me where it says I can’t” 

“Defacing or destroying public property” and “excavation” ordinances are on the books in almost every city and county in KY and are applicable to digging if public officials want to.   These governments/councils do not need to enact specialty “metal detecting” ordinances any more than they need to enact “chopping down trees” ordinances.   They can readily and legally apply the general defacement or excavation ordinance to ask you to stop or even issue fines.   If a county or city official gives you the go-ahead, realize that they may not have the authority to do so.