Treasure Hunting in Kentucky

15 Places to Find Lost Treasure in Kentucky (Maps and More)

During the 1800s, a man named Moore kept a coin hoard within his property. Unfortunately, two of Moore’s hired farm hands murdered him so they could retrieve the fortune and keep it for themselves. Before the two could locate the treasure, the authorities caught and imprisoned them for murdering Moore.

If you think you can find Moore’s treasure and the other fortunes hiding in Kentucky, read on as we will discuss the best places to treasure hunt!

Searching for treasure in Kentucky
Searching for treasure in Kentucky

Among the list is:

  • Ohio River
  • Paradise
  • Boonesborough
  • Yatesville Lake State Park
  • Columbus-Belmont State Park
  • Kingdom Come State Park
  • Barthell
  • Blue Heron
  • Rocky Hill
  • Packard
  • Laurel River
  • Rough River
  • Barren River
  • Willisburg Lake
  • Martins Fork Lake

The 15 Best Places to Find Lost Treasure in Kentucky

1.  Ohio River – At the Boundary of The Midwestern and Southern United States

The Ohio River measures 981 miles and stretches from the Midwestern and Southern United States’ boundary. It then flows to the Mississippi River in the south of Illinois. This body of water is the third largest river in the United States regarding discharge volume.

Kentucky is like a hidden gem. The more you look, the more great things you’ll find. I’ve got a complete guide detailing where to go. Read 👉 The Best Places to Metal Detect in Kentucky

This river is an integral part of the Native Americans’ history, with several prehistoric and historic civilizations settled along its valley. It was also the ancient civilizations’ major transportation for trading and getting to other places.

You can find the Ohio River here.

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Lesche T Handle Shovel picture
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I love the CKG Sand Scoop for Beach Metal Detecting

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If it’s time up UP YOUR GAME , get the industry standard metal detector. The Minelab Equinox 800 IS THE BEST. Okay it’s not cheap, but your finds are going to increase with this machine.

2.  Paradise – Muhlenberg County

One of the safest places to treasure hunt in Kentucky is ghost towns. One famous ghost town in this state is Paradise in Muhlenberg County, which had its first settlers in the 19th century.

During the middle of the 20th century, the town became a coal factory, which made the town unlivable.

Today, Paradise is a ghost town where treasure hunters can look for relics like old coins. Although ghost towns are safe places for metal detectorists, asking permission before going on an adventure is still ideal.

You can find Paradise – Muhlenberg County here.

3.  Boonesborough – Madison County

This town is an unincorporated community in Madison County, with people settling here back in 1775. Boonesborough’s founder is the folk hero, Daniel Boone. Not long after Boone and his followers settled in Boonesborough, the hostility of the neighboring communities forced them to abandon the town in 1778.

In the 19th century, farmers settled Boonesborough again but then left by the 1800s. Now, the sturdy establishments in the town remain standing, making Boonesborough an excellent place for treasure hunters.

You can find Boonesborough here.

4.  Yatesville Lake State Park – Lawrence County

Yatesville Lake State Park is a recreational facility near Louisa, Kentucky. The park has three islands, occupying a peninsula on Yatesville Lake. The lake has an approximate depth of 40 feet, making it an excellent place for boating, swimming, and fishing.

There is also an 18-hole golf course in the state park, so visitors will not run out of things to do. However, ensure that you ask permission from a state park manager, as Kentucky is quite strict regarding treasure hunting in state parks.

You can find Yatesville Lake State Park here.

5.  Columbus-Belmont State Park – Hickman County

This state park lies on the Mississippi River’s shore. The state park was once a Confederate States Army fortification site in the American Civil War. It also became strategically significant for controlling the Mississippi River.

Moreover, the major attraction in the state park is Polk’s giant chain, which people believed to be over a mile long before erosion destroyed it.

You can find Columbus-Belmont State Park here.

6.  Kingdom Come State Park – Cumberland County

Kingdom Come State Park sits atop the Pine Mountain in Cumberland County. It got its name from the popular noble in 1903 entitled The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, written by John Fox Jr., a native Kentuckian.

You will find a 3.5-acre mountain lake in the state park, along with Log Rock and Raven Rock. According to the Office of Kentucky Nature Preserves, one part of the park is legally a state nature preserve.

You can find Kingdom Come State Park here.

Are you looking for MORE Places to Metal Detect in the Mid-West U.S.A? READ BELOW

7.  Barthell – McCreary County

This now-ghost town was once a coal town in McCreary County. Established in 1902, Barthel became one of the first mining camps built by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company. Today, the town is an open museum that shows people the history of coal mining during the 1900s.

Barthel’s coal mining industry began to decline in 1943 when a fire destroyed Mine No. 1, its first mining area. In 1984, the Koger family purchased and revitalized the coal mining town. If you happen to be in this ghost town, you will see buildings like doctor’s offices, stores, and houses renovated and still standing.

You can find Barthell here.

8.  Blue Heron – McCreary County

Blue Heron was a part of the Barthell coal mining town. It was famous as the Mine 18 and is now one of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area’s interpretative history areas. The Stearns Coal and Lumber Company operated Blue Heron from 1937 to December 1962. However, the company closed the coal mining community due to a lack of profitability. In the 1980s, Blue Heron became an outdoor museum with replicas of the establishments once built within it.

You can find Blue Heron here.

9.  Rocky Hill – Edmondson County

Rocky Hill is an unincorporated community in Edmondson County, Kentucky. It was the coal drop-off place for L&N Railroad and was a thriving community with a railroad station and two hotels.

Unfortunately, a massive fire destroyed almost half of Rocky Hill in 1930. And while the government rehabilitated the community, the families that once lived here never returned. Today, Rocky Hill is a ghost town where treasure hunters can look for relics.

You can find Rocky Hill here.

10. Packard – Whitley County

Packard was a town established by Thomas B. Mahan in Whitley County in 1908. It had about 400 residents and was a coal-mining town serving the Packard Coal Company; it also once had a post office and a railway station, particularly the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

People inhabited this town until the mid-1940s. During this time, coal resources gave out, forcing the people to abandon the place due to a lack of income sources.

You can find Packard here.

11. Laurel River – Laurel and Whitley Counties

Metal Detecting in Rivers
Metal Detecting in Rivers

This 42-mile river is a tributary of the Cumberland River and stretches to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The town of Corbin also lies on the river, about 15 miles east of the river’s mouth on the Cumberland.

Moreover, the Laurel River Dam serves as the reservoir of the river, thus forming the Laurel River Lake. This reservoir was the primary flood control and hydroelectricity source for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

You can find Laurel River here.

12. Rough River – Breckinridge, Hardon, And Grayson Counties

Despite the name, Rough river is not actually. It is a lake that measures 136 miles long. The Rough River is a tributary of the Green River located in west-central Kentucky. Passing through the Green River and Ohio River, the Rough River is a part of the Mississippi River’s watershed.

In addition, this river is historically famous as the Rough Creek, according to the Geographic Names Information System. It also has wildlife, including mammals, fishes, and birds.

You can find Rough River here. 

13. Barren River – Monroe and Warren County

This 135-mile-long river is the Green River’s largest tributary. In the early days, people call this river the Big Barren River to separate it from the Little Barren River. This river has an annual discharge of 2,501 cubic feet per second.

Moreover, the laws regarding treasure hunting in the waters of Kentucky can be pretty tricky. For this reason, get the necessary permit before metal detecting in any Kentucky river.

You can find Barren River here. 

14. Willisburg Lake – Washington County

The Willisburg Lake is a 126-acre body of water located in Washington County. This reservoir is an artificial lake created in 1969 and opened for fishing in 1971. However, the lake is not open for skiing, swimming, and jet-skiing.

This lake has 10 miles of natural shorelines and a more than 48 feet depth. If you want to try fishing in the Willisburg Lake, you are likely to capture shell-crackers, white crappie, largemouth bass, and yellow bullhead, to name a few.

You can find Willisburg Lake here.

15. Martins Fork Lake – Harlan County

Impounded by the United States Corps of Engineers in 1979 for the Martins For, the Martins Fork Lake is a reservoir that measures 340 acres. The lake got its name from James Martin, one of the pioneer settlers in the area. Fishing is one of the most popular recreations at the lake, and the dam below the lake is home to rainbow trout.

One unique distinction of the Martins Fork Lake is that it is the only lake in Kentucky inhabited by redeye bass. It also has bluegills, walleyes, crappies, and two species of catfish.

You can find Martins Fork Lake here.

Check Out These Spots for Your Next Metal Detecting Trip

Treasure In Kentucky

A famous story in Kentucky is the legend of the Lost Confederate Payroll. According to the legend, the Confederate payroll got lost near Cumberland Gap. While no one is sure about when this fortune was lost during the Civil War, many believe it happened in 1863.

According to the story, four men killed the paymaster, loaded the money over a pay wagon, and ran it over a cliff to hide the payroll and divide it among them. They planned to return and get the payroll later, but that never happened.

After the civil war, a man named Jones came near Cumberland Gap and found where he believed the treasure lies. However, Jones feared he might go to jail if he touched the fortune. So he returned to a hotel and told its owner what he found out. This story became a circulating legend, but no one has ever found the lost Confederate payroll even today. (source)

Is It Legal to Metal Detect In Kentucky?

The Archeological Resources Protection Act governs all the metal detecting regulations in Kentucky. A federal law aims to preserve historical relics and objects with cultural significance. It means that metal detectorists cannot remove man-made objects from the public ground if they are more than 100 years old.

Additionally, there are regulations for metal detecting in different parts of Kentucky:

●     Private Property

The law allows private property owners to metal detect in their lands and keep whatever they can find. But if you do not own the private land you plan to hunt; you need to obtain written permission from the owner.

Metal Detecting Tip: Over the years I’ve developed some techniques to get permission to metal detect on private property. Read all about it – How to Get Permission to Metal Detect on Private Property

●     State Parks

Kentucky has strict rules regarding metal detecting in state parks. Treasure hunters and metal detector hobbyists need to obtain archeology permission from the authorities beforehand to ensure the legality of their actions. Despite having a permit, there are limitations to metal detecting in Kentucky state parks. For instance, you cannot use motorized equipment for digging. It would be best if you also refilled the ground after treasure hunting.

Here’s a link to the Kentucky State Parks to read the details about what’s allowed. 👉 Kentucky State Parks

●     Rivers, Lakes, And Ghost Towns

These places are some of the safest areas for metal detector hobbyists. Most places do not have strict enforcement, so you can treasure hunt here as long as you obtain permission. (source)

Metal Detecting Tip: There’s an art to metal detecting in a river. Read about my tips and tricks in 👉 How To Metal Detect in Streams and Rivers

Can I Keep Treasure Found in Kentucky?

Modern treasures like jewelry and coins are “finders keepers.” Meaning you can keep them for yourself unless an owner claims them as theirs.

However, some laws apply in terms of finding treasures that are more than a hundred years old. Such relics are considered historical, so you cannot bring them home. Instead, you need to contact the authorities and inform them about your discovery. (source)

Kentucky Treasure in the News

  • Gary Marnhout bought a bottle with a note pointing to an estate sale composed of gold, silver, money, and valuables behind a home in Owensboro, Kentucky. (source)
  • Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball says over $400 million in unclaimed treasure and cash are still in forgotten safety deposit boxes in different banks. (source)
  • An anonymous treasure hunter found the missing Rocky Mountain treasure worth $1 million. This treasure is a bronze chest containing gold and other fortunes. (source)

Could you have an “UNCLAIMED” treasure waiting for you in Kentucky? The State has a process for claiming property lost. If you lost it is it still treasure? Read more at the Kentucky Treasury – HERE

 Stories of Treasure in Kentucky

●     The Lost Treasure of Pilot Rock

In 1888, Samuel Henderson and Joshua Tucker, two healthy farmers, lived in Christian County with their worker brothers Coy and Clyde Fields. The brothers and Henderson’s wife planned to steal Tucker’s and Henderson’s fortune. However, the plan did not succeed, but they could hide the treasure somewhere in the Pilot Rock. (source)

●     Dock Brown’s Outlaw Gold

John Hooper killed a man in Tennessee, fled to Grayson County, and changed his name to John Brown. John and his sons, who changed their names to Dock Brown and PH, lived outside the law. The three gained $50,000 from murder and robbery, and treasure hunters believe Dock hid most of his money in the Big Mouth Cave. However, the exact location of the fortune remains a mystery. (source)

●     The Legend of The Sprinkle Dollars

The lost treasure of the Sprinkle Dollars began in 1775 when Indians attacked a group of explorers. The French missionaries then led the Indians to a large silver mine. Soon, Josiah Sprinkle joined the mining operations until they stopped during the Revolutionary War. Years later, Sprinkle used silver coins that he made himself to buy goods. However, Sprinkle refused to tell anyone where he got the silver from until his death. (source)

Books About Treasure in Kentucky

Best Metal Detecting Books
Check out the 👉 BEST Metal Detecting Books (PLUS a FREE PDF)

Southeast Treasure Hunter’s Gem & Mineral Guide (6th Edition): Where & How to Dig, Pan, and Mine Your Gems & Minerals – Kathy J. Rygle

This book is a guide that has all the information you need about mining, its locations, and the tips and techniques for positive treasure hunting results. It also discusses where you can find treasures in Kentucky and other states in the US (source)

Commander’s Lost Treasures You Can Find in Kentucky: Follow the Clues and Find Your Fortunes! – Commander Pulitzer

Commander Pulitzer tells you the lost treasures in Kentucky and where you can find them. This book also teaches the secrets to be a professional treasure hunter who finds fortune every time he goes on an adventure! (source)

More Commander’s Lost Treasures You Can Find in Kentucky: Follow the Clues and Find Your Fortunes! – Commander Pulitzer and Hutton Pulitzer

After reading the first volume of this book, you’ll find yourself looking for more places to hunt treasure. Fortunately, Commander and Hutton Pulitzer wrote more places to look for treasures in the book’s second volume mentioned above. Here, the author will also teach you the formulas for a successful treasure hunt and five more places where you can look for fortune. (source)


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.

Read about David -> HERE

Want to send me a question – contact


  1. Donnie Laws. The Story of the Missing Civil War Payroll Gold of Cumberland Gap. Youtube Video. 0:40. Posted By Donnie Laws. March 17, 2021.
  2. State Park Links and State Park Metal Detecting Laws & Regulations. MDHTALK Metal Detecting State Law.,in%20all%20Kentucky%20State%20Parks.
  3. Barry Scanlon. Mystery In A Bottle: Kentucky Man Searches For Lost Treasure In Greater Lowell. The Sun. March 23, 2022.
  4. Valerie Chinn. More Than $400 Million In Cash And Treasures Are Unclaimed In Kentucky, And Some Could Be Yours. WDRB. November 15, 2019.
  5. Drew Franklin. Treasure Hunt: Rocky Mountain Treasure Found After Decade Of Searching. One+ Kentucky Wildcats. June 8, 2020.
  6. Alan Brown. Kentucky Legends and Lore. USA: Arcadia Publishing, 2021.
  7. Southeast Treasure Hunter’s Gem & Mineral Guide (6th Edition): Where & How to Dig, Pan, and Mine Your Own Gems & Minerals. Amazon. Accessed June 20, 2022.
  8. Commander’s Lost Treasures You Can Find In Kentucky: Follow the Clues and Find Your Fortunes! Amazon. Accessed June 20, 2022.
  9. More Commander’s Lost Treasures You Can Find In Kentucky: Follow the Clues and Find Your Fortunes! Amazon. Accessed June 20, 2022.
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