The hunt for Forrest Fenn’s treasure

FAN Editor
CBS News

Millionaire Forrest Fenn hid a treasure somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Five men died searching for it. 

“48 Hours” reveals new details, rarely seen photos and exclusive interviews in “The Fenn Treasure.” 

The Fenn Treasure

Forrest Fenn
Gabriela Campos/eyevine/Redux

 In 2010, 80-year-old millionaire art dealer Forrest Fenn hid a treasure chest somewhere north of Santa Fe and south of Canada in the Rocky Mountains. 

Chest of Gold

The Fenn treasure
Forrest Fenn

The 10×10-inch chest contained gold coins, gems and jewelry, and was worth at least $1 million.

Unusual Treasure Map

The Fenn treasure map
Sacha Dent

Forrest Fenn wrote a 24-line poem, containing nine clues, and included it in his self-published memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase.” Fenn said the poem would lead to the treasure. 

The Search Begins

Dacha Dent
Sacha Dent

Sacha Dent estimates she spent more than 10,000 hours doing research online and went out on more than 300 trips to find the treasure, often alone. She carried a pink pistol for protection. 

Extreme Commitment

Katya Luce
Bill Curry

Katya Luce sold everything she owned and moved to New Mexico to be closer to the search area. She estimates she spent $75,000 over seven years trying to find Forrest Fenn’s gold.

The First Death

Randy Bilyeu
Randy Bilyeu/Facebook

In January 2016, Randy Bilyeu and his dog Leo set off to search for the treasure in the Rio Grande northwest of Santa Fe. Bilyeu was gone for 10 days before he was reported missing.

The Only One Rescued

Leo Bilyeu helicopter rescue
Satoshi Mori

A helicopter crew found Randy Bilyeu’s raft and rescued Leo. But Bilyeu’s body wasn’t recovered until six months later.

An Unfortunate Accident

Jeff Murphy
National Park Service

In June 2017, Jeff Murphy was searching in Yellowstone National Park when he slipped and fell off a cliff.

The Third Fatality

Paris Wallace/Facebook

Just a week later, Colorado pastor Paris Wallace attempted to cross the Rio Grande near the Taos Junction Bridge and drowned. 

Call to End the Hunt

Rio Grande
CBS News

Following Paris Wallace’s death, the New Mexico State Police chief asked Forrest Fenn to call off the hunt. Fenn refused, but urged searchers to be more careful and reminded them not to go anywhere an 80-year-old man couldn’t go. 

The Thrill of the Chase

Eric Ashby
Eric Ashby/Facebook

Eric Ashby moved from Tennessee to Colorado to search for Fenn’s treasure. 

Death on the River

Eric Ashby's raft
Fremont County Sheriff’s Office

Eric Ashby drowned in the Arkansas River outside Cañon City, Colorado. A photographer captured this photo of his empty raft. 

The Storm Passed?

Dan Barbarisi
Jay Raynor

For nearly three years, no one else died, and searchers continued to hunt for the treasure, including Dan Barbarisi, who wrote a book about the hunt.

On the Hunt

Mike Sexson
Steve Inlow

In March 2020, Mike Sexson went searching near Dinosaur National Monument. He had searched the area nearly a dozen times before and wanted to go out one more time before the COVID-19 lockdown. 

The Last Loss

Mike Sexson airlift
Utah Highway Patrol

Mike Sexson and his friend Steven Inlow ran out of supplies and couldn’t get cell service to call for help. Inlow survived by drinking his own urine, but Sexson succumbed to hypothermia. His body was airlifted off the mountain.

The End of the Hunt

The Fenn treasure found
Dan Barbarisi

Three months later, Forrest Fenn reported that the treasure had been found. He later revealed it was found in Wyoming. Jack Stuef, who found the treasure, hasn’t revealed where he found it, saying he doesn’t want the spot to turn into a tourist attraction. Fenn died in September 2020.

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The Fenn Treasure

The Fenn Treasure – CBS News Watch CBSN Live Millionaire Forrest Fenn hid a gold-filled chest somewhere in the Rockies and wrote a poem with cryptic clues. Tens of thousands searched for it and five people died trying. A story of obsession. “CBS This Morning” co-host Tony Dokoupil reports for […]