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,