After 10 Years, Forrest Fenn's Treasure Has Allegedly Been Found

Search claimed at least five lives over the past decade.
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Rio Grande Gorge

The rivers and mountains of northern New Mexico were a common destination for treasure hunters.

A million-dollar cache of gold and jewels that drew thousands of searchers to the Rocky Mountains has been claimed after more than a decade, according to the man who says he hid it.

"The treasure has been found," Forrest Fenn, a Santa Fe-based art dealer and author, wrote in a blog post on Saturday. "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." According to the post, more information on the find, along with pictures, will be forthcoming in the next few days.

In a 2010 book titled The Thrill of the Chase, Fenn said he was inspired to hide the treasure after surviving cancer in the late 1980s. A cryptic poem included in the book dropped several hints about the stash's location, advising would-be searchers to "begin it where warm waters halt," and warning them that they would have to endure "heavy loads and waters high."

In the absence of concrete proof, some searchers voiced skepticism that Fenn's treasure existed at all. But that uncertainty didn't deter hopeful hunters: By Fenn's estimate, some 350,000 people participated in the search for the chest. While most returned safely, at least five people died in the attempt, including one who passed away following a 500-foot fall in Yellowstone National Park in 2017. Other ill-equipped treasure hunters had to be rescued after losing their way in unfamiliar terrain. 

As a dealer, Fenn's pursuit of native artifacts has been controversial. In 2009, the FBI searched Fenn's house as part of an investigation into a ring that had illegally traded Ancestral Puebloan artifacts; while the bureau seized some items, no charges were ever brought against him. Fenn's ongoing excavation of native ruins at the privately-owned San Lazaro site in New Mexico has also drawn heat from both archeologists, who object to his methods, and citizens of some nearby tribal nations, who object to him disturbing the site and its graves at all.

So far, no details have been released about the treasure's new owner; in an interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican, Fenn said that the man was from "back East" and didn't want his name mentioned.