There’s more than just potatoes buried under our soil! Hidden treasures abound in Idaho, but until now, the landscape has kept kept its caches a secret and left searchers in vain.
Our Wild West roots run deep here, and the movement of mined gold across the state dates back more than a century to when sticky-fingered rascals sought to make their fortunes outside the mines. As a result, Idaho is home to more than just hidden lakes and hot springs, but to long-lost and buried treasures as well, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Left behind by some of the Gem State’s most notorious criminals, vigilantes, and bandits of every kind, these long-lost bounties have unique stories of Western shootouts, holdups, and crooked sheriffs to go along with them, and follow a common, timeworn thread of desperate and forgetful criminals. So grab a metal detector and a map, and check out these 7 hidden treasures.
1. Camas Creek
Three bandits were involved in the holdup of a Jefferson County station. While two of the three were killed in the ensuing scuffle, the third escaped with the loot. The man was eventually caught and thrown into prison, where in 1909 he drew a map for a fellow inmate who was to be released. Under claims of "digging an irrigation canal," the man turned up nearly every stone in the county, but the $50,000 was never found.
Perhaps the most hunted-for treasure in Idaho history, the story of the Portneuf Gold dates back to 1865, well before Idaho was a state or territory, and when lawlessness was rampant. But the biggest criminal at the time was also Ada County's first sheriff -- Big Dave Updyke. Gangster-like and sworn in under rigged circumstances, Updyke's activities are well-studied, especially his robbery of the Portneuf Stage.
Supposedly, the gold bars were on their way to Salt Lake City, a haul that was worth around $80,000 back then. Today, that gold could be worth as much as $4 million.
Updyke's accomplices were hanged for various other crimes in the Northwest, but Updyke was sought after by the local Payette vigilantes. When found, the gold was nowhere to be found, and presumably the criminal had become the victim of his own robbery. The loot is thought to be buried in the area, and no shortage of Idahoans can be seen on any given day searching in vain for this lost haul.
3. Priest Lake
In 1888, after great success panning in Bonner County, a local prospector was on his way to cash in his gold when his mules died after eating poisoned weeds. Unable to carry the haul on his own, he buried the majority of the gold a few miles from the lake along with the remains of his mules and finished his journey. However, when he returned to recover his hidden cache, he could never find the exact location again.
4. Cassia County
The feuds between Idaho sheepherders and cattlemen -- called the Range Wars or Sheep Wars -- in the late 1800s represent a violent turning point in Idaho history that culminated in murder near Deep Creek. Local legends abound with stories of hidden stashes, which individuals would bury in an attempt to protect their valuables from any onslaught from a rival. Most of these caches are said to be hidden near Deep Creek, with one treasure in particular being valued at over $20,000.
5. Robbers Gulch
Not too far from White Bird, just along the Salmon River, is a place known locally as Robbers Gulch. More than a century ago, outlaws held up a stage carrying close to $75,000 in miner's gold and hid it there among the rocks to ease their passage of the Seven Devils. Unfortunately, a lawkeeping posse caught up with them and the band of thieves were killed before the cache's whereabouts were revealed.
In 1888, an outlaw acting alone robbed the Jarbridge-Idaho stage near the site of the present-day Salmon Dam. The man was later found dead, however, with the gold nowhere to be found. A bloody fingerprint and a single bullet wound to the head eventually led authorities to the man who had taken justice into his own hands, but the search for the stolen loot was never brought to a conclusion. Local legend has it that the outlaw buried the strongbox of gold somewhere on the east side of Brown's Bench, a large flat mesa, about 15 miles west of Rogerson, Idaho.
If you ask anyone, there is not much doubt that prospector turned tavern owner David Levy had a cache, stored in a metal strongbox. First-hand accounts describe that when workmen were putting a walkway in near his house in Boise, he had them lift a section of it so he could retrieve a pot of gold he had hidden underneath. When Levy was murdered in 1902, no gold or other money was found in his estate. Townsfolk speculated that Levy had moved his cache back out to his old cabin outside Grangeville, but the loot was never found.
Idaho has quite the history when it comes to buried treasures! What do you think — are these stashes still out there?