Legend has it that Tennessee’s Flat Creek is the site where you can find the Denton Treasure. People believe that this contained $15,000 worth of gold and was a payroll chest buried by the US Army.
If you are planning to treasure hunt in Tennessee, it is worth noting that the metal detecting laws here are far different from the rest of the United States. But regardless of this fact, there are places where you can bring your metal detector and start digging.
1. Douglas Headwater Public Swimming Beach – Sevier County
This beach is Douglas Lake’s designated swimming area. It is an excellent place to enjoy the view of the 28,000-acre lake and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.
Besides swimming and boating, this place also offers recreational activities like camping, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Visitors have two options for the campgrounds 60 of the sites are traditional, and 54 are hooked to water and electricity sources. Metal detector enthusiasts can also potentially find modern valuables buried in the sand left by the tourists who went to the beach.
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2. Cedar Creek Beach – Old Hickory Lake, Nashville, Tennessee
Go for a walk at the Cedar Creek Recreational Area, and you will find a sandy beach that is ideal for taking a dip. Cedar Creek Beach is also a good place for metal detecting in Tennessee. The beach’s location is in Old Hickory Lake, which includes a boat ramp and a campground. This beach also has a volleyball court that visitors can use.
Trees surround the white sand by the swimming area, so visitors will remain shaded as they participate in various activities offered on the beach. Aquatic adventures include boating and swimming, while in-land activities include beach volleyball, picnicking, and camping.
3. Cheatham Lake Beach – Ashland City
Cheatham Lake Beach is one of the recreational amenities of Cheatham Dam Right Bank Recreation Area. This man-made lake is a vast area created by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Initially, the authorities built the Cheatham Dam to replace the old navigational locks system. However, they also considered using the dam to generate a hydroelectric power supply for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
It resulted in the creation of Cheatham Lake. The 67.5-mile lake extends from Nashville to the lower part of the Old Hickory Dam. It also houses Cheatham Lake Beach, where people can participate in water and land activities like boating, fishing, camping, and sightseeing.
4. Cherokee Lake Beach – Knoxville, Tennessee
Cherokee Lake resulted from the Cherokee Dam construction on the Holston River in 1941. It was built to prevent floods and generate hydroelectric power during World War II. The lake has 30,300 acres of water and 463 miles of shoreline, making it one of the largest lakes in Tennessee.
One of the most popular recreation areas within the lake is Cherokee Lake Beach. Here, visitors can enjoy boating, swimming, and fishing. The beach is also near the campground, making it ideal for overnight stays. Apart from camping and swimming, fishing is also one of the best activities on the beach and throughout the lake. The Tennessee Valley Authority holds fishing tournaments in the lake annually.
5. Anderson Beach on J. Percy Priest Lake – Nashville, Tennessee
J. Percy Priest Lake is one of Tennessee’s most famous recreational places. This reservoir is popular for swimming, boating, water skiing, and fishing, and there are also land activities, including picnicking, sightseeing, camping, and hunting.
The said lake is a man-made reservoir built in 1967 by the US Army Corps Of Engineers. It consists of 14,200 acres of water, covering parts of Davidson, Rutherford, and Wilson counties.
Moreover, Anderson Beach is one of the most popular swimming beaches within the lake area. There are campgrounds, playgrounds, and picnic areas near the beach, so visitors should expect high foot traffic, especially during the summer. Apart from swimming, the Anderson Road Campground near the beach is an attraction for many tourists who want to stay in the area overnight.
Check out this link to Anderson Beach on J. Percy Priest Lake Google maps link.
6. Little Tennessee River – Georgia, North Carolina, And Tennessee
The Little Tennessee River stretches for 135 miles from Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee; it is a tributary of the Tennessee River, with numerous dams built during the 20th century. The river and these dams served as flood control and hydroelectric power source for the people.
After flowing through the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Little Tennessee River becomes a confluence of the Cullasaja River at Franklin. The river features playgrounds, exercise stations, fishing piers, picnic shelters, and a butterfly garden. It is also a good fishing spot to catch crappie, smallmouth and largemouth bass, blue gill, steelhead, walleye, and brown trout.
7. Elk River – Tennessee And Alabama
Another tributary of the Tennessee River is the Elk River. It stretches 195 miles with the Elk River Dam as its first impoundment. The impoundment of the Elk River and the said dam formed Woods Reservoir, which the US Army Corps Of Engineers built as a water source and wildlife refuge.
The cold water of the Elk River makes it an excellent fishing spot for trout. Water activities like canoeing, kayaking, and boating are also possible in the area. However, it would be best if you were cautious about water discharges that create strong currents, which are dangerous for small water vehicles.
There are also primitive campgrounds along the Elk River. If you are into modern camping, this may not be the best campsite for you as the only amenities you will have are the ones you bring.
8. Collins River – East-Central Portion Of Middle Tennessee
This 67-mile-long river is a part of the Cumberland, Ohio, and Mississippi watersheds. This Caney Fork tributary passes through Grundy and Warren Counties and has the following communities surrounding its watershed:
- Beersheba Springs
Moreover, the Collins River watershed measures 811 square miles and has 69 lake acres and 1,003 miles of streams. The river, particularly its upper portion, the Savage Gulf, is part of Tennessee’s Scenic Rivers Program. It is one of the few rivers in the state with a good muskie population. You can also catch rock bass and smallmouth and largemouth bass in the river.
9. Stewart State Forest – Stewart County
The Stewart State Forest measures 4,226 acres and is home to the old rail bed known as State Highway 49. It consists of several cultural and historical sites, such as large areas for charcoal production. Inside the forest, you can also find several old house sites and an iron ore pit.
The state acquired this forest from the Leech Estate. In 1933, Tennessee declared it as state land. In 1935, governor McAllister signed a decree that turned the land into a state forest.
Today, the 101st Airborne Division Of Fort Campbell Military Reservation uses the forest for training purposes. On the other hand, people can use the forest for hunting, mountain biking, and hiking. A local Eagle Scout also developed an orienteering course for people who want to practice their skills in reading GPS, compass, and maps.
10. Martha Sundquist State Forest – Cocke County
The state purchased this 2,001 acres of land from International Paper Company in 2001. It has the Cherokee National Forest surrounding three sides of it, along with one drainage system. This forest is considered a wildlife management area and mainly has mature cove and mountain hardwoods.
This forest got its name from Martha, the wife of former Tennessee governor Don Sundquist. Today, the types of trees that grow in the Martha Sundquist State Forest are magnolia, white pine, eastern hemlock, and birch trees.
In terms of the available recreational activities, this forest is open for hunting, timber production, hiking, and fishing.
11. Cedars Of Lebanon State Forest – Wilson County
The Cedars Of Lebanon State Forest measures 8,004 hectares and sits in the Central Basin of Tennessee. Before the Resettlement Administration purchased and took responsibility for the land in 1955, the land owners were all acreage farmers. The land was once used for pasture and row crops before erosion and deforestation ruined its quality.
Fourteen percent of the forest is a Natural Heritage Area as it holds two endangered plant species. On the other hand, the state declared the remaining 85 percent as forestland.
Due to the degradation and erosion caused by many off-highway vehicles that enter the forest, the authorities prohibited the use of OHVs within the Cedars Of Lebanon State Forest.
Hunting remains a traditional activity in the forest.
12. Chilhowee Recreation Area Beach – Polk County
Another beach in Tennessee that can be a fun spot for metal detector enthusiasts is the Chilhowee Recreation Area Beach in Polk County. This beach is famous for walking tours, so you must expect high traffic when visiting. A forest surrounds the beach, an ideal spot for digging for hidden trinkets. However, Tennessee has strict laws about metal detecting, so it is essential to ask permission from the authorities in the area before you start digging.
The Chilhowee Campgrounds is also near the said beach; it consists of 70 campsites with electric hookups and sites for RV camping. You can also use your time in the recreation area to do activities like hiking and biking.
13. Newsom’s Landing – Davidson County
Newsom’s Landing, or Newsom’s Station as some people call it, was once famous for a mill established near it in the late 1700s. A flood destroyed this mill in 1808, prompting Joseph Newsom to build a new gristmill in 1862. The establishment of this new mill paved the way for the creation of Newsom’s Landing.
The town where you can find Newsom’s Landing sits on the Harpeth River, making it a popular spot for recreation and water activities back then. Joseph Newsom sold the land to James Ezell in 1905, and the new owner continued the milling practice. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the gristmill in 1928, prompting people to leave the town.
As a result, Ezell retired, and people began abandoning the town.
14. Elkmont – Sevier County
Established in the late 1800s, Elkmont was a logging town in Sevier County, Tennessee. The people who lived in the town cut down trees and transported them via the Little River to make a living. As a result, the Little River Railroad Company helped the loggers haul their lumber. This company also began transporting tourists to the area.
However, the end of the logging operations in Elkmont prompted the railroad’s closure. It made it difficult for tourists to visit the town. For this reason, a road to the town was built, allowing it to continue operating as a getaway town. In the 1930s, Elkmont became a part of the Smoky Mountain National Park.
The town’s incorporation into the said park made things difficult for property owners and residents of Elkmont. They received lifetime leases, which expired by the ’90s. As a result, people left the town, which resulted in it being a ghost town.
15. Roane County
Wheat was popularly called Bald Hill in 1846. When it became a ghost town, people renamed it Wheat, which came from the town’s first postmaster, Frank Wheat.
This town was a farming community that consisted of Roane College, Wheat High School, a few churches, and a liberal school. All of these establishments operated for 22 years before they closed in 1908. On the other hand, Wheat High School closed in 1941.
In the 1940s, President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to develop a nuclear weapon similar to Germany. This plan became famous as the Manhattan Project. When President Roosevelt was looking for a worksite, he found out that Wheat had all the requirements the project needed. As a result, the schools and churches closed, and people were relocated to the Secret City of Oak Ridge.
One of Tennessee’s most popular treasure stories is the Lost Smoky Mountain Gold Mine. During the Civil War, many believe that Perry Shults discovered a shallow streak containing pure gold in Greenbrier Cove near Webb Creek in the 1800s. But to this day, no one knows where the gold mine is. (source)
Tennessee’s metal detecting laws differ from the rest of the United States. This state prohibits metal detecting in State Parks. National forests allow the use of metal detectors. However, it is often limited to beaches, picnic grounds, and campsites. Rivers, creeks, lakes, and ghost towns are popular spots for metal detector enthusiasts.
If you want to prevent being in trouble with the law, ask the authorities for a written permit before you start metal detecting. (source)
Similar to all US states, The Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) governs metal detecting in Tennessee. It means that you cannot take artifacts that are believed to be more than 100 years old. Meanwhile, you can keep the modern items you will find, such as coins and jewelry. (source)
- A Tennessee family found their grandmother’s treasure hidden in a secret safe. (source)
- Tennessee resident Matt Guldan organized a treasure hunt event and hid treasure amounting to $1,000. (source)
John Hunt Morgan was once a pride of the Confederate Army. Legends say that he was able to accumulate $1 million from the numerous raids during his command. He also extorted money from business people and farmers. His poor decisions led to several war defeats, which ruined his reputation. On September 14.1864, Morgan died in a Union attack. No one knows where he hid his fortunes, and none of them still recovered today. (source)
In 1902, three boys were hunting rabbits in Rogersville after a storm. One boy found a hole and thought of it as a rabbit hide but found out it was full of US silver dollar coins. The boys filled their pockets with coins before going home and reported what they found. However, no one found the exact location of the treasure up to this day. (source)
1. A Guide To Treasure In Tennessee, 2nd Edition: Treasure Guide Series By H. Glenn Carson
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- Quest Capsule. 5 Lost Hidden Treasures in the Great Smoky Mountains – Gold Mines, Silver & Gold Coins. Youtube Video. 00:55. Posted By Quest Capsule. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkNpCDs1LeA. Accessed August 31, 2022.
- Archeology Program. Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979. https://www.nps.gov/archeology/tools/laws/arpa.htm. Accessed August 31, 2022.
- David Self Newlin. Tennessee Grandmother’s Secret Treasure Discovered In Hidden Safe. May 2, 2013. https://www.ksl.com/article/25021896/tennessee-grandmothers-secret-treasure-discovered-in-hidden-safe. Accessed: August 31, 2022.
- Abby Kousouris. This Hidden Treasure Could Get You $1,000. January 29, 2022. https://www.wvlt.tv/2022/01/28/this-hidden-treasure-could-get-you-1000/. Accessed August 31, 2022.
- W. C. Jameson. Buried Treasures of the Appalachians: Legends of Homestead Caches, Indian Mines, and Loot from Civil War Raids. USA: August House, 2009. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=VbNv9tgrQmEC&printsec=frontcover&dq=treasure+stories+tennessee&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi3tNO_sPD5AhVUft4KHSTDDncQ6AF6BAgFEAI#v=onepage&q=treasure%20stories%20tennessee&f=false. Accessed August 31, 2022.