Experience

Back to Youth Activities

Treasure Hunting

When you think of treasure hunting, do you think of Indiana Jones breaking into a centuries-old crypt to loot a priceless artifact? Although that may be a popular conception, treasure hunting doesn’t have to be destructive. disrespectful or illegal.

For example, geocachers may tell you that what they enjoy most about their sport is being outdoors and discovering new places. What they actually find in a cache – often a symbolic item without any material value – isn’t really the point. Likewise, someone using a metal detector on an Oregon beach is unlikely to find any gold doubloons washed ashore from an eighteenth century Spanish galleon, but they might find some spare change or a lost set of car keys. Yes, most amateur treasure hunters enjoy the search without any expectation of “striking it rich.”

If you’re interested in trying your hand at treasure hunting, here are some popular activities you can participate in. Remember, the outdoor etiquette rules always apply here – including respecting NO TRESPASSING signs, private property boundaries and local ordinances which may prohibit treasure hunting in some areas and require permits for others.


Geocaching: This high-tech treasure hunt is enjoyed by millions of people worldwide and can be as simple to begin as downloading a free app for your smart device. Geocaching uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to help you discover new outdoor places and hidden caches. Of all the treasure-seeking activities, geocaching is one of the easiest and safest to start with. To learn more, click here.

Fossil Hunting: If searching for a natural treasures is more your style, considering fossil hunting. Oregon’s Central Coast is a particularly abundant area for marine fossils and they can often be found lying in plain sight among the cobblestones on public beaches. If you want to learn even more about fossils, the expansive John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in eastern Oregon is one of the best paleontological sites in the world – although it’s illegal to collect anything from this area. To learn more, click here.

Gold panning: This old technique for removing gold nuggets from flowing water is still a popular activity in Oregon today thanks to the state’s numerous streams and rich gold-mining history. Gold panning involves scooping sediment out of a stream bottom and then using the water and a shaking action to separate the gold from the surrounding sediment. Because gold is so heavy, it will settle to the bottom of the pan where it can be picked out. During the Gold Rush Era of the mid-nineteenth century, panning was not only a simple way to extract gold without needing heavy equipment, but it could also indicate if larger veins of the mineral existed in the rocks nearby. Although panning requires patience and it’s unlikely you’ll find any large gold specimens, it can be a fun way to enjoy nature or enhance other outdoor activities like camping and hiking. To learn more, click here.

Metal detecting: If you’ve ever lost your house keys or spilled spare change out of your pockets, you may be unintentionally depositing “finds” for someone with a metal detector. This recreational activity requires the use of an electronic instrument which can detect metals hidden by plants or buried underground. Technological advancements in metal detecting means that the most modern devices can actually differentiate between different types of metals, so you could scan for gold while ignoring copper and nickel, for example. One of the biggest benefits of metal-detecting is you can do it almost anywhere, including in a public park, beach or school playground. On the downside, however, the devices are pricy, typically ranging from about $50.00 up to hundreds of dollars. To learn more, click here.

Related Information: The Golden Treasure of Heinrich Schliemann

Share
Landmarkplacesad Wayfinditadfinal Lifeinruinsad Mackenzieslostworldsad

Treasure Hunters In Young Adult Literature

What's your favorite young adult novel about treasure hunting? (Remember, "treasure" doesn't necessarily mean something with a high monetary value!) Share it with the Oceanscape Network on our Goodreads.com page. Click on the icon above to visit our member page and see online book reviews.

No Looting Allowed!

Lara Croft and Nate Drake may make treasure-hunting look exciting in video games, but in real life they'd probably end up behind bars. The Antiquities Act of 1906 is just one important law which prevents malicious or greedy treasure-hunters from stealing or destroying important natural and cultural resources in the United States.