Rule Out Beartrap……

by VJ


Actually, I think someone else came to the conclusion that Bear Trap Canyon in Montana probably wasn’t the location of the treasure,

But I figured they hadn’t considered everything…like I had, because I was sure.

My son Jeffrey and I flew into Bozeman, MT on Friday, April 27, 2018 on our quest to find the Fenn treasure.  We both have a little of the wanderlust in us, and definitely like seeing new places.  I think mainly he just wanted to get out of town for a few days, and this was a great excuse.

Anyway, I felt a little safer traipsing through the wilderness with someone along rather than by myself.  However, he is a faster runner than I am.

As the story title indicates, I had settled on Bear Trap Canyon, MT, just north of Lake Ennis, which is formed by the dam on the Madison River as it winds its way north to converge with the Jefferson and Gallatin. (to form the mighty Missouri)  Now the word “dam” may have just jumped out at you as something Forrest commented on recently.  I actually found that quote a day or so before we left for Bozeman, and was having high anxiety about it.  (Forrest, in an effort to get everyone off of the dams throughout the Rockies, said that “Where warm waters halt” had nothing to do with a dam).  Again, I thought I knew better, and that Mr. Fenn may have fooled everyone else, but not me.  I’ll explain my reasoning.



I cannot find the link, but one of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) websites, describes fishing at Lake Ennis, and says that “since the lake Is relatively shallow throughout (ten feet at its deepest), it is referred to as “warm water”.( I believe I paraphrased that really close), but my point is, the author did not say the water is warm because it is shallow, but because it is shallow it is called “warm”.  Significant.

Okay, the “halt” part.  As a noun, halt means a suspension of movement or activity.  A suspension, not a dead stop.  The dam on Ennis Lake is not your conventional dam, it is called a timber crib.

Water pushes through the timber crib; it is slowed down or halted, but not permanently stopped.  Although Forrest said to exclude dams from our solutions, technically,

I was not dealing with your typical dam, it is a timber crib.  As a verb though, halt means to bring to a complete stop. So, another  fault in my reasoning, but I wanted to make this work.  All right, we move on.



At this point, we are at the very south end of Bear Trap.  The word down is very important; down means to follow the directional flow of the water, which in this case is north.  Upstream would be counter to the flow, or south.  So we are going north.  Another reason I liked this location is because there are no trails at this end of the canyon, and Forrest said that the treasure is not near a trail.  It’s all coming together.



There is a “Put In” for rafts and floating craft below the timber crib and it is located at the end of Barn Creek Road at the Power Station.  Looking at all of the maps, Google Earth, etc, I concluded that an 80 year man could wade and walk the distance from there to the creek, in two trips, in one afternoon.  Distance on the computer map was approximately 1.5 miles from the Put In to the creek on the west side.  This had to be the spot!  But…..conclusions based on images from the computer do not necessarily convey what you see in person.

Oh, and HOME OF BROWN…….I did not put as much emphasis on this clue as my fellow explorers, although no doubt, it is important.  I made sure that the word “below”  worked in this scenario, and it did.  “Below” follows the same directional flow as “down” in the above paragraph, and then… home of Brown?  Lake Ennis… Brown trout cruise the vegetated channels of this shallow lake.  Looking good.

Although narrow and sometimes rough, you can drive all the way to the Power Station on Barn Creek Road.  Scenery is breathtaking.  Once there though, my heart began to sink.

The Power Station blocks all access on the east side, and there is no level surface for walking on the west side, just the steep bank that drops sharply into the Madison.  The only way to progress up the Madison from the Put In is in the river itself.



My son and I were prepared to wade in the water, based on the Poem, and some additional clues from Forrest.  We had leased waders from a local outfitter, with FELT soles, just like Forrest recommended.  We were so ahead of the game.  However…..the water looked daunting.  Fishermen were out in the water that day, but at this location on the river, the water had clearly gained momentum and volume since its push through the timber crib.  (heavy loads and water high)

Surveying downstream, there was a spot about 75-100 yards down the river that looked promising as a spot to get back on land, and hike farther in.  So we suited up, and were on the very verge of entering the rapid water (about 4 feet deep), when we were startled by the Power Station Manager.  He was very friendly, and just wanted us to move our truck to the designated parking area.  When we told him about our plans though, he became quite serious.  He said that the release at the crib was approximately 3200 cfs, a substantial flow rate, and it would be tricky to maneuver in, but the area he was most concerned about was right there at the Power Station where the water is released back into the river.  The surge from the release would be very difficult for us to wade through, and he was very concerned about us trying.

My son was already having doubts about my choice on the Madison being the correct location, but with the advice of the PS Manager, he was ready to call it off.  I was terribly conflicted, but decided not to tempt fate.

We got out of the waders, and drove back to our hotel in Bozeman.  I later thought about 2 of the 3 gentlemen who had lost their lives looking for the treasure; those 2 had drowned in probably similar or worse water conditions.

I do not know if they ventured into the water, or if it occurred by some accident, but regardless you have to respect the sheer power of the river torrents.



Three more items which had made me sure about my choice:

  • This location on the Madison was at 4800’; you would only have to climb another 200’ to get to the 5000’ mark.  However, the gradient gain was incredibly steep……for an 80 year old?
  • All of this area is under BLM control and authority; if the treasure was found here, no problems.  Officials at BLM have said, take it.
  • The Canyon is approximately 10 miles long; if you started at the north end, you would have to hike 7 miles before you got away from the trail.  That would be 28 miles in an afternoon…..for an 80 year old?

Happy hunting to all,



37 thoughts on “Rule Out Beartrap……

  1. Thanks for sharing and glad you made the safe decision . I don’t want anyone to be number 5. Good luck in you future hunts.

    • ty good thinking ribbon is in order. I was just thinking how Forrest is tracking this treasure hunt like he did with dinner in the old days that was fun for him i think well it made him proud to say the least Have a good day Forrest and all of you Too.

  2. When I was in physical therapy rehab after my leg was amputated I had nothing else to do but search on my computer. Bear Trap Canyon was one of my obsessions. Everything just fit. Then there was the dam, and the other dam at Hebgen. Then there were pictures of people paddling on the water in rafts. Suddenly it didn’t fit.
    There are other areas nearby. Just figure out where warm waters halt without a dam.

    • Michael,
      I agree. Everything just fit; I even bought an extra bag to carry the chest in, I was so sure. But when we arrived at the end of the road on Barn Creek Rd., I knew this was not working.

  3. Nice write-up. You had a couple of strikes against you when you started, but you knew it going in. YEA for you for searchin’ anyway. Look like you had a good trip anyway – JDA

  4. Why would put in below the home of brown be no place dor the meek ? Whos afraid of brown trout or brown birds, but brown bears is another story, and the black bear faimily comes in all colors, and thats clue no place for the meek right after HOB is mentioned, just like the clue after the mention of the blaze is listen good its worth the cold if your in the wood , what do you do when your cold ? You get wood to build a blaze

  5. Anywhere else between Quake lake and Ennis Lake would seem more likely.

    There is walk wade water between Quake lake and the Three Dollar Bridge.

    If you plan to head back out there.


    • Think you may be right Lugnutz. In TTOTC, Forrest and Donnie appeared to have headed north from West Yellowstone right up that cut in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness reserve.

      • didn’t they go up the “Red Canyon” area? that’s pretty much NNE of West Yellowstone or east of Hebgin Lake, Right?

  6. You made the right decision not crossing four feet with current. It is easy to not think properly of ones surroundings with BOTG. A kind of tunnel vision can quickly take one beyond their limit. I once ended up under a rock wall with too steep a scree field beneath. One slip and There was no stopping. When I turned to go back I was amazed at how far I had gone without noticing what was below and how precarious the footing. g

    I AM AWARE THAT THE MAD. IS DIFF THAN THE ARKANSAS, (being a wider river) but in the Ark, 600 CFS IS THE

    • Batty,

      I read that the elevated CFS is what makes the Kitchen Sink a cat V rapid. In normal flow it is a cat IV, which is scary enough.

    • Yes, for me and if fishing, 300 is my limit (too tiring to be standing in current…of course yes does depend on width/depth, but I’m talking mountain water, not flat valley water…there yeah maybe a little higher, but flatter water tends to be deeper/wider. Also, anyone doing searches below dams, be aware that many hydro-electric dams can do ‘on-demand’ releases to increase power production, flows can change drastically with little warning. Always check flows before you leave! there are also numerous fishing sites that link to flows, this one is really fun (the maps are excellent for agency/ownership questions)…

  8. VJ—

    Did you ever go back and confirm that the Power Station Manager really worked there? When I read your write-up I see only one logical conclusion:

    The Power Station Manager was actually your Guardian Angel.

    I liked the write up and photos though. Thanks for sharing with us. Very nice!

    • Sparrow,
      I think you are probably right.
      Yes, G. A’s do exist, but may
      not be working 24/7/365.

      • How very fortuitous that (a) you parked in the wrong spot, (b) were approached by the PSM, (c) disclosed your plans, and (d) received an informed warning.

        I do hope you followed up with a note of gratitude to him. I would have sought out his supervisor in order to provide same. Good form and all.

    • You could be right! He was definitely one laid back fellow; reminded me of Jeff Bridges.

      • After he warned you did you hear any bells ring? Remember “every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings”. lol

  9. Wow. Someone was looking out for you two. Next time put 20 lbs in a pack on your back and crossi it four times cause that’s what ff would have had to do at 80 years old. Just what were you thinking?

  10. Ruled out that whole area without BOTG a while back.
    Thanks for the confirmation.

    • Would you care to share why /how you ruled out this area? I have a solve that I think fits really well but I’m always looking for something I might have missed….thanks!

      • Well, for the clues to fit, you would have to start at the south end of Bear Trap. I went as far as I could on Barn Creek Rd., and I think entering the Madison right there would be difficult for anyone, much less an 80 year old. I think Forrest intimates that you will have to brave the water at some point, but not like it was the day I was there. The exception to this would be if the river was really low, and the current was nominal. I could see him doing that. However, the additional 200′ you would have to ascend on the west side to get to 5000′ would be difficult. Maybe farther down the Madison, it was not as steep. Bottom line………maybe don’t totally rule it out, but conditions would have to be perfect. Another kicker is that Forrest said you could take your grand kids there, which kind of means, anytime. So Bear Trap is probably not a fit.

        • Thanks! I really enjoyed reading your original posting as I do all the actual BOTG searches!
          My solve is a little different and I believe it still fits pretty well. I was interested if Chance would share how they had ruled out this area without actually having been there as I was afraid maybe I had missed something that would totally change it for me also. Once you have a solve in mind it’s hard to let it go very easily! Lol

  11. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us and very happy you chose wisely not to enter!

  12. Stay out of the water people… FF already said he walked to and from he car twice in one afternoon to hide his treasure. Nothing about wading in rivers/streams and he wants kids and family’s out looking for it. A swift moving river is not the place for any kid to be in. Be SAFE use good judgment… no else needs to pass on looking for this treasure. KIT

  13. You make the statement: “All of this area is under BLM control and authority; if the treasure was found here, no problems. Officials at BLM have said, take it.” I have not seen this stated before. Can you supply a reference to validate this?

      • One of the main legal distinctions hinges on whether the chest is buried; Fenn has hinted that it’s not. “On BLM land in New Mexico, as long as it’s not buried, if somebody found the chest, they would be permitted to take it,” says Allison Sandoval, a BLM representative in Santa Fe. Sandoval is quick to point out that artifacts such as arrowheads and pottery found on BLM land are not “finders, keepers,” however. “Fenn’s treasure isn’t an artifact. It’s kind of a unique situation, but as long as there’s no degradation of the land involved in collecting it, it’s fair game.” … quote is from reddit website- through a governmental procedure

        • Thanks for supplying this info. Note: the link does not work as shown, but if you enter it and then delete the “o” at the end it will work correctly.

        • * * * * BLM rep A Sandoval sez – “Fenn’s treasure isn’t an artifact.” * * * *

          Not yet, anyway.


  14. I like your solve I had a similar one too, which was what led me to this post. Except, that I start on the other end of bear trap canyon, and take the meaning down as in south, and my start for WWWH is where hot spring creek flows into the Madison at the Warm spring boat launch. across the Madison is bear trap canyon and and 2 miles down is bear trap creek. The only thing that bugged me with this solve was that the elevation of the Madison was slightly under 5000 as you travel up bear trap creek it gets above 5000 but I have my doubts. I have yet to put BOTG, but I am relatively new to the search.

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