Kentucky is a state known for its horse racing, moonshine, bluegrass and coal. It’s rich history provides people with all sorts of activities and opportunities to explore. Metal detecting enthusiasts can easily find a home in Kentucky. The numerous Civil War battles throughout the state offer treasure hunters ample opportunity to explore.
On top of the metal detecting opportunities, you’ll have the chance to explore multiple state parks as well as Mammoth Cave National Park. This national park contains one of the largest cave systems in the world. You’ll have plenty to do throughout the Bluegrass State and metal detecting is a cherry on top.
Here is a list of the 15 best places to metal detect in Kentucky.
1. Basil Griffin Park- Explorable Variety!
Kentucky is fairly strict on its metal detecting rules and regulations. You must do your research before you choose a place to visit. Basil Griffin Park is located in Warren County and stretches across over 110 acres. There are 10 baseball/softball fields, disc golf course, trails and amphitheater as well as a 33-acre lake.
Locations like these aren’t always available in states across the country. Water, trees, trails and a variety of activities mean a wonderful place for people to search. Parks in Louisville and a variety of other cities ban metal detecting so you have to take advantage of the cities that allow it.
When searching parks with a variety of attractions, go where the people are. Most people will be near the playground, ball fields as well as the water. Spend most of your time here and then move out into the trails as well as the other features of the parks. As long as you’re willing to put in the work and do some exploring, parks like these can be wonderful.
2. Elizabethtown Nature Park- Freeman Lake Finds
Elizabethtown Nature Park is a 104 acre park in Elizabethtown Kentucky. This park has an extensive trail system, a nice pavilion. This park is also very close to Freeman Lake. Freeman Lake is an extremely popular lake with beaches and trails that people enjoy.
There is a veterans memorial within the park that is completely off limits to detecting. Don’t detect anywhere near this memorial or you will likely be hit with an exceptionally large fine and may lose your detector. As long as you stay a good distance away from the memorial, you’ll have plenty of treasure to find.
Again, you must spend your time in the areas that people congregate. Go to the park on a weekend and see where people like to spend their time. Take another visit during the week and you’ll likely have it close to yourself.
3. Madisonville City Park- Avoid the Golf Course!
Madisonville City Park is a 250-acre park in Madisonville, KY. It’s one of the largest city parks in Kentucky. There is a specific rule in Kentucky that says you aren’t able to detect on golf courses so be sure to stay away from the course in the park. The walking trails, ball fields and Elmer Kelley Stadium are located within the park.
This park has a nice variety of activities so it’s going to bring in quite a few different people. The more types of people that flow into an area means the better chances you have at finding some pretty miraculous treasure.
If you do happen to find something that you can return to somebody, be a good samaritan and do so. People always appreciate something being returned to them! It’s an automatic day maker.
METAL DETECTING TIP: When you’re detecting in a city park, be sure that you don’t crowd those around you. Metal detecting is already heavily regulated in Kentucky so it’s best to minimize potential complaints. We don’t need any more regulations put on us!
4. Radcliff City Park-Ampitheatre Potential!
Radcliff City Park is one of the most well-attended parks across Kentucky. It has quite a few attractions including a skate park, disc golf course, picnic areas and a playground. The opportunity to search these areas doesn’t always come around in Kentucky.
Remember, the parks within Louisville are off limits along with the state parks and national parks across the state. Be respectful and don’t cause too much disturbance within these areas because you’ll likely have to deal with city officials who will potentially ban detecting in the park for good.
While you’re at it, catch a concert in the amphitheatre! There’s always a nice amount of live music. Visit the ampitheatre the day after the concert and you’ll likely have a chance to find some pretty miraculous artifacts.
5. Lake Cumberland- Bring your fishing pole too!
Lake Cumberland is Kentucky’s largest lake. It has over 2,025 acres of shoreline for people to explore. Be careful, however, to stay out of the Lake Cumberland State Resort Park because this is state owned land and metal detecting is not allowed.
This area brings in around 4 million people every single year. This makes every metal detecting enthusiast drool. There are few areas in the east that are as popular and allow for metal detecting. The beaches are going to be your best bet.
Remember, when you’re metal detecting beaches, you want to search for the low points in the sand. These low points are going to be the areas that hold the treasure. Visit the beach early in the morning or late in the evening because these are going to be less popular.
When detecting on the beach it’s also smart to wear headphones. The sound of the water and people can make it difficult to hear the tones of your detector. Either wired or bluetooth headphones are going to work quite well.
Bring your family and fishing poles because there are some spectacular fishing opportunities all along the shore!
6. Green River Lake
Green River Lake is a 3,000 acre lake near Adair, Taylor & Casey’s Counties. There is a large state park that surrounds the lake that has plenty of camping, boating and hiking opportunities. These are all off limits for detecting since they’re in a state park, but there are a variety of recreational areas that you’re able to detect.
The beaches, parks and picnic areas outside of the state park are phenomenal. They’re heavily visited and people are often careless with jewelry and other valuable items in these areas. Again, it’s another wonderful place to bring your family! Sneak the detector in the back of the car and escape for a few hours to do some detecting.
Also, the fishing for bass and musky in this lake is phenomenal! Visit this area in the late summer or fall when you’ll have it to yourself and won’t have to worry about getting in the way of other people looking to enjoy the prime locations.
7. Nolin River Lake
This uniquely named lake is nearly 3,000 acres large. It can be found in Central Kentucky and there is a 135 acre state park on the shores that is off limits to detecting. You can camp here, but spend your detecting time in the recreational areas.
Nolin River has quite a few beaches for you to explore. When you’re detecting on beaches, manually set your sensitivity. Sand can mess with your sensitivity so determine what works and commit to that.
Also, you can search the parking lots near these recreational areas. They’re going to hold quite a bit of treasure that people drop while loading and unloading their vehicles. People can become frustrated if you crowd them while they’re spending time at the lake so stay courteous.
8. Herrington Lake
Herrington Lake is Kentucky’s deepest lake. There is no state park that surrounds the lake so the only area that is off limits is the Pete Dye Peninsula Golf Resort. There are a nice amount of hiking trails and beaches to spend your time searching.
This lake spreads across Mercer, Garrard & Boyle counties. These aren’t far from some fairly important Civil War sites. Be sure to take your time, adjust your sensitivity and be patient. Metal detecting isn’t going to automatically produce a massive amount of treasure.
With patience and some practice, you’ll find yourself with some more knowledge on where to look and how to search.
9. Taylorsville Lake
Taylorsville Lake may be one of the most popular lakes on this list. It’s around 1,200 acres and can be found along the Salt River. If possible, you can canoe or boat down the river and stop along the public shore and do some detecting.
This method of detecting can be extremely successful. If you’re willing to put in the extra work and go where not many other people venture, you’ll have a higher success rate of discovering something that not many others could.
River beds are a very common area for treasure to wash up because of the rising and lowering of the water levels. Take your time and work your way down river and see what you can find. It’s best to do this in a small craft so you can easily tie things off and walk up near shore.
It can be a fairly tiring process, but often well worth the time! It’s a type of detecting that many treasure hunters have never even tried.
10. West Paducah
West Paducah is an old abandoned town near the South Bank of the Ohio River. There have been numerous coins dating from the 1800’s found in the area. This is a wonderful spot to hunt if you’re interested in abandoned towns!
Waterfront property similar to this is not always easy to find. Also, there was rumored to be $5,000 of gold hidden near Paducah courtesy of the Cole brothers. The gold has yet to be recovered so it’s a common area for people to search. If you’re interested in old gold searching opportunities, West Paducah is the place for you.
It takes some effort to get to, but it’s well worth your time. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to find seclusion and almost have the entire place to yourself.
Russellville is a wonderful place to search. Jesse James is rumored to have buried $50,000 worth of gold in the area after a bank robbery. The parks within Russellville are open to detecting. Russellville Park is a perfect place to start your hunt.
When you’re detecting in the area, stay away from any sort of historical sites. However, you should have plenty of opportunity to search within this large park. When digging, don’t go any deeper than 6-12 inches.
Holes deeper than this can be difficult to fill and can cause issues with vegetation growing back. City officials will clamp down hard on treasure hunters if they find that the ground is being too heavily disturbed. This town isn’t located far from Mammoth Cave National Park so once you’re done detecting, go ahead and make a visit.
This is a perfect place to detect if you’re staying in the area. Also, you’re not too far from Nashville if you’re interested in detecting in any areas near the city. Call this place your home for a few days and see all that the area has to offer. It’s beautiful and filled with a nice variety of attractions.
Packard is a ghost town in Kentucky that is just south of Williamsburg. It was a mining camp in the early 1900’s. At one point, 400 people lived in this town and it was a thriving area that was a train stop on the way to Kentucky.
Now that the land is abandoned it is a perfect place to start treasure hunting. You’ll potentially find some mining equipment or even old scrips that are worth a considerable amount of money. Since it’s located on the border of Tennessee and Kentucky, be careful that you aren’t crossing state lines.
It’s not a very large area, but the railway station and post office areas have the potential to hold some beautiful treasure. Give it a try!
13. Mushroom Mines
The Mushroom Mines are a very interesting place to search. Located in Lawton, this was the site of an old limestone mine that has the potential to lead to some impressive finds. It’s since been the site of teen parties and other gatherings so the treasure you may find could be quite a few coins and bottle caps.
Be careful of any extra equipment or glass laying around the area. As long as you’re not too disruptive you should have plenty of area to explore. Replace and fix your digs and city officials won’t be too strict with what you can and can’t do.
With detecting, asking permission and being respectful can go quite a long way!
While the name is quite humorous, this town has seen a steady decrease in population over the past 75 years. Now, only about 30 people live in this town. Stay in the public areas and don’t enter private property and you should be good to go!
Abandoned towns are a blast to search. You won’t have any trouble uncovering quite a bit of treasure. It likely won’t be a massive amount of valuable artifacts, but you should keep yourself busy for an entire day. If you’re located near Ballard County, you can go ahead and give Blandville a try for your next detecting adventure.
15. Private Land
There is a massive amount of private land in Kentucky that would be amazing to detect. If you have a friendly personality, you have the opportunity to search some amazing land. You’ll likely have to walk up to some doors, knock and put on a brave face, but it could lead to a lifetime opportunity.
People in Kentucky are not always happy about strangers entering their land so do so at your own risk. Visit local restaurants and museums and start asking around. You never know what you’ll be able to find if you’re willing to ask.
Kentucky is fairly strict when it comes to metal detecting. All state parks, national parks and forests as well as a variety of city parks are off limits. Check with each county before you go metal detecting.
Some cities don’t have the laws on their website so be sure to call the city manager to find out the information regarding what is and isn’t legal when it comes to detecting. Detecting in Louisville is completely off limits, but many of the smaller towns across the state allow for it.
Don’t be too disruptive anywhere you search. The metal detecting community is hanging on for dear life. We need to be as respectful of the laws as possible! It’ll be more beneficial in the long run.
Kentucky Metal Detecting Clubs
Central Kentucky Research & Recovery Team– This club has its own Facebook page and is quite responsive to messages. If you’re wondering about anything regarding metal detecting in Kentucky, this is a great club to join. They’re going to treat you well.
Northern Kentucky Treasure Hunters– Northern Kentucky is a hotbed for treasure hunting. The linked website will give you everything you need to get in contact with someone about joining the group. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Favorite Metal Detecting Shops in Kentucky
Vance Metal Detecting– Located in Shepherdsville, this is one of the best metal detecting shops in the entire state. Affordable equipment combined with great customer service makes this place a great spot for your business.
Oklahoma is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world. With ancient mountain ranges, sprawling prairies, mesas, and even wonderfully rich eastern forests. I love to visit Oklahoma, and because I love metal detecting, that also means that I love to metal detect in Oklahoma. Whether you live in the sooner state, or are just planning a vacation, Oklahoma is a treasure amongst treasure hunters a real detectorists paradise.
If you’re looking for coins or jewelry, like every other place, Oklahoma’s got them. If you’re looking for artifacts, either from the Native Americans or the Sooners themselves, Oklahoma’s got them. If you’re not looking for anything in particular, Oklahoma’s got those things too. No matter what you’re looking for, this list of fifteen Oklahoma locations are amongst the best places to metal detect in the state.
1. Osage Hills State Park
Like many of the state parks in this part of the country, the Osage Hills State park was constructed for the State of Oklahoma by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the early twentieth century. During construction the CCC workers were housed at the north end of the park, and the remnants of the housing area can still be found today. Who knows what treasures they left behind?
Today the park is a 1,100-acre expanse of lakes, creeks, and hiking trails. Osage Hills State Park is a very popular tourist destination for anyone in north-east and central Oklahoma, bringing in tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) or guests every year. They come for the parks many recreational opportunities, as well as the tent campgrounds and RV parking areas that the park rents out.
According the Osage Hills State Park office to metal detect in their park you need to first visit their office where you can fill out a daily use permit as well as receive a map of the locations in the park in which you can detect. Once the permit is signed by the park manager, you’re on your way.
2. Robbers Cave State Park
Originally name Latimer State park, Robbers Cave State park received its current name in 1936 due to its long history of sheltering fugitives from the law. Some notable examples include none other than Jesse James and Belle Starr. The Dalton Gang, the Youngers, and the Rufus Buck Gang are also amongst the more well-known criminals that once his out on the land that now makes up this state park. I can only imagine the kinds of relics and treasures they left behind (either on accident or on purpose)!
The park and its adjoining wildlife management area are over 8,000-acres in size and have three lakes in total. It offers a multitude of recreational activities, of which many thousands of people engage in every year. Furthermore, the park hosts multiple festivals every year. The amount of foot traffic in this park is one of the highest in the state when it comes to public lands.
According to the Robbers Cave State Park office, to metal detect in their park you simply need to obtain a daily use permit from the office as well as fill any holes you dig. In general, it’s always to use metal detecting best practiced when on land you don’t own, even if it is just to stay out of trouble.
3. Beavers Bend State Park
Named after John T. Beavers, a Choctaw himself, the Beavers Bend State park is located on what used to be an old Choctaw settlement. Running through the park is the legendary Mountain Fork River, which at a certain point in the park makes an almost 180-degree turn, giving the park the remaining portion of its name. Furthermore, the Broken bow Lake, with its impressive 14,000-acres of water, is a popular destination for scuba divers if underwater metal detecting is your thing.
The park has the second highest visitation rate amongst all of the state parks in Oklahoma and brings in millions in revenues every year. The amount of foot traffic here is almost unparalleled. That combined with the history of natives, settlers, and over a hundred years of conservation work, the Beavers Bend State Park truly earns its place on this list as one of the best places to metal detect in the state of Oklahoma.
According to the Beavers Bend State Park office, to metal detect in the park you need only to visit the front office and fill out a daily use permit which can be obtained at no charge. Although the recreation fee and parking fee might set you back a couple of bucks.
4. Ouachita National Forest
The Ouachita National is the oldest National Forest in the south, and its immense 1,784,457-acres of spread through two states (Arkansas and Oklahoma), mountains, and seemingly unending forest. The land was once home to Native Americans, but also to European explorers from both Spain and France. Today the forest is uninhabited, save its thousands of visitors which come to hike on its hundreds of miles of trails every year.
In addition to metallic treasures that you may happen upon in the Ouachita National Forest, a portion of the Cossatot river several miles wide contain high concentrations of quartz crystals as well as other precious minerals. These loose crystals are free to pick up with the permission of the district ranger.
Due to National Forest Service regulations, metal detecting is permitted although restricted in National Forests and in most cases can be done without a permit. For more information regarding the regulations regarding metal detecting on land managed by the National Forest Service look HERE.
5. Lake Murray State Park
Not only is Lake Murray State Park Oklahoma’s first state park, it is also Oklahoma’s largest state park coming in at a whopping 12,500-acres of land. The park consists of forested, rolling, hills surrounding the iconic Lake Murray. However, the park isn’t just undeveloped woodland. Large portions of the park are dedicated to golfing, picnicking, and sports facilities.
Whether you’re looking for beach detecting, field detecting, or a woodland hunt, Lake Murray State Park is the place to go if you’re in Oklahoma. I mean… there’s over 150-miles of shoreline! With shaded pavilions and peaceful trails to bout. Accommodations range from natural campground to an upscale lodge with all of the luxury of a hotel.
Unlike the previous parks on this list, you with have to pay to metal detect in this park. A metal detecting permit for Lake Murray State Park can be obtained at the front office for $25.00. The permit is good up to the end of the year of purchase and needs to be renewed in January.
6. Tenkiller State Park
It might not be the 150-miles of shoreline surrounding Lake Murray, but there is still 130-miles of shoreline bordering the famous Lake Tenkiller. The park is known as “heaven in the hills” to Oklahomans all across the state. It, like all of the parks on this list, is a highly popular tourist and recreation destination. The beaches and the trails both offer some interesting metal detecting possibilities.
According to the Tenkiller State Park office, to metal detect in the park you need to go to their main office and obtain a daily-use permit. This permit costs $25.00 and needs to be approved by the park manager. Maps of the park can also be found at this office.
7. Boiling Springs State Park
As the name suggests, Boiling Springs State Park is home to sandy-bottom springs which appear to be boiling because of an inrush of subsurface currents that produce bubbles on the surface of a spring fed pond. The park is around 820-acres in size and was originally built by the CCC in the early twentieth century. Foot traffic from visitors is what makes Boiling Springs a great place to metal detect.
The Boiling Springs State Park office tells me that to metal detect in their park you need to visit their front office and fill out a daily use permit and get it signed by the park manager. Maps of the park can also be found in this office.
8. Sequoyah State Park
Jutting into the eastern shore of Fort Gibson Lake, the Sequoyah State Park is a peninsular recreation area 2,200-acres in size. A large portion of the park is dedicated to the Sequoyah Park Golf Course, an accompanying Lodge can house over a hundred guests all of which could be dropping things on sandy beaches or open fields. It’s a beautiful park with tons of metal detecting potential. I always love metal detecting near golf courses, people who golf tend to be the kinds of people that drop things you’ll want to find.
Furthermore, according to the Sequoyah State Park office, to metal detect in the park all you need to do is visit the front office and fill out a daily use permit which is approved by the park manager. Maps and further direction regarding where you can metal detect in the park can also be found in this office.
9. Private Land
Public land is a wonderful resource for detectorist across the globe, but some of the best finds can be found on private land. Private land offers a uniquely undisturbed opportunity for treasure hunting. The only problem is that most of the time you need to actually own the land to metal detect on it… right? Well actually, often if you ask politely and promise to not leave a trace then many people with large yards or properties will allow someone to detect on their land. You just have to ask the right people and say the right things. Remember, you only need to get one person to say yes!
Personally, I like to ask older people, people with a lot of land, and people who seem very friendly. It isn’t a crime to ask someone if you can metal detect on their property, but it feels a lot better when you aren’t getting shut down all the time. It takes a keen eye, and ear, but with practice you can often tell who the kind of person might be to let you hunt for treasure in their back yard.
Offering to split the profits of anything found can often convince a landowner to let you metal detect on their property.
10. Local Beaches
Local public beaches often don’t have regulations or oversight which would prevent you from metal detecting. As long as you don’t disturb the land too much, or the people, then nobody will bother you either. These beaches aren’t particularly popular, so there isn’t much foot traffic, but that also means that they probably won’t have anyone else detecting on them. Fresh ground is always an exciting opportunity to a detectorist.
Just make sure that it is in fact a public beach as metal detecting on a private beach is trespassing just as much as if you were to walk around someone’s front yard and start digging holes. In general, its always best to make sure you have the full permissions wherever, and whenever, you’re metal detecting.
11. Texola, Oklahoma
Texola has always been a small town, in its heyday in 1910 Texola had around 400 residence. In 2010 Texola had barely 30 residence within its limits. The town is so isolated it’s not even technically served by the Oklahoma highway system, although a single road can bring you to I-40. Many of its buildings have crumbled and been taken over by vegetation, forgotten and unwanted. It’s here where urban explorers and treasure hunters alike can find exciting metal detecting opportunities.
12. Ingalls, Oklahoma
Located in Payne County, Ingalls is essentially an empty field aside from a few wooden buildings. With a population that peaked in 1890 at around 150 people, Ingalls has always been a small town. However, it was the famous shootout between the Doolin-Dalton Gang and a troupe of U.S Marshals which cemented Ingalls as a true ghost town. Metal detectors have already helped uncover relics from the battle, but who knows what still in the ground just waiting to be found?
13. Lenora, Oklahoma
Once known as the “Pearl of the Prairies”, Lenora was once a heart of trade and commerce in Oklahoma. Today it is just another of Oklahoma’s many ghost towns which have huge metal detecting potential. In 1900 it had a population of 400, today its simply an unincorporated community a couple of miles out of Dewey, Oklahoma.
14. The Blue River
While there are a number of stories of buried treasure along Oklahoma’s Blue River, one stands out. During the civil war a band of Confederate soldiers robbed a Federal supply wagon in Kansas stealing two large barrels of gold coins that were destined for Texas. However, the soldiers were attacked themselves by outlaws who stole the treasure for themselves. They purportedly buried the treasure in a cave somewhere along the Blue River.
Just make sure not to trespass on any private land while in search of this legendary treasure.
15. Mill Creek and The Arbuckle Mountains
As they commonly were in the mid seventeenth century, a payroll coach was looted as it passed through Oklahoma. However, instead of being caught, the perpetrators made off with a large amount of stolen gold and silver coins. The loot was split into three piles, two of which were buried in pots along Mill Creek. The last, and largest, of the piles was taken to the Arbuckle Mountains where it was buried in another series of metal pots. No parts of the treasure were ever recovered. It’s like the treasure is just waiting for you to find!
Metal Detecting Laws in Oklahoma
Metal Detecting in Oklahoma State Parks:
Many Oklahoma State Parks allow metal detecting, although there is no single list of which parks do, and which parks do not allow it. The only way to find out is to contact the park office and ask. Furthermore, if a park does allow metal detecting, more often than not you will need to get some kind of daily-use permit. These usually have to be approved and signed by the park manager before you can begin metal detecting.
Metal Detecting on National Forest Service Land in Oklahoma:
As is the case in any state, you are allowed to metal detect on land managed by the National Forest service as long as you follow certain rules and regulations regarding what you can and cannot take from the forest. These regulations can be found here…
As I mentioned, it is because the National Forest service is ‘National’ that their regulations apply to any National Forest in the country. This is why National Forests are often a great place to find a bunch of land that you can metal detect on no matter where you are.
Metal Detecting on Private Land:
Unless you own the land, or have permission to detect on the land, it is always illegal to trespass on private land. It is especially illegal if you are digging on the property without permission. You always have to get permission to be on a property and you always need permission to treasure hunt on their land. Plus, in a place like Oklahoma if you trespass it might just be last thing you do if you catch my drift.
Knee Pads are a must! Oklahoma has tons of hard dry ground filled with sharp gravel, without knee pads you’ll quickly have ripped pants at the least and bloody kneecaps at the worst.
Get a sand scooper! Again, Oklahoma has tons of dry hard ground and with a sand scoop you’ll be able to look through the soil with ease. Plus, when you visit the beach, you’ll have one of the best metal detecting experiences of your life.
David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.
I love all things in nature: camping, fishing, boating. My kids – ages 13 and 9 – love their gadgets: Facepad, videogames, palm phones. Finding fun things to do together as a family is – you guessed it! – often NOT fun for at least one of us. But last year I had a moment of genius inspiration and bought a metal detector with the hope that the fancy technology, the videogame-like beeping and the “treasure hunt” of metal detecting would engage the kids while giving me the opportunity to spend time with them outside.
It worked better than I’d hoped! We’ve spent the past summer exploring Tennessee in search of treasure – and in search of good metal detecting locations. Soon, my kids and I were poring over Tennessee maps together, reading up on metal detecting laws and planning one-day, two-day and week-long metal detecting treasure hunting trips all over the state. As a single dad, I only have the kids some weekends and the majority of the summer, so I feel this intense pressure to make their time with me extra fun and exciting. Stumbling onto metal detecting as a weekend/summer family activity was like winning the Single Parent Sweepstakes.
Beaches and Playgrounds are exceptional places to swing your metal detector. Below are articles teaching the “how’s and tools”
Tennessee is not one of the most metal-detecting friendly states in the country. The options for metal detecting on public land are fairly limited, due to the type of public lands in the state and the regulations there on use of metal detectors. You can bypass those regulations if you have written permission to metal detect on private property. Absent that, here are some recommendations for the best places to metal detect in Tennessee, almost all on public land:
J. Percy Priest Lake – Two of the Best Areas to Explore
Priest Lake is, by far, my favorite place to metal detect in Tennessee. For starters, it’s a short drive from Nashville: about 25 minutes, depending on where you’re coming from. The lake is 42 miles long and covers 14,200 acres, including an entire town, Old Jefferson, which was demolished in the 960s. The town history, particularly its demise, is fascinating and leaves the possibility that a metal detecting excursion could turn up any number of intriguing pieces of its history.
This US Army Corps of Engineers Lake allows some metal detecting – with restrictions on when and how. For the complete regulations, visit their FAQ page (link: https://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Locations/Lakes/J-Percy-Priest-Lake/FAQ/). The general rule is: you can metal detect in beach areas where it’s not likely you’ll find archaeological artifacts. The best time to go is October to November. You’ll enjoy less crowds and less heat and humidity. Most importantly for our purposes, that’s when the lake drawdown occurs! The receding water exposes more beach areas that haven’t yet been picked over by other users.
Exploring the lake beaches – with its assortment of nearby islands – and knowing the remnants of a town lay under its waters offers a sense of exploration, discovery and intrigue for me and the kids. You never know what’s going on inside your teen’s head, but I know I enjoy feeling like Indiana Jones!
1. J. Percy Priest Lake: Cook Day Use Area
This public access area map has been linked below. As you can see, it is a large park with lots of discovery opportunities.
2. J. Percy Priest Lake: Anderson Road Day Use
Outside of the Nashville, and south of Cook’s Day Use area this spot provides another potential for finds. Below is a map of the area:
Metal detecting tip: Bring your rain jacket. It’s always a good rule of thumb when metal detecting but particularly important when exploring the beaches of Priest Lake in October and November!
3. Indian Boundary Recreation Area Beach at Cherokee
Cherokee National Forest prohibits the use of metal detectors except at certain swimming beaches, which is just fine because beaches are great places for metal detecting!
By far, my favorite of the National Forest Beaches in Tennessee. You can’t beat the scenery, regardless of the success of your metal detecting!
Metal Detecting Tip: Please ask the park rangers before you even think about searching in a National Forrest. Be friendly and polite because you might get some valuable “insider” knowledge.
4. Mac Point Recreation Area Beach – Beaches are Perfect for Metal Detecting
While not my favorite location for metal detecting, the proximity to Chattanooga makes this location convenient for a day trip.
5. Chilhowee Recreation Area Beach – Worth the Trip to “Sweep”
Though the treasure finds here have been meager, the scenery and the proximity to Chattanooga make this location worthwhile.
6. Parksville Beach – Make This a Treasure Spot
Regardless of what you find, if you take the Ocoee Scenic Byway on your trip, your day won’t be wasted.
7. Shook Branch Recreation Area Beach – Picnic and Treasure Hunting
Shook Branch Recreation Area Beach. On the southern shore of Watauga Lake in Carter County, the closest town is Elizabethtown. I recommend bringing a picnic. Actually, I always recommend bringing a picnic!
8. Watauga Point Recreation Area Beach
This is one of my favorite locations. Both the stream-fed swimming pools and the creek banks offer the hopes of a metal detector find and the scenery is great. The bath house and most of the structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, giving it a sense of living history you don’t find at many public places where metal detecting is currently permitted.
Metal detecting tip: Sunscreen! Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and drinking water are a must for beach metal detecting. Remember to put sunscreen on your nostrils and lips because sun reflects upwards from the sand and water.
9. Puskus Lake Recreation Area in Holly Springs NF
Getting tired of metal detecting on beaches? Head to some other National Forests. Though located in Mississippi, Holly Springs National Forest is a close drive, and my favorite place there is:
A quiet, beautiful location to enjoy the changing seasons, Holly Springs National Forest is a convenient drive from Memphis and includes the former ceremonial grounds of the Choctaw Indians. National Forest guidelines for metal detecting allow it in developed areas like campgrounds unless it’s otherwise prohibited.
The primary rule to remember when metal detecting in a National Forest: The following are prohibited: (g) digging in, excavating, disturbing, injuring, destroying, or in any way damaging any prehistoric, historic, or archaeological resources, structure, site, artifact, or property. (h) Removing any prehistoric, historic, or archaeological resources, structure, site, artifact, property.” (Historic means older than 50 years.) Read complete guidelines (link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprd3840675.pdf)
10. Obey River Day Use Area
Spanning the Tennessee-Kentucky Border, Dale Hollow Lake has 620 miles of shoreline. The same regulations that govern metal detectors at Percy Priest Lake apply here, as they’re both governed by US Army Corps of Engineers. In short, beaches that are already disturbed and not likely to have artifacts of historic significance allow metal detecting. Some good spots are:
11. Lillydale Campground and Day Use Area
Another spot to get your detector out to do some swinging is the Lillydale Campgroud. The playground is a perfect place to search and the walking trails offer plenty of spots for people to loose some coins.
12. Construction Sites, anywhere in Tennessee – Some “Insider Treasure Hunting”
Construction sites are outstanding places to metal detect! You’re pretty much guaranteed to find something and the digging is already being done for you. Plus, you don’t have to drive far or spend a whole day on it.
You’ll need to contact the property owner to secure written permission and will have to confine your activities to when the construction equipment is idling. If you want to target your metal detecting, do some historical research (at the library or local historical museum) on the area and see what existed on local construction sites in the past and focus on the ones that intrigue you most.
Metal Detecting Tip: Start with your own backyard. Then family, friends and neighbors’ backyards (with permission). Even though they may seem unglamorous, the benefit is that there’s most likely been fewer people and activities to disturb relics from the past in these private areas, unlike public areas that see hundreds of visitors a day.
13. Old Hickory Lake Beach
Close to Nashville, Old Hickory Lake is popular for all manner of outdoor recreational pursuits. Another US Army Corps of Engineers project, Old Hickory Lake allows metal detecting at beaches. Beaches are great metal detecting locations in general because of the high traffic and the frequency that users lose items in the sand, in addition to anything washed up by the water. It’s recommended that you restrict your metal detecting to less crowded times and days – and remember to fill in any holes you dig.
14. Martin Luther King Jr Park in Memphis – Trails and Marina
In the Memphis area keep in mind that metal detecting is OKAY in city parks, but not state parks. A favorite spot is the playground and beach at Martin Luther King Riverside Park. The marina is also a great spot, but the water levels can be high so make sure your machine is water proof.
Metal Detecting Tip: Remember – since we’re not supposed to keep artifacts – you’ve got the best chance of a find that’s “valuable” or “lucrative” with contemporary items like watches, coins or jewelry that have been lost by present-day visitors. With that in mind, high traffic areas can yield the most results, both in terms of quality and quantity. Think about areas like marinas, picnic areas, campgrounds, which are open to the public and “already disturbed” and not likely to contain anything of historic significance. After a summer of metal detecting, my son had a jar worth $75.00 in found coins.
15. Shelby Bottoms Trails in Nashville – Creeks and Trails
Whenever you get a chance to combine a park and creeks in a historic city you’ve got a winning formula for productive metal detecting. Copper Creek in Shelby Bottoms is PREFECT! A city park in a historic city with trails and water. If you get a chance check it out.
Metal Detecting Laws in Tennessee
From our personal research of dozens of sources of national, state and local metal detecting restrictions, this is what it all boils down to:
Metal detecting is not allowed in National Parks anywhere in the US, and in Tennessee it’s also forbidden in State Parks. In Tennessee National Forests, it is permitted in certain areas, primarily swimming beaches.
National laws, including the Antiquities Act of 1906, the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the Archaeological Resources Preservation Act (ARPA), all have implications on metal detecting in Tennessee. Essentially, even on land where metal detecting is allowed, you can’t remove anything you believe is 100 years old or more, a potential archaeological artifact.
You can metal detect on private land if you have the property owner’s written permission.
Regulations for city and county parks and other public lands will vary from place to place, so be sure to check with the appropriate agency to determine if metal detecting is allowed.
Tennessee Metal Detecting Clubs
If you’re new to metal detecting, the best thing you can do is get involved with local metal detecting clubs. They can help you understand local laws, give insider tips, organize metal detecting events and sometimes work with state and county archaeology offices on joint projects. Some of the biggest metal detecting clubs in Tennessee are:
Another way to find more metal detecting opportunities in Tennessee – with the added bonus of learning about the local history and serving the community – is to get involved with local historical associations. These organizations always need volunteers, and may need metal detecting services from time to time. You’ll also get a headstart on the historical research that’s necessary for any serious detectorist.
Favorite Metal Detecting Shops in Tennessee
Metal detecting tip: Carry extra batteries and anything you need for maintenance/longevity of your metal detector, such as a coil cover. There’s nothing worse than having a full day or weekend planned and making a long drive to your destination only to abort your plans because of a detector malfunction.
KellyCo Metal Detectors, Knoxville, TN (Link: https://www.kellycodetectors.com/). While this company has two brick and mortar shops (one in Florida, one in Tennessee), you can order online and have it shipped anywhere.
Dixie Metal Detectors, Online (Link: https://www.dixie-metal-detectors.com/) A 34-year-old company, born and bred in Tennessee, Dixie Metal Detectors recently switched to online-only, giving you the convenience of shopping from anywhere while supporting a local company.
Most metal detector shops are not only useful for purchases but also for information. Bring your questions about your new hobby and pick their brains. You’ll probably find most shop staff are excited to share their knowledge and their passion.
Shopping for metal detectors? Many shops, such as Backwoods Metal Detectors, offer used detectors. Before you shovel a bunch of money into a new recreational interest, it might be worth trying it out with a budget-friendly detector to make sure you like it. You can even try renting a metal detector before buying. When renting, know that the quality of the detector is often questionable (usually cheap and heavily used) and check with local equipment/tool rental companies as a large number of them also rent metal detectors.
Tips For Metal Detecting from a Veteran James Pastor, former president of Murfreesboro Metal Detecting Club
“Metal Detecting takes patience. You kiss a lot of frogs (find junk) more than you do treasure,” says Tennessee metal detecting veteran James Pastor. At my request, he offered his top three tips for newcomers to the metal detecting hobby:
Learn your detector. Every machine is like learning a new language. Listen to your machine.
Learn how to research. This can include library trips, online or talking to people around town. Historicaerials.com (link: https://www.historicaerials.com/) is good to find old home sites, the official records of the Civil War to find CW sites. And just know that door-knocking may be more of a challenge right now with Coronavirus. You will still get rejected (when asking permission from property owners) so have a tough skin and multiple areas you want to search.
Lastly, I would say to a beginner to not put too much money into the hobby until you are sure you like it. I started with a Bounty Hunter and now have a handful of machines.
The Most Important Thing to Know About Metal Detecting in Tennessee
Buried treasure from outlaw train robbers. Confederate spoils hidden ahead of the advancing Union Army. Civil War artifacts. These are the things that make your heart quicken when you get into metal detecting. But the truth – and the reward – of the hobby is much more ordinary and readily accessible. It’s not the big discoveries of historic significance that make metal detecting worthwhile, though those are the things that give it glamor and media coverage. It’s finding small, “ordinary” objects that connect us with people from the past. Some of our favorite “treasure” finds have been:
A padlock used in the 1800s
A pendants from a necklace or bracelet in the 1950s
Buttons from the early 1900s
When it comes to metal detecting finds, you can take the historical research as far as you’re interested and there’s available information. History buffs and scholarly types can delve deep into the history of specific locations, the uses and production of specific objects, the monetary value – both in the past and today.
For our family and the limited amount of attention span we have for “studying,” we like to get more creative. When we find something, we go home and research what it is, when it was used and let our imaginations roam. We imagine who the person was who owned it, what their life was like. We come up with entertaining scenarios for how they might have lost the item given what was going on in that era of history and make up our own stories.
For example, out of the items listed above: the padlock was used by a small farmer who had trouble with cattle thieves. He used it to lock them safely in their enclosure but a black bear triggered a panic in the herd and the stampeding cattle plowed through the fence, padlock and all. For the pendants, we pictured a fifteen-year-old girl (in a ponytail and poodle skirt of course), enjoying her first taste of romance. The object of her affection gave her a heart shaped pendant to wear on her necklace, but – when he told her that he planned to leave for college at the end of the summer and had no interest in a long-distance relationship, she ripped the chain off her neck and threw the necklace in the dirt. There it stayed, forgotten, until we came along with our metal detectors.
Not surprisingly, given the age of my kids, the only explanation for a lost button is a tubby little man who keeps getting fatter, bursting the buttons off his pants, much to the chagrin of his wife who sews on replacement after replacement. My kids get themselves into hysterics conjuring up embarrassing situations where the fat man pops his button off again and again. And even I, with a slightly more mature sense of humor, find myself giggling like a kid.
My kids and I have yet to discover a major treasure find, but we’ve spent hundreds of hours feeling more connected to each other and to our history. To me, that’s the most important part of metal detecting.
The state of Wisconsin provides the outdoorsy types with ample opportunities to fill their cravings. The hunting, fishing and hiking opportunities are nearly endless across the state. Like most states, however, the metal detecting opportunities are relatively unexplored. If you’re interested in expanding your outdoor hobbies, metal detecting is a perfect option.
You’ll have the chance to explore near the shores of two of the Great Lakes, wander through dense woods and visit the quaint towns all across the state. Don’t only visit with your metal detector! Enjoy all of the other activities Wisconsin offers.
Here is a list of the 15 best places to metal detect in Wisconsin.
1. Bradford Beach – Plenty of Relics!
Bradford Beach is located right along Lake Michigan in Milwaukee. Being that it is one of the more popular beaches in the state, it’s a wonderful place to visit. Plenty of relics and treasures to be found along the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan.
When you’re detecting along the beach, be sure to focus on the areas where people spend their time. It may require you to visit during the day, locate the popular places and return early in the morning or late in the evening to gain some peace and quiet while you are hunting.
People are not big fans of being too close to a metal detector. Therefore, it’s important you time your visits and digs properly. A nice sunset walk on the beach with your detector can be extremely relaxing!
You can access Bradford Beach here:
Be careful to stay away from the golf course land as well as the light house. These are specifically regulated and do not allow metal detecting.
METAL DETECTING TIP: When you’re searching beaches, look for dips or low points in the sand. This is where many of the treasures will be washed. Spend quite a bit of time around these areas! They usually lead to some pretty impressive finds.
2. Jacobus Park – 30 Acres of Land
Jacobus Park is a legendary park in the heart of Milwaukee. It’s fairly large for being in the middle of the city. You have over 30 acres of land to detect. You can search through woods, around ponds and trails.
Remember that Wisconsin rules are fairly strict with how deep you can dig. Dig right around six inches deep and you won’t face any issues. Jacobus Park allows access to many wonderful restaurants and is a perfect place to bring the family and allow you to escape for a few hours to do some detecting.
You can access Jacobus Park here:
Again, similar to beaches, keep your distance from people. For some extra courtesy go ahead and use headphones while you detect. This will allow you to hear more clearly and not interrupt those who are trying to enjoy a day at the park.
3. Historic Third Ward – 19th Century Treasures!
The Historic Third Ward is one of the most unique places to metal detect on this list. Located right along the banks of the Milwaukee Bay, you’ll have a nice taste of nightlife, upscale restaurants and art. If you can visit early in the morning, you’ll have plenty of the area to yourself and a great chance to find some amazing artifacts.
There was a significant fire in the area in the late 19th century with some treasures still left to discover. It’s registered to the National Historic society so be sure that you return any significant historical artifact to the state so they can place it in the proper hands.
You can access the Historic Third Ward here:
If you’re searching in public parking areas and beaches, you won’t face any trouble. Be careful of private parking areas and green space. Business owners require permission for you to detect! If art and interesting architecture are of interest to you, the Historic Third Ward is a perfect place to spend your time.
4. Marathon County Park
The parks within Marathon and Wausau allow metal detecting. You are not required to have a permit if you are detecting in these counties. However, there are some restrictions about where you can detect these parks.
You aren’t allowed to detect in environmentally sensitive areas, archaeological and historical sites. These should be clearly marked in the parks. These counties also don’t allow people to dig further than six inches into the ground! You’re expected to follow the leave no trace policy when detecting in these parks.
Marathon County Park is one of the larger parks in the area. Located about an hour and a half from Eau Claire, this is not a bad drive from Minneapolis or the other larger cities around the area. You’ll have access to fields, trails and some smaller bodies of water across the park.
Be mindful of those trying to enjoy the park. Don’t abuse the regulations and you won’t be bothered by anyone. It’s a beautiful spot to bring the family.
Access Marathon County Park here:
5. Bluegill Bay County Park
Located on Lake Wausau, this park offers 68 acres to explore. The forests, trails and beaches are wonderful areas to spend your time. Since it’s located within Marathon County, you do not need a special permit to do your detecting.
This park is fairly busy on the weekends so either time your hunting for the mornings or evenings or go during the week. A nice morning or evening in the park is well worth your time. Popular locations with tourists are going to likely lead to some impressive finds.
Plus, you can plan an entire day with the family around the park. It has something for everybody. The fishing close by on the Wisconsin River is also worth trying. There is plenty of water to cover.
You can detect along beaches, trails and in the woods.
Access Bluegill Bay County Park here:
METAL DETECTING TIP:If you’re detecting along the beach, be sure your sensitivity is manually set. If it is on auto, you could get some inconsistent signals. Do some experimenting and manually set your detector while spending time on the beach.
The town of Hurley was once a booming town in Wisconsin with over 7,000 people living in it. As the years have progressed, the population has dropped to around 2,000 people. It’s another small town in the northern portion of the state. It’s located not far from the Iron County Museum near Montreal, WI.
It’s an old mining town filled with all sorts of interesting history. It was a prominent town during the prohibition. Many gangsters from Chicago spent time in the town and opened quite a few saloons. If you visit the Iron County Museum, the employees will have plenty of information on the metal detecting in the area.
METAL DETECTING TIP: When seeking permission to metal detect in small towns, be courteous. These people don’t have to let you access their land. Do your best to be polite and gracious in whatever way possible!
7. Nelson Caves
Nelson, Wisconsin is a common area to metal detect in Wisconsin. Located in the center of the state near the Minnesota border, the bluffs are filled with caves ready to be detected. It’s rumored that soldiers hid treasure throughout the caves, but there is nothing of significance that has been found yet.
Spend your time wandering through the bluffs and seeing what you can discover. Much of this land is publicly owned, but be sure that you’re careful with where you are accessing the land. Wisconsin is fairly strict on how deep you can dig so be sure you’re not going deeper than six inches.
Be sure to have your sensitivity set to auto when searching throughout the caves. It’s a fairly diverse landscape so you’ll need to be able to adapt at all times.
8. Racine Beach
Racine North Beach is one of the most popular beaches in all of the state. Popular beaches mean a nice variety of artifacts to discover. Don’t waste time searching the areas where people don’t congregate; you’ll likely have less success in discovering things.
Since you’re going to be searching along Lake Michigan, be careful of the cold temperatures of the water. Spend your time above the high water line or be prepared to get cold. This beach is massive and there are ample access points throughout the town of Racine.
If you insist on searching during the middle of the day, wear headphones so you can properly listen to your detector. Too many artifacts are missed on beaches because folks aren’t fully immersed in the experience.
All beaches are a bit different so be sure you experiment a bit with your sensitivity before you make a decision on the best way to detect. If you leave your detector on auto, it may not provide you with the best opportunities.
The Zoo Beach north of Racine Beach is another smart area to visit. This is going to be a more popular beach for young families. If you’re having a beach day here, pack your detector! Beaches are the least regulated areas to search in Wisconsin.
METAL DETECTING TIP: Many Lake Michigan beaches are fairly rocky so be sure that you have a cover to keep your coils protected. If the coils break, you’re in for a costly repair!
The town of Donaldson is legendary in the Wisconsin treasure hunting world. It’s considered to be one of Wisconsin’s “ghost towns”. As a result, there are plenty of interesting areas to do some detecting. It is located right on the Michigan border near the town of Land O’ Lakes.
At one point in the early 20th century, it was a logging town. The land is not owned by the state and quite a bit of it is private land. Therefore, you need to receive permission to do some detecting. However, the land that is public is available for you to detect.
Spend your time near the abandoned building and railroad tracks. Railroad tracks are government owned so you’re not allowed to detect them, but spending time near is smart. It was a common stop in the early 20th century!
10. Grant Park Beach
Grant Park Beach is located within Grant Park and is a beautiful place to spend an entire day searching. You have access to forest as well as a fairly rocky beach. Remember to have something to protect your coils!
Since this is a small, local beach, you may have to spend a bit more time detecting. When searching a rocky beach like this, be sure you have a small metal shovel. Plastic shovels don’t stand much of a chance against the rocks.
If you’re looking for some more privacy in the Milwaukee area, Grant Park Beach is a wonderful place to spend your time. It’s in the southern portion of the city, but still offers all of the beautiful views that the northern part of the city provides!
11. Big Bay Park
Big Bay Park is another lesser known beach along Lake Michigan. It’s one of the most family friendly areas on this list. The demographic is primarily younger families so you don’t have to worry about any extracurricular activities.
Focus on the parking lot, the trail to the beach and the other trails throughout the park. Also, spend your time searching as close to the water as you can. The water is going to wash up some artifacts and pull others down from the higher points of the beach. The low points of the beach are going to be the most productive!
LaPointe is another town in Wisconsin with a semi-famous treasure story. Supposedly, there was $35,000 worth of gold buried in the town in the mid 19th century. Since then, people have been trying their luck at finding the treasure. There has been no confirmed report of this treasure, but it does provide an extra incentive.
LaPointe is located on Madeline Island in Wisconsin. To access the island, you either need to take your boat across Chequamegon Bay or take a ferry. The Madeline Island Museum has some great information on metal detecting across the island. There are fairly strict regulations across the island so be sure you have up to date information from the museum before you begin detecting.
Also remember that any significant historical artifact must be turned into the state. They’ll make the decision about what to do with it! While it’s not an ideal situation, these rules are in place for a reason. Be sure to not abuse them or metal detecting will become even more limited across the state!
13. Star Lake
Star Lake is located in the far north of Wisconsin about 10 miles north of Saynor, Wisconsin. It was a common logging area, but as the logging industry slowed down, people began moving out of the town. There are a few homes, a post office and a grocery store still on the site. The land is privately owned, but seeking permission has not proven to be too complex.
The owner is not too picky about letting people metal detect. If you visit the Vilas County Historical Museum in Saynor, they have information on how to gain access to the land. The museum is closed during the winter so be sure that you’re seeking permission in the warmer months of the year!
Searching abandoned land is always promising. Spend some quality time in this area once you receive permission. You’ll be appreciative of the seclusion and variety of artifacts that you can find in Star Lake.
14. Schoolhouse Beach
Schoolhouse Beach Park has one of the prettiest beaches in the whole United States. The crystal clear water of Lake Michigan is alone worth the visit. Even if you don’t find anything, you’ll have a wonderful time being in nature and experience the beauty of the lake.
Schoolhouse Beach can be found in the northern portion of the state so be prepared for a bit of a drive. However, it’s less busy than the beaches around the Milwaukee area so it’s well worth the drive. Be sure to bring your family! They won’t want to miss this beauty.
15. Private Land– Ask First!
There are an impressive amount of farms across the state! Don’t be afraid to ask for permission to search some of it! Farmers are generally grateful for metal detectors. They don’t want metal in their soil so if a metal detector is willing to remove the metal they find, you’ll likely receive permission.
Remember, if you find anything of significance it’s best to alert the landowner before you do anything with it.
Wisconsin Metal Detecting Laws
Before you visit, it’s important to understand some of the laws in place for those trying to metal detect. You are not allowed to metal detect on state owned lands. This includes state forests and state parks.
If you discover a historic artifact it is your responsibility to hand it over to the state. Also, any sort of private land prohibited to detect unless you have received prior permission.
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says you can search for specific lost items. A special permit is required. If you would like to read more about this at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The special permit form can be found HERE.
Wisconsin Metal Detecting Clubs
Central Wisconsin Treasure Hunters–The name of this club speaks for itself! It’s a large community with over 1,000 members. Visit their Facebook page for more information. They’re very responsive.
Midstate Metal Detector Club– Midstate Metal Detector Club is another club in the central portion of Wisconsin. They branch out all over the state and provide awesome insight into what it takes to successfully detect in Wisconsin.
Favorite Metal Detecting Shops in Wisconsin
Deerfields Detectors– Located in Hancock, this is a small business with everything you’d need for your next metal detecting excursion. Small metal detecting businesses like these need our support. Don’t be afraid to visit on your next trip to Wisconsin!
Famous Metal Detecting Finds
Many folks think Metal Detecting is a waste of time, but this article in the Fond Du Lac Reporter discusses the incredible finds made in Wisconsin . Check out the article HERE.
David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.
In this day in age, we’re all searching for an opportunity to get out of the house. Due to current restrictions, there are quite a few limitations regarding what we can do. This is where outdoor activities should come into play. While hiking and fishing have seen a massive increase in participation, metal detecting still is flying under the radar. It’s a PERFECT way to stay secluded and enjoy the great outdoors.
Metal detecting has always been a niche activity with few people who truly participate in it. There are beautiful landscapes all over the United States filled with artifacts that are relatively untouched. South Carolina is one of the more popular locations in the world for metal detecting due to the high amount of Revolutionary and Civil War artifacts across the state.
However, if you’re a beginner or someone looking for a strong metal detecting community, South Carolina is a wonderful place to visit. There are ample opportunities to search and a wonderful group of people looking to educate folks on the world of metal detecting.
Here is a list of the 15 best places to metal detect in South Carolina:
1. Myrtle Beach State Park – Wonderful for Jewelry
Myrtle Beach State Park is a great spot for a home base during your next metal detecting excursion. There are numerous campsites, great proximity to all the attractions on Myrtle Beach and a nice amount of seclusion.
While the forests and trails look appealing for detecting, you are only allowed to metal detect on the beach. There is plenty of shoreline to explore and the beach is a wonderful place to find jewelry or other valuable items that people misplaced. In South Carolina, as long as you fill in your hole, you are free to detect on the beach.
Spend the majority of your time detecting in the early morning or evening. The beach fills up during the day so it can be difficult to find the seclusion that you may desire. Also, be sure you’re focusing on the high water mark and low areas on the beach. When water passes over these holes or dips in the sand, goods will fall into them. These are great places to look!
Here is the location of Myrtle Beach State Park:
METAL DETECTING TIP: If you’re detecting on the beach, be sure to manually set your sensitivity. Saltwater beaches are considered conductive ground and you’ll likely get inconsistent reads if you let your detector make the determination on how sensitive it should be.
2. South Myrtle Beach
Southern Myrtle Beach is a hotbed of resorts and tourists. This is a smart place to search if you’re new to the world of metal detecting. You’ll get plenty of practice identifying tones and have the chance to mess around with the settings on your detector to get everything in the necessary order.
It’s also a great place to practice your digging. The state of South Carolina will fine you up to $100 if you don’t properly fill in the holes you dig. Practice unintrusive digging and see all that you can find. Scope out the beach during the day and mentally lock in places that you would like to visit in the evening.
Wide open spaces on beaches are not the places to search. If there aren’t people, there is likely not going to be any treasure for you to find. If possible, stay by the people. You can start your day by parking near the Nash St. Public Beach Access. This way, you can work your way up the beach for a mile and see all that you can find.
If you discover trash or any other unnecessary items on the beach, do your best to throw them away. It keeps the beaches clean and prevents you from finding any useless items.
Access the Nash St. Public Beach Access here:
METAL DETECTING TIP: If you detect during the day around people, be respectful. Plus, it’s smart to wear headphones. The beeping from the detector can be somewhat disruptive so if you stay silent and keep your distance, you should be okay.
3. Folly Beach
Folly Beach is a great spot to metal detect. Not far outside of Charleston, it’s another popular location for those interested in metal detecting so if you’re new to the game, be sure to visit. You can learn quite a bit in metal detecting if you’re willing to watch and observe what others are doing.
The beach has over six miles of area to explore so be sure you block out a decent amount of time to gain the full experience. Keep in mind that it’s illegal to dig holes that are deeper than one foot. If you have your detector’s sensitivity set on high, be careful with how deep you dig.
Also, the beach does not allow metal shovels! The world of metal detecting is highly regulated so it’s best to abide by the rules. It’s a wonderful pastime that needs all of the help it can get to stay relevant.
Keep in mind that detecting around the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve is prohibited.
You can access Folly Beach here:
4. Isle of Palms – Lots of Land to Scan
Isle of Palms is located outside of Mount Pleasant and is another beach area with a massive amount of land available for you to cover. Again, the best time to visit this area is in the morning or in the evening. You’ll be able to find the previous days items and have access to some wonderful views in the process.
On beaches, there are few regulations regarding what you can and can’t do. However, be sure that you stay out of the sand dunes and spend most of your time detecting in public access areas. The water can be fairly loud on the Isle of Palms so be sure you’re wearing your headphones. This will help you pick up any softer signals.
Access Isle of Palms here:
5. Morris Island – Ask First Civil War Relics
Morris Island is located just south of Fort Sumter. This was a popular spot in the midst of Civil War. Confederate troops were stationed here and they were tasked with keeping Union soldiers from making an advance on Charleston Harbor.
Hundreds of Civil War artifacts have been discovered on the island over the years so for any history buff, it’s a perfect location to visit. Access can be difficult due to the massive expanse of water. However, you’re able to schedule a boat ride or bring your own to access the beautiful landscape.
METAL DETECTING TIP: Be sure you have a coil cover along when detecting. If you damage your coil, you’ll be spending quite a bit to get it fixed! Better safe than sorry.
6. Berkeley County
Berkeley County is riddled with history. It was another important location in the midst of the Revolutionary War. There are ample areas to detect in the midst of Francis Marion National Forest. Also, the lake shores around Lake Moultrie are a wonderful place to spend your time.
Also, there is quite a bit of privately owned ranch land that requires permission to detect. If you’re interested, it’s worth trying your hand to ask for permission. Folks in the area are open to the idea of detecting as long as you’re respectful with their land and leave it better than you found it!
You can access solid detecting land here:
7. Hickory Grove
Hickory Grove is a wonderful place to spend your time metal detecting. There are several old gold mines nearby that are worth detecting. Also, the banks of the Broad River, King’s Creek and Wolf Creek are smart places to visit.
The areas around Hickory Grove are some of the most common areas to search for gold in South Carolina. These areas can be closely monitored so be sure that you access public areas and don’t trespass on private property. If you dig up any sort of hole, you must fill it.
These areas of South Carolina are not as heavily trafficked as the beaches so you will have more luck in discovering treasure. However, it’s important to follow the rules and regulations and not be too intrusive.
8. Chattooga Riverside
Along the Clemson River is another location to try and detect. This is another area where gold can be found. However, this is all surrounded by forest land so be sure you’re careful. The areas within National Forests are able to be detected, but digging happens to be prohibited.
If you’re willing to spend your time around the Chattooga River, it’s more of a place to practice your detecting. However, it’s a beautiful area worth your time exploring. There is an ample amount of land to see and you have a chance to find something special.
METAL DETECTING TIP: Stay away from non-sensitive areas. For example, fields marked with land structures such as dunes, historic buildings and areas with pipelines are prohibited.
9. King’s Mountain Belt
King’s Mountain Belt was one of the most productive gold mines in all of South Carolina at one point in the state’s history. It’s an area of land running between Gaston County and Lincoln County. These are great places to spend your time metal detecting. However, if you’re new to the world of metal detecting, I wouldn’t start in this area due to the difficult terrain.
Beaches are a great place to start your metal detecting. There are wide open spaces, quite a few artifacts and ample opportunities for you to test out your detector and see all that it has to offer. King’s Mountain Belt can be somewhat hard on your detector so be sure that you have your coil cover and understand the ins-and-outs of your detector.
Digging in King’s Mountain Belt must be done as minimally intrusive as possible. Be sure to replace your holes and fill them in as best you can. Don’t forget to take a look at the beauty surrounding you! The lower Southeast is gorgeous.
10. Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island is another popular area to metal detect in South Carolina. Spend quite a bit of time detecting here. There are several beach access points that will get you on to the public areas. It can be somewhat of a challenge to detect due to its wide and flat topography, but it’s well worth your time.
Sullivan’s Island receives plenty of visitors so there is plenty to be found. Remember, the lower areas in the sand and on the beach are the best spots to detect. The water washes the artifacts into these portions of the sand. Also, be sure to check the tide chart before you go detect on Sullivan’s Island.
It can be dangerous to get caught as the tide is coming in on the beach. However, low tide is the best time to search due to the more land available to cover. Don’t detect too close to the historical buildings. This will likely result in a fine and you could also lose your gear.
11. Daufuskie Island
The Daufuskie Island area is a wonderful spot to metal detect. There were numerous settlements and plantations in the area in the early 1500’s. The island itself is primarily private land, but the mouth of the Savannah River is off of the north point of the island and it’s a wonderful place to explore.
There were several shipwrecks off of the island so the possibility of aritifacts washing up near the mouth of the Savannah River is high. Be sure to do your hunting during the low water time. This will allow you more of a chance to do some hunting.
You can access the island via boat as well as vehicle. There is a beautiful winery you can visit in the process as well.
12. Hilton Head Beach – Lots of Folks Dropping Coins
Hilton Head Beach is another exciting place to visit. This area is similar to Sullivan’s Island in the sense that it is long and flat and can require quite a bit of search time, but it’s well worth it. You can likely come away with a nice amount of treasure and have the seclusion you may desire.
13. Parking Lots – Charleston Beach Parking Lots
Parking lots across Charleston and other major cities are also interesting places to metal detect. These areas don’t require digging and you can have quite a bit of success finding precious metals. Also, if you’re new to the world of metal detecting, go ahead and try parking lots.
Parking lots near beach access points are some of the best places to visit. Go in the early morning or late evening when the parking lot is empty and you’ll have your chance at some jewelry that may have been dropped throughout the day.
Also, parking lots outside of other public venues are going to be the other legal areas that you can visit. Private parking lots are illegal to search, but if you receive permission from the business owner, you’ll be able to still detect.
14. Local Beaches – Check Out the State Parks
Local beaches are a perfect place to detect. South Carolina has quite a bit of water for you to search. Whether it’s the low water point in the rivers or the beaches surrounding the lake, go ahead and detect around water.
These are the perfect places for beginners. Metal detecting is not an easy activity to perfect so be sure you put in your time in the easier places before you tackle some more of the difficult terrain.
The State of South Carolina has put out a great resource. Find it here – DOWNLOAD PDF
15. Private Land – Ask First!!!
Private land is another option for metal detecting in South Carolina. However, it’s going to require that you ask for permission from the land owners across the state. While this isn’t always the most comfortable situation, the risk can often be worth the reward!
If you see an area that would be a nice place to search, build up the courage to knock on a door and see what happens! You may find yourself with a great place to search all to yourself.
Metal detecting Laws in South Carolina
This link lays out the guidelines for metal detecting in South Carolina. Things are heavily regulated so be sure to follow these rules closely. If people continue to break these rules and regulations, metal detecting has the possibility of being even more limited in South Carolina.
Low Country Metal Detecting– Low Country Metal Detecting is perhaps the most popular metal detecting group in South Carolina. There is a Facebook Group available to join and learn more about detecting all across the state. Spend your time introducing yourself to the group and you’ll find yourself with some helpful resources and perhaps the opportunity to detect some lesser known spots.
South Carolina Dirt Diggers is another popular metal detecting group in the state. The world of metal detecting is fairly small so the more people you get to know, the better of an opportunity you have to learn of the great areas across the state. Join this Facebook group and see what people and experiences come your way!
Favorite Metal Detecting Shops in South Carolina
Denton’s Detectors– Denton’s Detectors carries all of the necessary gear to get you into the sport. Plus, they have a nice amount of local knowledge on the areas to detect across the state.
Dig that beep– This is another popular metal detecting store in South Carolina. Plus, they have an online store for you to order the gear to get you started!
David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.
When we take a family vacation to the Outer Banks, our favorite restaurant is pirate-themed. We converse with pirate mannequins as we wait for our table and eat in pirate hats. Of course pirates and treasure go hand in hand. North Carolina beaches are known for interesting things washing up and exposing themselves. Of course Metal Detecting is a planned activity in our household, a trip to the beach would be incomplete without getting our detectors out and swing for treasure.
During the heyday of American piracy and rumrunning, the Outer Banks (OBX) was equal parts treacherous and profitable for anyone who braved the hazardous offshore shoals. Naturally, this leads us to a favorite vacation activity: treasure hunting!
While your chances of unearthing the shipwrecked booty of a lost pirate ship are slim, your chances of salvaging coins, watches, jewelry and other more-recently “buried” treasure are fairly good if you go metal detecting at the Outer Banks. So, bring your metal detector, your sunscreen and some useful information about the laws and locations for metal detecting, and you’ll be sure to have a great time.
Can You Metal Detect on the Outer Banks?
In general, metal detecting is allowed at the public beaches on the Outer Banks. However, detectorists will need to plan their scanning excursions around some specific regulations and locations where metal detecting is allowed.
Metal detecting is allowed on the beaches north of Nag’s Head. This includes: Carova, Corolla, Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Southern Shores and some of Nag’s Head.
Metal detecting is prohibited within Cape Hatteras National Seashore. These prohibited beaches include Avon, Buxton, Frisco, Hatteras, Ocracoke, Rodanthe, Salvo and Waves. Additionally, metal detecting is prohibited in all North Carolina State Parks, which include the beach at Jockey Ridge State Park.
Where to Metal Detect on the Outer Banks?
With pale, silky, sand and tranquil sea grasses, dramatic dunes and moody clouds, you can’t go wrong metal detecting anywhere on the Outer Banks. The scenery alone will make any excursion worthwhile, whether or not you unearth any treasure.
Based on the assumption that most of us are unlikely to discover a Spanish galleon or Colonial silverware (neither of which would we be allowed to keep anyway), the treasures we’re detecting for are more mundane and more modern things like coins, keys, jewelry and the like. Given that, the best places for metal detecting at OBX (like any beach) are the high-traffic areas where visitors easily drop objects that they’re either unaware of losing or unable to find in the sand.
One popular spot is Carova Beach Park and Boat Ramp.
Many Regional Public Beach access, like Kitty Hawk’s are also good prospects.
Do You Need a Permit to Metal Detect the Outer Banks?
The good news about metal detecting in North Carolina is that no permit is required as long as you’re at one of the OBX beaches (listed above) where metal detecting is allowed, saving you the time and effort of a permitting process.
The only exception to this is in state parks. You’ll recall, metal detecting is prohibited in State Parks. However, if you lose a personal item in a state park, you can apply for a permit to use your metal detector to search for your lost property. Be advised, you’ll be accompanied by a park employee while you search.
Metal detecting is also allowed on private property in North Carolina without a permit provided you have permission from the property owner.
Laws and Rules for Metal Detecting the Outer Banks, NC
Even at beaches where metal detecting is permitted, there may be certain guidelines to follow. Most recreation areas prohibit the use of metal detectors during June, July and August when crowding on the beaches is intense. (Both the crowds and the heat make this an unpleasant time for metal detecting, anyway, so you’re not missing out on anything.)
General beach guidelines request that all beach users – whether metal detectorists or families building sand castles – fill in any holes they dig in the sand. So, if your scanner leads you to start digging, fill in the hole once you’re done. Additional rules governing beach usage also apply, such as prohibitions on glass containers and alcohol (except for beer) and driving on the beach.
Should you be lucky enough to find an artifact from a real shipwreck or other item of historical value, there are additional regulations to be aware of. The laws that could affect you during your metal detecting at the Outer Banks are the Archaeological Resources Preservation Act (ARPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act. Essentially, anything you find that appears to be a historical artifact needs to be reported, not pocketed – or risk a $5,000.00 fine. Additionally, if the object you discover appears to be over 100 years old, you’re supposed to leave it where it is and report it. This allows professionals to remove it, avoiding damage to fragile objects with potential historic significance.
Metal Detecting Clubs and Stores in North Carolina
If you’re new to metal detecting, there are many online forums and chat boards where you can ask your own questions and dig for information specific to the Outer Banks. There are also local metal detecting clubs where you can get insider tips from experts. Some clubs in North Carolina include:
David Humphries, Writer and Creator of METAL DETECTING TIPS. After borrowing my son’s detector and finding $.25. I felt like a treasure hunter. FREE MONEY! I was seriously bitten by the metal detecting bug.