$1 Million Buried Treasure Found After 10-Year Hunt in Rocky Mountains

Forrest Fenn's famous treasure hunt is finally over after an anonymous person has solved the clues hidden in a poem.
June 8, 2020, 6:00pm
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Forrest Fenn Image: Moxie Pictures

And just like that, a 10-year treasure hunt is done. Forrest Fenn, a former military pilot, art collector, and author who claims to have buried a treasure chest worth more than $1 million somewhere in the Rocky Mountains in 2010—attracting adventure seekers worldwide in the process—said in a blog post this weekend the treasure has finally been found.

“It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago,” Fenn wrote Saturday in a blog explaining the end of the treasure hunt to those who looked for it. “I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.”

Fenn confirmed the news to the Santa Fe New Mexican, saying the person who found the treasure chest provided a photograph as evidence of its discovery. Fenn would not confirm where the treasure was found or the identity of the person who found it, only saying the individual was “from back East.”

The discovery puts an end to a quest that Fenn himself has said drew as many as 350,000 people to the Rocky Mountains region in search of the hidden treasure.

The bronze chest was filled with gold coins and rare artifacts with Fenn coming back over the years to add to its bounty. Clues to the treasure’s location were included in a poem in Fenn’s self-published memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, also published in 2010. Throughout the years, Fenn has narrowed down the search area to the geographical region of the Rocky Mountains and within the states of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana.

In previous interviews, Fenn said he buried the treasure as a way to give people hope—something he was compelled to do after surviving a terminal cancer diagnosis in 1988.

But the treasure hunt has been controversial, and even dangerous, from the start.

Some say the treasure hunt was a hoax, and the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that five people died while in pursuit of it, though Motherboard has been unable to independently verify those deaths. In 2017 the New Mexico state police chief asked Fenn to call off the treasure search out of concern for the safety of those seeking it. And a woman who said she solved Fenn’s puzzle claimed that she was “hacked” and that another person stole it out from under her and plans to take legal action. Fenn, for his part, has thus far declined to provide a photograph of the solve.

Dal Neitzel runs a blog popular with those searching for the treasure—the same blog on which Fenn announced Saturday the treasure had been found. Neitzel made his first trip in search of the treasure after hearing about it from a note on Fenn’s website in 2010 and said he has made at least least 80 trips in search of the treasure since. He said he had mixed feelings about the news that the treasure had been found.

“Disappointment that it was not me who found it and relief that I can stop being a professional blogger,” Neitzel told Motherboard in an email.

Neitzel said what is now important is that Fenn disclose where the treasure was hidden, for the sake of all the treasure seekers who spent years trying to find it.

“We each want to know how close we actually got,” Neitzel said. “Whether our ideas were solid or crazy.’

Though Neitzel never found the treasure, he doesn’t regret the time he spent looking for it, and said he will continue making trips out to the area where it was hidden.

“The beauty of the mountains will be my stated goal from this point forward, rather than the chest,” Neitzel said.