Forrest Fenn's Treasure FOUND in the Rocky Mountains!


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By Francis Tapon. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Around 2010, Forrest Fenn hid a multimillion-dollar treasure in the Rocky Mountains.

Gold, gems, and other precious items are packed in a portable 12th-century bronze chest.

Nearly half a million people have searched for it in vain.

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke two hours with one of the foremost experts on Forrest Fenn's treasure, Dal Nietzel. It was a fascinating and fun conversation.

Right before I planned to release the podcast, a man from the Eastern United States found Forrest Fenn's treasure!

That's right. Around June 6, 2020, Forrest Fenn said the chase is over.

Therefore, this podcast is divided into two parts.

The first part, which is 90% of the podcast, was recorded a couple of weeks ago before the treasure had been found.

The second part is an addendum, where I interviewed Dal again to capture his thoughts now that the treasure hunt is over.

We don't know where the treasure was found yet. Therefore, just to be able to say "I told you so," I will list the places I had planned to search. And I will ask Dal the same question. This exercise will either make us feel good (that we were wrong) or make us feel bad (that we would have found it had we not delayed our search).

Questions I asked Dal (pronounced "Dale")
  1. In 60 seconds, tell us the story behind Fenn’s Treasure.
  2. In 60 seconds, what do you say to those who say that “there is no treasure” because either (a) it’s already been found or (b) it never was there in the first place?
  3. What’s one of the funniest/absurd solves you have ever heard? For instance, on the roof of the visitor center by Old Faithful.
  4. Most treasure hunters are information takers. Why are you an information giver?
  5. For a decade, nearly half a million people have searched in vain for the treasure. Do you think it will be found this century? How about this decade? How about this year or next?
  6. Fenn gave an unsatisfying answer when he was asked about the legal ramifications of finding his treasure. What’s your opinion?
  7. To find the treasure, you have to have one or more of these qualities: intelligence, persistence, or luck. Given all the people who have searched, it’s remarkable that nobody has found it. What’s the percentage chance that someone finds it and doesn’t announce it in some fashion?
  8. Fenn believes that the person who will find the treasure will walk with resolve and certainty. But many times people stumble on treasures or dead bodies by accident. What do you think?
  9. I imagine that most times, you approach your solves with some skepticism. But a few times, you probably went somewhere with 95%+ confidence that you were walking to the treasure, exactly as Fenn said the treasure finder would walk. Where were those spots and what went wrong?
  10. Do you often wonder if you were one of the people who got within 200 ft of the treasure?
  11. Describe the type of person or group that will find the treasure.
  12. Do you think those who have been searching for years have an advantage or a disadvantage over newbies? Overthinking the riddle?
  13. Do you think if Fenn’s doctor tells him that he’s terminally ill, that Fenn will reveal a juicy clue? Or does he hope it stays a mystery for decades?
  14. I know it’s probably unimportant, but has there ever been a poll that indicates where most people think the treasure lies? My guess is that there’s a 60% chance that it’s in or near Yellowstone, 30% chance of being in New Mexico, and 10% of being elsewhere. What do most people think? How about you?
  15. You’re one of the few who have had significant contact with Fenn. If you find the treasure, do you worry that many will accuse you of having inside information even though your lack of success after many years of searching proves that you don’t have an advantage?
  16. What would you do if you found the treasure?
  17. You’ve heard every possible theory about “where the warm waters halt.” Which hypotheses sound the most plausible to you?
  18. Is there something that Fenn communicated that you think is significant, but that few talk about?
  19. He said there are a couple of “hints” in his book. What are the leading candidates?
  20. Have you read Flywater or the Journal of a Trapper?
  21. Assuming someone else discovers the treasure in your lifetime, how will that news make you feel?

There are nine clues in Fenn's poem. The first clue is "Begin it where warms waters halt." It's unclear what the other eight clues are.

Forrest Fenn's Treasure Poem

As I have gone alone in thereAnd with my treasures bold,I can keep my secret where,And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters haltAnd 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 goAnd leave my trove for all to seek?The answers I already knowI’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 woodI give you title to the gold.

Bonus clues

CLUE 10Above 5,000 feet and below 10,200 feet

CLUE 11At least 8.25 miles north of Santa Fe

CLUE 12Not in a graveyard

CLUE 13Not in an outhouse, or associated with a structure

CLUE 14Not in a tunnel, cave, or mine

CLUE 15Where warm waters halt is not a dam

CLUE 16In Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, or New Mexico

CLUE 17Not underwater

CLUE 18Not near the Rio Grande

CLUE 19Not necessary to move large rocks or climb up or down a steep precipice

CLUE 20Not under a man-made object

What’s (almost) certain
  • The key is knowing “where the warm waters halt.” Because the subsequent clues “get progressively easier after you discover where the first clue is.”
  • Pine trees and sagebrush must be nearby.
  • It’s probably above 7000 feet because: (1) he stumbled when he announced his 5,000 ft clue, (2) the poem says it’s “cold,” (3) the poem implies that the treasure overlooks a marvelous view (4) and high places usually have less traffic than low places.
  • A stream/creek must be nearby too--that might attract the animals that he says are around there.
  • The bronze treasure chest is wet. That could be because it’s next to a bumbling spring or it’s getting constant spray from a nearby waterfall. However, because waterfalls attract humans, I doubt it’s right next to a waterfall, even a small one. That would attract too much attention. Instead, it’s probably wet because there’s usually morning dew in that zone (FF said, “Physics tells me that it’s wet”). However, perhaps he said it’s wet because they asked the question during the winter/spring and he figured the chest was covered in snow.
  • It’s not underwater. Fenn talked about hiding a can of Dr. Pepper “under a rock in the cooling waters of a rivulet.” If it’s resting on water, it would have to be held very securely, perhaps sandwiched firmly between solid boulders and the water would have to be extremely calm. Otherwise, there’s too high of a risk that the treasure will wash away after decades of sitting there. Therefore, it’s extremely unlikely that it’s touching water. Whatever wetness it has must be from condensation or dew (i.e., “physics”).
  • It’s probably not buried, but it’s almost certain that it’s covered by either vegetation and/or (more likely) a jumble of small rocks--like a mini-sepulcher. It’s unlikely that it’s sitting out in the open.

Dal mentioned Jenny’s site, Mysterious Writings, and Cynthia’s site, Chasing Fenn’s Treasure.

Video summary of what's in the treasure chest

My solution

Since Forrest Fenn's treasure has been found and yet we still don't know where it was found, I'll share how I interpreted the poem and where I was planning to look.

Once we learn the location, it will be fun to see if I was right or wrong.

At the end of the interview, Dal shared where he expected to find it.

I'll feel like I genius and an idiot if I am right. A genius for figuring it out. An idiot for not getting there in time.

My interpretation of each line

As I have gone alone in there

I went alone to my hiding place

And with my treasures bold,

Making little effort to hide my treasures since nobody was around

I can keep my secret where,

This place gets few visitors

And hint of riches new and old.

It’s near a place with historical significance (e.g., old trade route or mining operation)

Begin it where warm waters halt

[See several interpretations in the next section]

And take it in the canyon down,

Follow the canyon downstream

Not far, but too far to walk.

Drive the road for 2-10 miles, probably closer to 2 miles since he said those who solved the first two clues went right by the treasure.

Put in below the home of Brown.

Park your car. Since Brown is capitalized, perhaps it refers to a proper name (e.g., the Brown Corporation which owns the land), but that seems unlikely since Fenn said that it’s hard to skip clues. Despite the capitalization, Brown is probably poetic: the north face of a mountain (where most brown/grizzly bears hibernate) or below a brown trout spawning lake or simply below the treeline (above the treeline is mostly brown). Or all the above!

From there it’s no place for the meek,

Break off the trail & start hiking uphill off-trail and perhaps on private property. Joseph Meek spent time in Yellowstone, so perhaps it’s saying that you’re not in Yellowstone.

The end is ever drawing nigh;

You’re within 200 feet; keep looking to the right side of the creek you’re climbing next to

There’ll be no paddle up your creek,

Ford the stream which is too shallow for a boat or it’s dry and perplexing situation

Just heavy loads and water high.

Get your feet wet and cold as you cross the knee-high stream while looking for a cairn or the water is high above you.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,

The blaze will be either a stack of rocks, a mark on a tree, or anything a bit remarkable.

Look quickly down, your quest to cease,

Look down and you’ll find the chest hidden under a pile of rocks and/or vegetation

But tarry scant with marvel gaze,

Don’t linger too long at this marvelous site

Just take the chest and go in peace.

Haul your ass out of there

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,

Look up the definition of every word in this poem

Your effort will be worth the cold.

Cold from the altitude and/or cold creek crossing

If you are brave and in the wood

It’s in the high country among bears and snakes, but below the treeline

I give you title to the gold

There’s a legal document in the chest that helps you win the impending legal fight

My Ideas of Where the Warm Waters Halt

  • Someplace mentioned in Flywater or maybe Journal of a Trapper
  • Either in NM or near/in Yellowstone
  • Where warm fishing waters become cold.
  • Where a hot spring merges with a cold stream.
  • The top or bottom of a waterfall
  • Where a warm stream becomes a sink
  • Warm water ends in a lake or pond.
  • A mountain ridge or pass (which gives access to at least 2 canyons).
Where to look

This is where I planned to look. I sharing this to see if, after the true location is revealed, I was smart or not.

  1. Boiling River, which is on the WY border. Hot spring pours into cold water.
  2. Where the Madison River meets Firehole Canyon/Falls (blaze). In his book, he mentions Osborne Russell traveling the Madison River in 1835, which is described in Journal of a Trapper. To get there, you could start next to Old Faithful (WWWH) and then follow the canyon down to
  3. Red Canyon Creek (blaze canyon) is near and also mentioned in his book. It’s near Sage Mt (“if you’ve been wise”) and Redstreak Peak and Red Mountain whose summits are brown and blazing red. He went down Red Canyon with a horse called Lightning. Horses have a white blaze on their face. This is “not too far, but too far to walk” from the Warm River.
  4. Madison River or Hebgen Lake or Stinking Creek
  5. In between Richel Lodge and Keyser Brown Lake.
  6. Downstream of the Brown Mountain Campground off of the Wood River
  7. Brown Creek and Wood River
  8. Firehole Falls
  9. Thermopolis (Hot Springs State Park)?
  10. Somewhere around Boat Mt, where he and his bro got lost
  11. Sinks Canyon (where water “halts” by going underground for a few km) - near Lander
  12. Sunlight Basin
  13. Medicine Hot Springs below Trapper Peak in Montana (may lack sagebrush).
  14. Under Mount Hayes off of the Madison River (e.g., Barnes Hole Dr.)
  15. Nine Mile Hole near Madison Junction
  16. 44.663947, -110.965462 parking lot, there is a small trail parallel to the river
  17. 44.649735, -110.949696
  18. Watkins Creek
  19. A few more ideas
  20. Ojo Caliente Spring and nearby Firehole Spring

New Mexico

Consider these 8 creeks where “warm waters halt” in NM

As you can see, I did not believe it was in Colorado or far from Yellowstone.

More info

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