Oklahoma has a history that’s ripe for finding treasure. Although the state entered the “union” in the early 1900’s, Indians inhabited the territory for hundreds of years before it became a state. With history that includes the Mexican-American War and the Great Plains finding treasure in Oklahoma is the perfect pastime.
As always, treasure hunting doesn’t mean being destructive, heck it doesn’t even mean removing an artifact. Snapping a picture to capture the moment and researching the “find” is sometimes the best treasure. If allowed get your metal detector out a sweep, but always be respectful.
The 15 Best Places to Find Lost Treasure in Oklahoma
1. Lenora – Dewey County
It is an unincorporated town in Dewey County, just 5.5 miles west of Taloga. Founded in 1892, it had a post office that opened on March 24, 1896, and closed on June 30, 1955. Lenora reached a population of 400 by the year 1900.
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Moreover, Lenora was once a center of culture and trade in Dewey County. However, years passed, and natural disasters caused the town’s economy and population that it is now. As a result, the once populated village became a ghost town and a famous place among treasure hunters.
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2. Texola – Beckham County
Texola only had a population of 36, according to the 2010 census. First inhabited in the 1900s, people formerly called the town Texokla and Texoma before having its last name Texola. The state did eight different surveys of this town, which suggested that some of its early residents lived here without ever relocating.
Additionally, the Magnolia Service Station, a place listed on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Beckham County, is here in Texola. There is also a roadside attraction called One Room Jail. This attraction is a single room with a door and window barred with iron rods.
3. Ingalls – Payne County
This ghost town is famous for the Battle of Ingalls. This notable event is a shootout between the Doolin-Dalton Gang and a troop of US Marshalls. The people involved in the shootout and some town residents were injured, and some even died. To honor the US Marshalls and the civilians who perished during the Battle of Ingalls, the state of Oklahoma built a stone memorial in the town.
The 1890s was this town’s most populated time, with about 150 residents. However, everything went downhill, causing Ingalls to become a ghost town.
4. Skullyville – LeFlore County
Skullyville lies one mile east of Spiro. It got its name from iskulli, a Choctaw word that translates to money. The name is because this is where the Choctaw Agency is, where the members of this unincorporated town collected their annuity payments.
In the late 1850s, Skullyville was the capital of the Choctaw Nation and the Butterfield Stage’s stop. The end of the Civil War also marked the decline of Skullyville’s population and livelihood. The town’s buildings turned into ashes during the warfare. In 1917, Skullyville officially became a ghost town with its only remaining cemetery.
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5. Parkland – Lincoln County
This unincorporated community had its name “to describe the character of the townsite.” The Land Run of 1891 opened the land where Parkland lies to white settlement on September 28, 1891. On December 19, 1894, the Parkland Post Office opened, and McShelly Fishback was its first postmaster.
Moreover, the May 30, 1897 tornado demolished houses in Parkland, killed two, and wounded several residents. The business owners in Parkland were offered free lots in the neighboring town Kendrik if they would relocate after the town’s platting in 1902. There are only a few houses, a cemetery, and a church in Parkland today.
There is an old and destructed general store in the town.
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6. Wichita Mountains – Comanche County
Situated in the southwestern portion of Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountains is a series of rocky promontories, most of which are made out of 500-million-year-old granite. The weathering in the Pennsylvanian and Permian Periods exposed and rounded this series of mountains.
Wichita Mountains has several ranches and quarries still in operation. There are also recreational homes, parklands with beautiful views, and campsites. The US Army Field Artillery School also lies in most of the southeastern end of these mountains.
One of the main attractions in the mountains is the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge. This area is famous among rock climbers and hikers due to its scenic views and fantastic adventure.
7. Caney Creek – Adair and Cherokee Counties
Caney Creek stretches from Oklahoma’s Adair and Cherokee Counties. This watercourse begins in the southeast of Stilwell and ends in Illinois River’s Tenkiller Ferry Lake.
Located on Lake Texoma, particularly in Oklahoma’s Cross Timbers Region, Caney Creek has 50 campgrounds by the water for people visiting here. Forty-one campgrounds have electric and water hookups; the rest are for traditional camping. It is also available for fishing, with spotted bass, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass being the most popular fish in the creek.
8. Red River of The South – Montague and Cooke Counties in Texas and Love County in Oklahoma
The Red River got its name from the reddish color of its water caused by its passing through redbed country – a series of sedimentary rocks. It is one of the Southern United States’ significant rivers and tributary of the Atchafalaya River.
One exciting thing about the Red River is that its south bank formed a portion of the US-Mexico border. This river is also the second largest river basin in the south of flat land called the Great Plains. After passing through the Great Plains, the Red River divides into two branches in the Texas Panhandle. It then flows east and becomes the border that separates Texas and Oklahoma.
9. Cimarron River – Stretches From New Mexico To Kansas
The Cimarron River stretches 698 miles and covers New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas. It has its headwaters flowing from Johnson Mesa, located in the northeastern area of New Mexico.
Although the stretches in four states, most of its length lies in Oklahoma. This river passes through 11 counties in Oklahoma and even serves as a border for some of them.
Moreover, Cimarron River got its name from Río de Los Carneros Cimarrón, an early Spanish term that directly translates as Wild Sheep, including Grand Saline. This river drains an 18,927-square-mile basin.
10. Poteau River – Stretches Throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma
The Poteau River’s name came from the French translation of the post. People believe that French explorers under the leadership of Bernard de la Harpe named the river in 1716. Reportedly, these French explorers named the river Poteau as they used a post to mark its mouth. There is also a nearby city with the same name as the river.
This 141-mile river is the only river in Oklahoma that flows north. It is also the seventh largest river within the said state. The Poteau River starts flowing in Arkansas and ends in Oklahoma.
During the period of Indian Territory in Oklahoma, the Poteau River is the boundary between Sugar Loaf County and Skullyville County. It made up Choctaw Nation’s Moshulatubbee District.
11. Mountain Fork of the Little River – Stretches Throughout Arkansas and Oklahoma
This 98-mile-long river is a tributary of Arkansas, Oklahoma’s Little River, and a portion of the Mississippi River’s watershed. The river’s upper course flows through a part of the Ouachita National Forrest.
The state built a dam in this lake in McCurtain County, which forms the Broken Bow Lake. Today, there is a 31.7-mile canoeing and kayaking area on the Upper Mountain Fork River. The river has Class I and II rapids, making its water clear and ideal for fishing. Even better, the scenery around the river is majestic, with pine forests and bluffs along its course.
12. Lake Murray – South Central Oklahoma
Measuring 5,700 acres long, the creation of Lake Murray happened when a damming project was done in Anadarche and Fourche Maline Creeks. This lake lies in the south-central part of Oklahoma. Additionally, the state named the lake after Oklahoma governor William H. Murray.
Lake Murray travels within the 12,500-acre Lake Murray State Park, the largest state park in Oklahoma. There is a lodge and resort at the west shore, which the state operates.
This establishment is a base for several cabin and campground facilities near Lake Murray. The lodge and resort also serve the visitors of both the lake and the state park.
13. Lake Texoma – Bryan County in Oklahoma And Grayson County In Texas
This lake is one of the United States’ largest reservoirs. Its formation happed due to the Red River’s Denison Dam and is now the 12th largest US Army Corps of Engineers built lake. A portion of the lake is located at the Red River and Washita River’s confluence.
Lake Texoma is the largest, most developed, and most famous lake within the USACE Tulsa District. It has approximately 6 million visitors annually, leaving behind some relics and jewelry waiting for treasure hunters.
Back then, a 250-million-year-old former sea was on the border that separates Texas and Oklahoma. This sea left salt deposits behind. For this reason, the Red River, which formed Lake Texoma, is a saltwater river.
14. Sardis Lake – Pushmataha and Latimer Counties
This lake is a reservoir created in the 1980s during the dam construction project of the United States Corps of Engineers on Jackfork Creek. It came from Sardis, Oklahoma, a no longer existing town. The residents of Sardis relocated as the flooding of this lake increased and slowly submerged the entire village.
In 2016, Oklahoma, Choctaw Nation, and Oklahoma City had a historic water settlement agreement. This settlement provided the state of Oklahoma with the regulatory and administrative authority over the lake. The agreement also allocated a large portion of the lake to the needs of Oklahoma City.
15. Private Properties
Treasure hunting in private properties is one of the most popular activities for metal detector hobbyists. However, you first need to acquire a written permit from the property owner before you can start digging treasures. But this should not be a problem as private land owners will probably permit you if you state your intentions and ask them politely.
But whether you found a treasure or not, make sure to leave the area clean not to give a bad name to metal detecting. I’ve got some tips and techniques for getting permission, check out this article How to Metal Detect on Private Property (the right way)
Treasure In Oklahoma
Legend has it that Jesse James and the gang named after him stole gold from Mexican Guardsmen. The gang escaped and brought their look to the Wichita Mountains. They decided to bury the gold east of Cache Creek, but they could not come back and collect it for some reason. (source)
The metal detecting laws in the state parks in Oklahoma are pretty vague. Although many state parks permit metal detecting, you will not find a list of what state parks do and do not permit the activity. If you wish to try your luck, you need to call the state park’s manager to confirm if you can metal detect there.
Read up on the Oklahoma State Park information about metal detecting on the FAQ page. Shortcut link 👉 Oklahoma State Park FAQ
On the other hand, treasure hunters can metal detect in rivers and lakes. However, they need to ask permission from the authorities governing these rivers and lakes.
If you do not want to be in trouble with the law, the solution is to use a metal detector on private lands where you only need to ask permission from the owner. (source)
According to the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, metal detector hobbyists can keep modern treasures like jewelry and coins in circulation. However, removing items believed to be more than 100 years old is illegal under federal law. (source)
- Engineer and author Craig Gaines read and collected credible treasure stories in hopes of finding fortune in Oklahoma. (source)
- The rich treasure stories of Oklahoma continue to be a colorful part of the state’s history despite being passed down from one generation to another. (source)
- The long history of Oklahoma continues to conceal the buried treasures of the state. (source)
- An Oklahoma Outlaw Stash – A dying man in a hospital tried speaking to his nurse when he woke up but was only able to form the words “the money,” “buried,” and “friends dead.” The man introduced his name as John, an outlaw who robbed a bank with his friends. While fleeing, John’s friends were killed by the Indians, and only he survived. To escape his demise, he left the sacks of coins somewhere in the Wichita Mountains but was never able to come back for them. (source)
- Buried Treasures Of The Great Plains – this legend states that treasure was buried near a low rise of a flat grassland where a single tree grows. The two farmers who knew where the treasure was refused to reveal its location. For this reason, fortune still lies under the ground now. (source)
- Buried Army Payroll At Fort Sill – In June 1892, a payroll stagecoach was traveling toward Fort Sill, carrying about $100,000 worth of gold and silver. However, the driver and two guards met some outlaws along the way, who killed them and escaped with the payroll. The outlaws buried their loot during the night; legend says it’s in its burial spot. (source)
This book is a result of Steve Wilson’s years of quest for finding Oklahoma treasures. Some stories in the book are legends, verified by the author as much as possible. (source) If you’re interested in this book, read the reviews and check availability with this shortcut link 👉 Oklahoma Treasures and Treasure Tales
Weird Oklahoma: Your Travel Guide to Oklahoma’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets (Volume 18) – Wesley Treat
Wesley Treat’s book is for people who believe and want to find the fortunes told in the most popular Oklahoma treasure stories. It also contains the Oklahoma secrets hiding in plain sight, waiting for you to discover them. (source)
Lost Mines and Treasure Tales of the Southeastern United States: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina – Ivan Herring
This book tells the story of 89 legends about lost mines and treasures. People who want to learn about the history of treasures in Oklahoma will learn so much from this book and maybe find them themselves. (source)
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- Hidden Treasures. Treasure Hunt in America | Jesse James buried treasure in the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma. Youtube Video. 00:01. Posted By Hidden Treasures. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCJCuDq-6sE.
- Archeology Program. Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. https://www.nps.gov/archeology/tools/laws/arpa.htm.
- Galen Culver. Oklahoma’s Lost Treasure And The Author Who Has A Wealth Of Stories To Point You In The Right Direction. July 16, 2021. https://kfor.com/news/great-state/oklahomas-lost-treasure-and-the-author-who-has-a-wealth-of-stories-to-point-you-in-the-right-direction/.
- Oil Wasn’t The Only Treasure Sought Underground. The Norman Transcrip. April 6, 2007. https://www.normantranscript.com/news/oil-wasn-t-the-only-treasure-sought-underground/article_93692981-a118-59cc-b146-a4d8489e59d4.html.
- Gene Curtis. Only in Oklahoma: Sands Of Time Conceal State’s Buried Treasure. July 20, 2007. https://tulsaworld.com/archive/only-in-oklahoma-sands-of-time-conceal-states-buried-treasure/article_9310f51b-f077-51bb-a7dc-43c763cdecd4.html.
- W. C. Jameson. Buried Treasures of the Great Plains: Legends of the Lost Immigrant Caches, Abandoned Payroll Coins, and Stage Coach Robbery Loot from North Dakota to Texas. USA: August House, 2009. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=oZ465lZHIi0C&pg=PA191&dq=oklahoma+treasure&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjQ7KeSm_v4AhWz-zgGHWyOAoYQ6AF6BAgGEAI#v=onepage&q=oklahoma%20treasure&f=false.
- Oklahoma Treasures and Treasure Tales. Amazon. Accessed July 15, 2022. https://www.amazon.com/Oklahoma-Treasures-Treasure-Tales-Wilson/dp/0806121742/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3GUE92DXTE7XW&keywords=treasure+legends+oklahoma&qid=1657899962&sprefix=treasure+legends+oklahoma%2Caps%2C303&sr=8-1.
- Weird Oklahoma: Your Travel Guide to Oklahoma’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets (Volume 18). Amazon. Accessed July 15, 2022. https://www.amazon.com/Weird-Oklahoma-Oklahomas-Legends-Secrets/dp/1402754361/ref=sr_1_4?crid=3GUE92DXTE7XW&keywords=treasure+legends+oklahoma&qid=1657900099&sprefix=treasure+legends+oklahoma%2Caps%2C303&sr=8-4.
Lost Mines and Treasure Tales of the Southeastern United States: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Amazon. Accessed July 15, 2022. https://www.amazon.com/Mines-Treasure-Southeastern-United-States/dp/1983233153/ref=sr_1_3?crid=3GUE92DXTE7XW&keywords=treasure+legends+oklahoma&qid=1657900099&sprefix=treasure+legends+oklahoma%2Caps%2C303&sr=8-3.