Forrest Fenn Leads Search for Missing Treasure Hunter
Authorities have called off the official search for Randy Bilyeu, but treasure hunters continue to comb the area for leads
For exclusive access to all of our fitness, gear, adventure, and travel stories, plus discounts on trips, events, and gear, sign up for Outside+ today.
A treasure hunter remains missing in northern New Mexico, as a strong winter storm has moved into the area. Randy Bilyeu, 54, came to New Mexico from his home in Broomfield, Colorado, on January 5, hoping to find a bronze box filled with gold, rare artifacts, and minerals worth over a million dollars. The treasure was hidden by Santa Fe art dealer Forrest Fenn in 2010. A poem in Fenn’s 2010 book The Thrill of the Chase contains clues to the treasure’s location. The clues often lead hunters into river canyons.
Bilyeu drove to the Rio Grande river near Buckman Road, just north of Santa Fe, and took a raft downriver. On January 14, his family reported him missing to local authorities. A four-day search turned up his dog (hungry, but alive) and his raft—which had been deliberately dragged several hundred feet from the river, according to one treasure hunter’s website. Both the raft and dog were located nine miles downstream from where Bilyeu put in. Authorities called the search off on January 18 when continued efforts failed to find any new leads, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Since then, Fenn and other area treasure hunters have launched a private search. “Searchers were in the canyon yesterday and about 8 today,” Fenn wrote to Outside on Saturday. “They were chasing down leads provided by drones.” Fenn has also hired a private helicopter service to search for Bilyeu from the air.
Snow began falling in the area early Monday morning, and the storm was expected to last until early Tuesday morning, with accumulations of up to six inches, gusts up to 45 mph, and wind chills into the teens.