A new breed of ‘49er is headed West to strike it rich, but these modern gold diggers look to a treasure map to lead them to their bounty. The prize they’re eyeing? A treasure chest filled with antique coins and relics, a jar of Alaskan gold dust and an ancient Chinese jade carving. The 42-pound treasure-bearing chest was hidden by millionaire and retired Santa Fe, New Mexico art dealer, Forrest Fenn.
Digging inside Yellowstone is Illegal
Yellowstone National Park is among the Western locales these gold-fevered individuals are looking—much to the frustration of park officials. After all, digging and using metal detectors is prohibited in the national park because of the threat it poses to natural resources.
“People are coming into the park unaware of the regulations that protect the resources that preclude invasive treasure searching techniques such as digging, metal detectors, anything that destroys or impacts the resources,” Chief Ranger Tim Reid told the USA Today.
Even if the treasure is in Yellowstone, there's no need to dig. Fenn has left clues that the treasure is above ground. Columnist Tony Doukopil says, "He told me the chest is 'exposed' to rain and snow, and could be scorched in a forest fire. He told me the box, which is just 10 inches by 10 inches, is unlocked—suggesting it’s someplace where it is unlikely to be toppled or otherwise thrown open."
Rangers warn that even though Yellowstone covers more than 3,400 square miles, an area roughly half the size of New Jersey, violators of the no-digging, no-detectors law will be caught and charged. For example, on April 27, 2014, park officials picked up a couple found with a digging shovel and metal detector. Despite this incident, metal detector sales have gone up in stores near Yellowstone, including Earth’s Treasures.
“People really seem to like what’s down below, whether it’s antique or it’s modern, like gold or modern coins,” said Patti Albrecht, who owns Earth’s Treasures.
A Dying Rich Man's Goal to Get People Outdoors
Fenn hid the treasure after a 1988 cancer diagnosis when doctors told him his days were numbered. Later his cancer went into remission giving him ample time to write his memoir, “The Thrill of the Hunt,” self-published in 2010. Within the book covers readers find a short poem describing the treasure’s location: somewhere in the mountains between the Canadian border and Sante Fe above 5,000 feet.
“Look quickly down, your quest to cease, But tarry scant with marvel gaze, Just take the chest and go in peace," reads the poem. Fenn’s second book, “Too Far to Walk,” includes a map.
Why Are People Treasure Hunting in Yellowstone?
The clues suggest a location in the Rocky Mountains which covers a lot of area. So why do treasure hunters think the loot is in Yellowstone? Fenn spent many a summer in Yellowstone fly fishing and lived in West Yellowstone, Mont., for a while. The park is one of his favorite places on earth. The cryptic poem has phrases which seem to match features in Yellowstone including "warm waters halt," "canyon down," and "home of Brown" bears (perhaps a reference to a grizzly?).
Clues to the Hidden Treasure
Are you interested in the hunt? Here is Fenn's poem with the first nine clues:
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is drawing ever nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.
In 2013, Forrest Fenn gave The Today Show four more clues.
- The treasure is hidden higher than 5,000 feet above sea level.
- No need to dig up the old outhouses, the treasure is not associated with any structure.
- The treasure is not in a graveyard.
- The treasure is not hidden in Idaho or Utah.
On Sunday July 12 2015, Mr Fenn gave a new clue on the TV show Sunday Morning. "The treasure is not hidden in a mine. A lot of these old mines are dangerous. I mean they have snakes in them, they have black widow spiders," said Fenn to CBS.
The Treasure Remains Unfound
So far, nobody has found Fenn’s buried treasure, but they are discovering the magic of the wilderness.
“I get 40 emails every day from people who say they visited Montana looking for my treasure and hated to leave. One lady from Manhattan (New York) said she didn’t realize there was a sky until she visited your state,” Fenn wrote in an email to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
That was part of Fenn’s plan all along.
“I hid the treasure in hopes of prompting our overweight society to get off the couch and out of the game rooms,” he told the Chronicle.
Watch Treasure Hunters in Yellowstone and Other Places