Treasure Hunting with ARCGIS…

gisbannerThe following paper was written by two university students for their GIS (Geographic Information Systems) course. Since they used Forrest’s treasure hunt as the basis for their paper I got a kick out of it and thought you might too.

ARCGIS, according to Wikipedia:
Esri uses the name ArcGIS to refer to its suite of GIS software products, which operate on desktop, server, and mobile platforms.

by The Goonies LLC: Corey Dennis & Preston Jutte

In 2010, an author named Forrest Fenn hid approximately $2 million dollars in gold and gems in a chest buried somewhere in the American Rocky Mountains, within New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, or Montana. Fenn published a poem soon after this that he says: “will lead you directly to the treasure.” This report aims to analyze that poem for clear, quantifiable clues that can indexed within ARCGIS to find an area of the United States in which the treasure lies. The most extensive help comes from the poem published in his 2010 book, The Thrill of the Chase. Since then, Fenn has given numerous interviews and published more books where he drops more hints; all of these sources will be taken as fact and used to analyze the whereabouts of his treasure. Our company will give our suggestion for the best place to look.

In 2013, Fenn released his book Too Far Too Walk where he published a map he says “contains the location of the treasure on it”. Unfortunately, the map just excludes the flat, boring part of the original area but is still marginally helpful. The map with the original poem below is as follows:



Base Map
To start, a good map of the United States was needed. We used the United States base map found on the US Census website<1>. We loaded that into GIS and worked with the USDS 1983 coordinate system. From there we clipped an outline of the states down to just the 4 states<2> that are known to possibly hold the treasure: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. This was saved as its own “Treasure States” layer.




Forrest Fenn said in a 2013 interview<3> that the treasure lies between 5000 feet and 10,200 feet in elevation, which gives us our first definite clue. We searched and found a topographic United States map<4>.


We initially ran into trouble because all of the maps had no coordinate system, but we eventually found a raster image that came with values for each color. We converted these to values with the “Raster to Points” tool.


From there we searched through the values by selecting only values inside of that elevation range. We turned those selected points into a separate layer and clipped it to the Treasure States layer.



The poem repeatedly mentions that the path to the treasure follows a water source. Lines like “begin where warm waters halt”, “no paddle up your creak” and “heavy loads and water high” all tell of a location next to a stream of some kind. If that wasn’t enough evidence, Fenn said in an interview in 2015 that “the treasure is wet”<5>. Following this logic, we can conclude that the treasure is very close to a stream, for the sake of conservative evidence, we have said the treasure is within 1000 feet of a stream, even though it is likely closer. We found a hydrologic map from USGS’s website6 and clipped that to our existing map.


From there, we buffered the hydrologic layer out 1000 feet and got rid of the layer beneath, leaving us with everything in the Treasure States that was between the accepted elevation and within 1000 feet of a stream:



Pine Trees
In the same interview<5>, Fenn said, “If I was standing where the treasure chest is, I’d see trees, I’d see mountains, I’d see animals. I’d smell wonderful smells of pine needles, or pinyon nuts, sagebrush.” From here we know there is members of trees from the Genus Pinus in the area of the chest. From USGS’s website<7> we found maps and shapefiles for the distribution of every Pine species out there. We checked distribution maps of every species and found the seven (7) species of Pine that lie within our search area:

Upon researching the odors of these trees, all have typical Pine smells except Contorta, so this was removed from our list. We downloaded the shapefiles from the USGS website and added them to our map. These were merged and clipped to our existing watershed and elevation layer. Below is shown the watershed clipped to the merged Pine tree layer, with a reference of the original Pine tree layers shown beside that:


Which leaves us with our final map.



Our Recommendation
Up to this point, we’ve been dealing with information we can take as fact, and as of now, we have narrowed down the search area to 2% of the original search area. Fenn has stated in an interview that he’d put the treasure somewhere important to him, not just some random spot. Fenn grew up fishing in Yellowstone and that park fits a large portion of the search area<8>. Many, including us, think that it’s likely the Treasure lies there. So now if we introduce that bit of speculation to the equation, we can add a map of Yellowstone and clip to that. We looked up a map of Yellowstone National Park<9> and clipped our final map to the Yellowstone map and came up with this search area in Yellowstone:


Yellowstone Lake takes up a large area of this, so we digitized the lake and hyperlinked that to a google search about the lake, so users could get context of the area.


The search area that lies within Yellowstone is 23,310 acres, or .084% of the original area. It is the recommendation of The Goonies LLC that the client search there, as evidence points to the treasure lying in Yellowstone.


Using Geographic Information Systems, we were able to narrow down the original search area of 27,801,289 acres down to 591,636 acres, or a 98% reduction in size. By introducing Yellowstone to the map, we were able to narrow down the search area to .084% of the starting area of Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Montana.

3.) 1C9099431
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You can download the original .pdf file with the following link. Be aware that the .pdf file is quite large at 18Mb and may take some time to download but once you get it their maps are much larger and easier to appreciate.