When fly fishermen descend upon the meandering streams and rivers of the majestic Rocky Mountains, they seek a variety of things besides fish. Solitude and adventure also rank high on the list. For a small group of daring fishermen, add gold to that list. Not gold trout, but gold doubloons . . . as well as ancient jewels . . . and a 12th century bronze buried chest to boot.
In 1988, the wealthy Santa Fe art collector, Forrest Fenn, received the crushing news that he had terminal cancer (which he later conquered). Convinced he was close to death, Fenn decided to do something remarkable for all to remember him: He buried a treasure box filled to the brim with gold, silver, gemstones, and other artifacts totaling $2 million in total value! He then penned a carefully wordsmithed poem peppered with cryptic clues that, when unlocked, would lead treasure-seekers directly to the buried riches.
“I’ve had so much fun collecting things these past 70 years, I want to let people have the same thrill of the chase I’ve had all these years.”
“Part of my motive was to get kids off the couch and into the mountains.”
Forrest Fenn claims that the treasure is buried “in the mountains somewhere north of Sante Fe.”
Thousands of treasure seekers have attempted to solve the puzzle and bring home the hoard. However, their quests have proved fruitless thus far.
Fishermen are particularly interested because the poem begins with the phrase, “Begin it where warm waters halt.” According to some anglers, this could refer to the Rio Chama in New Mexico or perhaps the Yellowstone River in Montana. In either case, treasure-seeking fisherman are tackling the quest with rod in one hand and metal detector in the other.
The hunt, though, requires more than a spirit of adventure. It requires great caution and preparedness. Four treasure-seekers have already died in their perilous pursuit of Fenn’s precious prize.
For the brave fisherman keen on “beginning where warm waters halt” at one of the two rivers mentioned in this article, flying in to Santa Fe, NM would be your wisest choice for the River Chama. Flying into Idaho Falls would be ideal if your sites are set on the Yellowstone River. Once you land, be sure to take inventory of all supplies and ensure you have ENOUGH FOOD AND SNACKS. Forrest says to “pack a sandwich.” If you’re in Santa Fe, check out the sandwich options at Café Sonder. If you’re in Idaho Falls, the Melaleuca Leaf and Drop restaurant is a not-to-be-missed sandwich solution.
Oh, and don’t forget to bring your solved copy of the poem, included below.
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.