Treasure Hunts

South Florida Treasure Hunting

Ever wondered if there is any buried treasure near where you live or vacation? You've probably seen the guy or gal in the local park sweeping a metal detector as they move around the park mysteriously. But what are they looking for?

In a typical public park, you can find most anything that visitors have lost or left behind by mistake: coins, jewelry, souvenirs, and a lot of things that should not be left behind but unfortunately are...old cans and pop-tops and other "trash" buried a few inches below the ground. But there are a lot of undiscovered treasures most anywhere you look, including historic relics and gold coins if you are lucky.

Another place hidden treasures can be found are old military installations and forts. In past centuries, the military built hundreds of forts in Florida. Where do you suppose the soldiers would put their valuables? They found a spot away from the fort and buried it! Maybe later, they died or even forgot where the location was, and now years later, it is still there!

Another fun way to hunt hidden "treasure" is a new sport called "Geocaching." You don't need a metal detector, and you don't dig any holes in the ground, but you do need a Global Positioning Satellite receiver, called a GPS receiver. The U.S. government has put your tax dollars to work, launching more than a dozen satellites that send signals back to earth allowing a tiny handheld GPS receiver to tell exactly where you are, within about 10 feet. The $99 to $300 GPS receivers allow GPS enthusiasts to hide caches of goodies most anywhere on mostly public lands. Once you have your own GPS receiver (check your sporting goods store, or large department stores) you can go to and find hundreds of cache locations near every city in the U.S. and around the world.

For the more adventurous, you can try treasure hunting in more remote places, looking for historical items, old coins, antique items, and lots of things buried under the ground for decades or even centuries. Before modern times, people did not keep money and personal valuables in banks or safe deposit boxes. Where did they try to keep them safe? In the ground! Most home owners of past centuries merely found a spot near the homestead, dug a hole and placed their valuables underground for safe keeping. And in a surprising number of cases, the valuables were abandoned or lost. The owner might have died without telling anyone of the secret cache, or in some cases, the owner might have came by the valuables by less than honorable robbing.

Yes, you can find most anything with an inexpensive metal detector that can be purchased from about $99 to those costing hundreds of dollars including all the extra "bells and whistles" and the ability to sense metal further under the ground than the basic models. Buy or borrow a metal detector and see what you can find in your own neighborhood or even in your backyard! Photo: A typical metal detector and some coin finds. This type of detector can be used for finding anything metallic, including gold and silver

Here are a few of the places in South Florida where treasure is expected to be found someday by a lucky soul who has done a little research and a lot of searching:

Between 1915 and 1926, the John Ashley gang of bank robbers made their headquarters in Canal Point, Florida in West Palm Beach county. Canal Point, then and now is a very small community between Clewiston and West Palm Beach. It is said that $110,000 in gold is buried somewhere in the area, loot from bank robberies. The Ashley gang also reportedly buried $25,000 somewhere near the St. Lucie Inlet on the Atlantic coast of Florida.

After the Civil War, Juan Gonzales left a band of pirates working on the Gulf of Mexico and fled inland to Shell Creek, near Lettuce Lake, Florida. Captain Ernie Hall, who at one time wrote a newspaper column in Fort Myers called "Along the Waterfront" wrote that Gonzales buried treasure near Lake Lettuce and even left behind a code to find the treasure site, although no one has been able to decipher the code yet.

Near the end of the Civil War, a Confederate Army paymaster hid $200,000 in gold coins in the Everglades near present Hendry County. The location is said to be at the junction of two creeks where the land rises "like a camel's back." The gold is buried in the west hump. The location is supposedly between Alligator Alley and State Road 41, and near a present day Seminole Indian Reservation in Hendry County.

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