Treasure hunting in Michigan – Can you find gold for real?

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There are many stories about treasures that could be hidden somewhere in Michigan. Maybe you already know about some of them.

Some believe they‘re real, others don’t. In this article, I’ll discuss the most famous Michigan treasure tales. And I’ll give you a few tips if you want to start your own expedition.

Boxcar treasure legend

This is the most famous Michigan treasure story. It started in the late 1800s. A ferry was crossing the lake when a storm started.

The waves became too violent and the crew feared that the vessel is going to sink. So they decided to lighten the cargo.

They pushed some of the boxcars off the ferry. The crew didn’t know about the nature of the cargo. The only thing they cared about was saving the ship.

In 1921, a man named George Alexander Abbott made a deathbed confession. He said that one of the boxcars was loaded with stolen confederate gold.

He also said that a tug boat sunk on the same night near the boxcar. The tug boat itself was carrying a treasure! It is a safe loaded with gold, silver, and jewelry…

I hate to disappoint you. Although some think this story is true. I think it is nothing more than a nice bedtime story.

I challenge those who think it is true to give me any official record about the incident or at least the ferry’s name.

Anybody can make this kind of story. All of them are lies until I see and evidence.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that treasure hunting isn’t real. Many people found one. You can check this list of 11 real-life treasure hunters.

And in the next paragraphs, I’ll give you a few tips that may help you find X spot on the map too.

What I’m saying is that you should forget about legends and focus only on following leads and clues that appear to be real.

Don’t waste your time and effort chasing illusions.

Legend resurfaces

Some people believe that the boxcar gold really exists and it is somewhere at the bottom of Michigan Lake.

Kevin Dykstra and Frederick Monroe are one of them. They are two divers who discovered an unknown shipwreck. And they believe that it the tug boat that Abbott was talking about.

These folks invested a lot of money to get expensive equipment like underwater metal detectors, a boat equipped with a sonar, diving gear…

But they found nothing and I don’t think they will. Simply because they messed up the expedition’s foundations, which is research (more details later).

They heard this story in 1972. Instead of checking its authenticity, they assumed its true. And they started to look for gold that may never exist.

To be fair, they did some research. But, it was methodological. They gathered pieces of information from here and there. And ignored a bunch of others.

They somehow connected the dots and they ended up with a shaky weird theory. To me, it sounds like a Hollywood movie.

Are there any buried treasures in Michigan?

The short answer is…


Maybe French soldiers buried gold coins to save them from the British and the Indians. A rich man possibly hid his savings somewhere. Or a stagecoach robber buried his loot in the woods but he never recovered it.

Nobody knows for sure. Maybe there is a treasure laying in your backyard. Who knows?

If you want to look for gold, you have to do some research and use the right equipment.


You cannot start digging all over the place looking for treasures. You have to look for some clues and leads.

Go to your local library and look for historical books. Online sources are not usually trustworthy. Many of them are full of rumors and legends. But some of them are authentic.

Staying away from tales will save you a lot of time and effort. As you saw earlier, in the boxcar treasure, some people wasted years and money looking for gold that may never exist.

They convinced themselves that the story is true. And they never questioned its authenticity. After years of searching the Michigan lake, they’re still looking. And I think they’ll never find it.

Mel Fisher, on the other hand, is one of the most successful treasure hunters in the world.

He did his homework and relied on official Spanish records to locate shipwrecks loaded with tons of precious metals.

If you want to succeed, you have to follow the scientific method and don’t rely on grandma’s stories.

Gear up

The most valuable treasures contain precious metals. Treasures can be underwater or buried in the ground.

best metal detectorUnderwater treasure hunting is expensive and difficult. You need to be an experienced scuba diver and you need to use sophisticated tools. So forget about it.

Recovering buried treasures is affordable and easy. You only get a basic metal detector and a shovel.

I think the bounty hunter detector is a good choice for beginners. It is affordable and it performs well. You can find more details in this post.

You only have to swing the search coil from side to side and listen to the beeps. If you think you’ve found something precious then dig it.

Don’t get frustrated if you find a nail or a pull-tab. I guarantee you’ll find a lot of them before finding gold (if you find it in the first place).


Hidden treasures can be found everywhere. Although you may find one in Michigan, I advise you to forget about treasure legends.

They are nothing more than stories made up by someone and it was passed down for generations with some modification here and there.

Before believing any legend, ask about the source. It is that simple.

My second tip is to consider treasure hunting or metal detecting as a hobby. Forget about gold.

Only think about having fun. If you find something valuable, that’s cool. If you didn’t, it doesn’t matter.

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