Forrest Fenn’s Buried Treasure

As puzzle and adventure fans, it seems like we’re always trying to find ways to inject artificial adventure into our modern, normal, “boring” world.  But would you go looking for a real treasure buried by a genuine treasure hunter?

82-year-old Forrest Fenn, called a “Real-Life Indiana Jones,” has spent his life digging for artifacts and treasure all around the world.  Fenn is a fascinating enough character already, but his free-for-all treasure hunt has been making headlines.  Somewhere out there, “in the mountains north of Santa Fe,”  Fenn has buried a small antique chest filled with $1 million worth of artifacts and gold.  The clues to the treasure’s location are hidden in Fenn’s memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, the most important one being the following poem:

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 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,
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.

This poem amuses me because it sounds so much like a Ravenchase clue!  There’s a little voice inside me that says “Hey, I write clues like this all the time, I bet I could figure it out!”  But the truth is that a good puzzle brain probably won’t get you very far in a hunt like this.  My guess is that a skilled outdoorsperson, someone who can recognize where they are and where they’ve been and survive for days or weeks in the wilderness, would have the best chance at reaching the treasure location.  And it makes sense that someone would need the same set of skills and interests as Fenn himself to find the treasure.

We all love puzzles and adventures here, and the idea of an honest-to-goodness treasure hunt is certainly appealing, but I think most of us prefer the accessibility of a fictional, designed event.  The kind of hunts we design and attend are low-risk, high-reward, and a nice escape from reality.  A treasure hunt like Fenn’s would have to become your reality,  hunting trips eating up your funds and time.  That being said, much like the GAR probably makes a great vacation trip for a puzzle lover, a treasure hunt trip through the mountains might be the perfect vacation for the adventurous outdoorsy-type who might go trailblazing for fun anyway.

If you’d like to hunt vicariously, here is an entertaining blog (which, along with so many other elements in this story, seriously reminds me of Ready Player One) written by one hunter who has made several expeditions in search of the treasure.

And here are a few articles on Fenn and his treasure:

$1 Million in Buried Treasure: Find It! — Huffington Post

A Real-Life Indiana Jones Wants You to Find His Loot — The Daily Beast

Treasure Hunter Forrest Fenn Aims to Share Goods —

26 comments on Forrest Fenn’s Buried Treasure

  • Dan E.

    This brings to mind the issue of “GC trust”. Setting out to solve a puzzle (or an entire hunt) is a leap of faith that there really is something out there. Engaging in a hunt means trusting that GC isn’t just making up plausible stuff to yank you around! Or that if they _are_ yanking you around, they’re doing it in ways you know and expect…

    In this case, of course, there’s no such trust. I guess a large enough prize (as here, or obviously in _Ready Player One_) can make up for a lack of trust. But that’s a different scene.

    But my real reaction from the story (and _RPO_) is to start thinking about a “bucket hunt” — you know, some _incredibly cool_ puzzle hunt, with an _awesome_ prize, which you leave in your will. There’s a lot of logistical problems with bucket hunts, though! How do you playtest them? What about clue erosion? Who provides hints? Etc..

    • clavicarius (author)

      GC/designer trust is a great topic, I’ll definitely need to devote a post to that sometime.

      It’s a good point.. this guy might be a great adventurer, but what if he’s a crappy clue-writer? =) I think I trust that he’s really buried something out there, and that his clues are probably reasonable, but they could actually be terrible! I think you’re right though, the size of the prize has some mitigating powers. Crappy clues? It’s a free-for-all for $1 million, deal with it.

      Bucket hunt, what a great phrase! I actually started out writing today’s post about that subject. Now I’m glad I didn’t because I’ll have a better title next time! And some more questions to ask.. Sounds like a seasoned puzzle designer would create the best bucket hunt, and could maybe get away without playtesting much.. In the book The Westing Game, hints were left in sealed envelopes opened periodically by the attorney!

      Apparently Forrest Fenn has found the perfect way around all of the mess that comes with a bucket hunt: “If [the cancer] comes back, I’m going to grab a pocketful of sleeping pills, take a treasure chest filled with treasure and a copy of my bio; and I’m going to walk out into the desert.”

    • Dal Neitzel

      I agree that trust in the veracity of the treasure can be an issue and is probably what keeps the searcher numbers lower than what one might expect. I mean what reasonable person would hide even a fraction of his personal wealth for others to find? The truth is that in Mr. Fenn’s case the treasure is just a stimulus to get folks out looking and away from Netflix. He has spent his entire life searching the Mountain States for artifacts and stories and he believes others will find it a fascinating experience as well. Once you read more about Forrest and by Forrest I suspect you will have no trouble believing in the authenticity of the treasure.

      • clavicarius (author)

        I don’t really doubt that Mr. Fenn has hidden the treasure out there. It makes sense based on his interests and wanting to share that with others. I think our concern of “trust” is more from the puzzle solving side of things. We wonder whether the quest is logically solvable, whether the clues will stand up to the test of time and changing environments, etc. Not questioning the honesty of Mr. Fenn, but rather his foresight as a puzzle designer.

        That being said, most traditional adventures, including the ones that Mr. Fenn himself pursued, certainly aren’t “designed.” But then, that uncertainty and risk is part of why most people don’t go on adventures, I imagine.

  • Mark Dreyer

    It’s not buried. 😎

    • PERDIZ

      what makes you think it’s not buried?

  • goldenhunter

    As Mark said the treasure is hidden?Its a great puzzle to work on and there’s a map in poem form its anybody’s treasure that’s the fun of it all it will be easier to find it compared to the ones I have found I’m trying to get to Santa Fe myself just waiting for the snow to pass:If anyone interested I could use another pair of eyes we could meet in Santa
    Fe. I have most of the clues it not so far from there it take about 3 days to locate the treasure.

    • PERDIZ

      tell me what you think you know-I might be interested

    • GoingHunting

      I’m going with my travel buddy, soon. Would love to get together with someone on the hunt. Make an adventure/hunt out of it.

      • matt martinez

        ❓ iam from espanola just 20 min north of santa fe I know all the sangre de cristo mountains where I know the treasure is hidden so if you want to help eachother let me know

        • Justin

          I live in Santa Fe. Let’s meet up. I have some good ideas where it might be. Let’s get a team together.

          • Brandon Velasquez

            I am down for a team I am from Pecos and know the area really well.


    I will be looking for this. I think it is fair to say Forrest would not cheat fellow treasure hunters because he knows the effort involved and the risks we take. That said I believe there is a chest. The allure is sweet, the haystack large. I hope I sit on the needle.

  • Charlie

    Interesting comments, Please people do not forget the greed of man. Forrest warns of hidden danger. Ensure that you take this adventure with only someone you can trust with your life. Do not be careless or naive. Greed is a vicious predator with a hunger that cannot be satisfied.

  • britteny

    i love poetry an his poems is a really good clue. you have to look past the words as clues an look as if you were looking through his eyes an find something that would seem worth writing about…..

  • mary

    😆 😆 I would just love the little toy dog mr fenn have to keep him intertained each day.
    mr fenn is it possible to have your puppy.I will love him as my own treasure.
    ms mary
    forrest fenn of santa fa

  • mary

    😛 😳 this is me if mr fenn give me his puppy treasure will be his name
    ms mary

  • JasonP

    Is it 100% KNOWN that the treasure IS INDEED in Santa Fe, NM? ..anymore details? I’m up for a trip w/someone in April-ish, after my broken leg heals!


  • geoff

    Is this anywhere in the world? or is there some general area?

  • Jeff

    It is amazing that there are not hoards of people combing those mountains. I just recently heard of this treasure and I truly believe that it is there. Mr.Fenn is of such high integrity he wouldn’t leave a hoax as a final legacy. I believe that since he has survived his cancer episode he now will see in this world he will change the life of someone needing that start to success. Those seeking the treasure for greed or personal gain will not be guided by the spirits of the native indians originating from God. I say this to assist you all in establishing a mind set that this is where I believe Mr. Fenn wants the finder to know ancient ways truly hold the answers. God speed to all and I hope to look for it some day..

  • Kurt

    Forrest has written a tantalizing poem. There are lots of clues and false clues in here. Remember poetry is all about interpretation. I’ve already found half a dozen possible locations that fit the poem. Some seem silly, yet they fit the clues. Others took more research. But once I get a dozen or so locations that I think are a good fit, I’ll make the trip and check them out.

  • Justin

    I live in Santa Fe and just heard about this. I’ve been piecing together clues. It’s treasure hunt time! I’m a Santa Fe native, and know these mountains well. there’s more than enough loot to share. Let’s put a team together.

  • JasonP

    I agree with Justin ❗

  • Joey Nelson

    I have just returned from Santa fe,and I can assure everyone it’s no easy task.i have also spoken with mr.fenn,and getting information from him also was no easy task.i traveled all the way from Alabama with high hopes,and riches on my mind,but returned home empty handed.i can tell you this my memories will stay forever,and that’s enough to bring me back the first chance I get,and that’s going to be when the next clue comes out.mark my words fellow treasure hunters.i know where he has put the treasure,and it’s just a matter of time before I’m all over it.Mr. Fenn I say to you when I get my hands on it I won’t be smiling that’s for sure.good luck everyone

  • Joey Nelson

    Hey Justin that’s a good idea call me 850 348 7498

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