Finding Forrest Fenn's Treasure: A Modern Adventure

Finding Forrest Fenn's Treasure: A Modern Adventure

“Tharr be treasure ‘ere!”

The words “buried treasure” evoke images of adventure, lost legends, far-off places, and mythical heroes. Untold riches await those brave enough to chase these stories and prove they're real. But then, most of these stories are just that: stories. Going after some buried treasure is likely to be a failure.

But here’s the story of one buried treasure that actually exists—and one that you can find today for yourself. But before packing up your bags, read on!

Enter Forrest Fenn. A former USAF pilot who served in Vietnam, Fenn is also an author and an art collector and dealer. He amassed a large number of artefacts which he showcased in a gallery he operated with his wife and a friend, Rex Arrowsmith.

Fenn was later diagnosed with cancer and feared for his legacy. He devised a ‘solution’: hide a chest filled with treasure in the Rocky Mountains; and ask people to look for it themselves. By ‘people,’ we mean everyone literally with a taste for adventure and treasure hunting. When asked why he said he just “wanted to give the people hope.”

And no, Fenn isn’t just some crazy old man who owns quirky antiques. He is a millionaire art dealer, and the items in his chest are purportedly worth $2 million. According to him, the contents include rubies, old gold coins, gold nuggets the size of eggs, and even diamonds. All this treasure is out there, waiting for anyone who will find it.


Roughly 350,000 people have tried to find Fenn’s treasure. All of them failed.

So that’s a fun way to start, eh? But perhaps they didn’t make sense of the clues Fenn left, which he says points directly to the exact location of the chest. These clues are in a six-stanza poem with 24 lines. Out of all the stanzas, however, treasure hunters point to these specific ones:

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 ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Glance down, your quest to cease;
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.

A cryptic poem was guiding you to a stash of treasure. Sounds like the old tales, right? Fenn confirms the treasure’s existence and claims that he hid it. But to find it, Fenn says, you need to figure out the first clue. That is, “begin it where warm waters halt.”

These words might seem straightforward, but they can mean a lot of things. That’s because the general search area—the Rocky Mountains—stretches through the four US states of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Note that it also extends as far north as British Columbia in Canada. There are also hundreds (if not thousands) of bodies of water throughout the Rockies.
This makes finding a chest slightly larger than a shoebox similar to finding a needle in a haystack.

Starting from whichever location the clue was referring to, some people did come within 200 feet of the treasure. Close, but not close enough. This means that the first clue might’ve been all but solved, yet the next several ones prove the trickiest. Take note that everyone has their own interpretation of Fenn’s clues. Some still aren’t even sure if the stanzas containing the universally accepted traces are the correct ones.

For now, don’t expect to find hints to the treasure’s location in this article. But Fenn did give a few tips. He says that the chest is somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 feet, not put inside any type of structure or natural formation and that the treasure is wet, but not underwater.

Fenn’s treasure hunt, however, serves another less-materialistic purpose.


Some people call Forrest Fenn a real-life Indiana Jones. This might be a stretch; but considering Fenn’s taste for historical artefacts and the great outdoors, it fits rather well. Fenn went around the world visiting historical sites left and right after serving in the Air Force. Eventually, he started a career in archaeology and artefact dealership. This made him his fortune.

As a child, Fenn was always the adventurer. He recalls going on regular camping trips to Yellowstone National Park with his father (interestingly, Yellowstone is one of the possible locations of the starting point to his treasure hunt, given its significance to Fenn’s life). It’s this love of nature and exploration that Fenn apparently wants to impart into everyone else. And he’s using his treasure hunt to get people to go out more.

“They spend too much time in the game room or playing with their little handheld texting machines,” Fenn said in an interview with CNBC. He mentions parents explicitly with young children, encouraging them to take the kids out and explore the wonders of nature. It’s a noble cause, considering how today’s world is dominated by screens and handheld devices.

Later on, many other Fenn treasure hunters attest to this. The Rockies are home to hundreds, if not thousands, of fantastic wildlife and plant life. While finding Fenn’s chest itself seems like a lost cause, the people looking for it tend to say that they would never have seen how majestic nature can be. It sounds cheesy, but the thrill of the hunt and the fantastic views seem to be the ‘real’ treasure you find on your quest.


An aging explorer writes a love letter to the world: go out and experience the outdoors. There are things out there you never would’ve imagined on your own. Granted, Fenn’s treasure seems so close, and yet so far—an ingenious plan to entice people to put their screens down even for a bit.

There are still legends of hidden treasure throughout the world. You may not be able to find them, but the adventure may make the trek all worth it. It’s always great to take a break from looking at screens all day. Go on a nature trip even just once in your lifetime. It might be your most unforgettable experience, and you’ll see how men like Forrest Fenn fell in love with the thrill of the chase.