8 Places to Find Real Buried Treasure

Jade cove in fog. Big Sur, California
Amit Basu Photography / Getty Images

Oh, you thought buried treasure was nothing more than a fairytale plot line? Quite the contrary. From gold to gemstones to copper to possibly even a queen's jewels, there are throngs of extremely valuable items hidden away in the mountains, coves, and oceans of the U.S.

Some are easier to find than others. You might, for example, find treasure after just one afternoon immersed in Arkansas' Crater of Diamonds. On the other hand, you could spend a lifetime trying to decode the ciphers that apparently lead to a Virginia trove and still come away empty-handed.

Choose your challenge with these eight destinations for modern-day treasure hunters.

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Crater of Diamonds State Park (Arkansas)

People digging for treasure at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Doug Wertman / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Diamonds were first discovered on the site that's now known as Crater of Diamonds State Park in the early 1900s. After failed attempts at commercial mining, the rural southwestern Arkansas treasure trove became a 900-acre tourist attraction. Public interest was piqued in the 1950s, when a 15-carat stone—later named the Star of Arkansas—was discovered.

Today, a 37-acre plowed field in the middle of the park acts as the diamond-hunting hub. More than 29,000 diamonds have been found since the Crater of Diamonds became a state park. That's about 600 per year, according to the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, and the policy is "finders, keepers."

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Bedford, Virginia

Roadside cabin in Bedford, where Beale's treasure is buried

Virginia State Parks / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

One of America’s strangest treasure stories involves a series of ciphers that supposedly tell the whereabouts of a treasure buried in Bedford, Virginia. In 1819, Thomas Beale and a group of men reportedly brought a large treasure they found in the American West to their home state of Virginia, where they buried it. Beale subsequently wrote three ciphers that would reveal the location and contents of the treasure in case something would happen to the men when they returned to the West for more treasure.

None of them ever returned, and no one was able to decipher Beale's codes. After the story was made public in the 1880s, people were able to decode one of the ciphers, but it spoke only of the contents of the treasure, not its location. Many claim the whole story is a hoax, but cryptographers continue to try to crack the codes today.

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Jade Cove (California)

Person standing on a rock in Jade Cove, California

Bryan Hughes / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Jade is a semiprecious gemstone, often green in color, that can be found on the shore and in the waters of Jade Cove, a scenic seaside area in Big Sur on California’s Central Coast. Scuba divers tend to find the largest stones offshore, but casual treasure seekers sometimes find sizable pebbles on the beach during low tide or after a storm.

Jade Cove is an idyllic place to hunt for treasure—the stunning coastal scenery can be as rewarding as finding a gemstone. The cove is quite difficult to access, which helps keep the number of jade-seekers down. Also, regulations stipulate that only hand tools are allowed to help extract the jade and that collectors may only take what they can carry themselves.

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Auburn, California

Gold Rush statue in Auburn, California

Thenakedchef / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Auburn was a major destination for Gold Rush-era prospectors. After gold was discovered there in 1848, thousands of miners came to the area. Auburn’s restored Old Town hearkens back to this 19th-century heyday.

More than a century later, gold seekers have now returned to Auburn, inspired by rising gold prices and TV shows that follow the exploits of modern-day gold miners. Many of Auburn’s new prospectors pan for gold along the American River in the Auburn State Recreation Area. Some boost their chances by using metal detectors.

The Recreation Area office has published a list of rules for prospectors: Pans are the only "tools" allowed, findings must not be sold for profit, and no one may gather more than 15 pounds of mineral material per day, etc. In the past, people have actually been arrested for trespassing and taking gold from property owned by private mining companies.

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Ozark Hills (Missouri)

Ozark Hills lost copper mine in Southern Missouri

Jon Manjeot / Shutterstock

A lucrative copper mine was once operating near the Current River in Missouri’s Ozark Hills. In the mid-18th century, the mine’s owner, Joseph Slater, would allegedly float large amounts of high-grade copper down to New Orleans. In an effort to keep the location of his mine secret, he filed a claim for the mine several miles from where it actually was. This means that the location of one of the country’s most profitable copper mines was never known to anyone but Slater and his daughter.

Slater moved away with intentions of returning to the mine one day, but he died before he could do so. It's said that he and his daughter carefully covered its entrance so that no one would be able to find it before they returned, but treasure hunters and curiosity seekers have been scouring the area for almost a century to no avail. Thus, it's been dubbed the Lost Copper Mine.

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Amelia Island (Florida)

Pier at Amelia Island, where the San Miguel is
Dan Reynolds Photography / Getty Images

One of the largest remaining unfound treasures in the U.S. is thought to be sitting somewhere along the Atlantic coast of Florida. Small finds like hundreds of gold coins have created a sort of trail of breadcrumbs, suggesting that the San Miguel, a Spanish treasure ship lost in 1715, went down near Amelia Island. The vessel was carrying gold and other valuable items—potentially the Queen's jewels—that Amelia Research & Recovery says could be worth as much as $2 billion today.

Despite finding fragments of other ships that were part of the Spanish cargo fleet alongside the San Miguel, no one has found the suspected billion-dollar haul yet. One salvage company, Queens Jewels, now owns rights to the 1715 fleet shipwreck site, and up to two dozen subcontractors sign up to search the site alongside it every summer.

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Pahrump, Nevada

Rolling sand dunes with mountains in background

Jason Barnes / 500px / Getty Images

Pahrump, Nevada—62 miles west of Las Vegas and 30 miles from Death Valley Junction—is where the casino heir Ted Binion is thought to have buried a bundle of silver. Binion died in 1998, allegedly at the hands of his girlfriend and her lover, who were potentially motivated by a highly valuable silver collection. After his death, Nye County police discovered a 12-foot-deep vault containing six tons of silver bullion, cash, and thousands of rare coins on one of Binion's properties in Pahrump.

While much of the discovered silver went to Binion's daughter, much more of it—millions of dollars' worth—is thought to remain buried on the property. In 2019, one of Binion's former ranch hands was arrested for attempting to dig it up.

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Catskill Mountains (New York)

Town of Phoenicia, New York

Daniel Case / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Dutch Schultz (real name Arthur Flegenheimer) was a well-known crime boss in New York City during the '20s. He made a fortune with bootlegged liquor, illegal lotteries, and other criminal activities. When he was being prosecuted for tax evasion, Schultz allegedly stashed some of his fortune in a secret location in the Catskill Mountains. The “treasure” was said to include cash in the form of $1,000 bills, diamonds, and gold coins.

Schultz was acquitted of tax evasion, but prosecutors started pursuing other charges, so he was not able to retrieve his hidden loot. He managed to avoid jail but was eventually gunned down on orders from rival crime bosses. Some say Schultz mumbled incoherently about the treasure as he bled out after being shot. Others tell of maps that the city-dwelling mob men were unable to decipher. Many think the treasure is buried near the hamlet of Phoenicia, New York.