Michigan has a lot to offer treasure hunters. The region has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years. Relics from its earliest settlers can be found throughout the state, in addition to evidence of the many battles fought on its soil. There are even a few stories of buried treasure, which have inspired metal detecting throughout the Wolverine State.
Michigan's metal detecting laws are a lot more flexible than those of many other states. However, treasure hunters in the state still need to adhere to the Archeological Resources Protection Act.
The ARPA is a federal law regulating metal detecting all across America. Its aim is to preserve items of historical and cultural significance. This law prohibits the removal of man-made objects more than 100 years of age from public ground.
The ARPA does not apply to metal detecting done on private property. Of course, anybody planning to use their metal detector on private property should obtain the written permission of the landowner beforehand.
Metal detecting is permitted in a number of Michigan's state parks. Some of these parks allow the use of metal detectors throughout the park. But others restrict treasure hunters to designated metal detecting areas. You'll find a number of parks outlined below.
State Parks Which Allow Restriction-Free Metal Detecting
- Grand Haven State Park
- Traverse City State Park
- Mears State Park
- Brimley State Park
- Lakeport State Park
State Parks Which Restrict Metal Detecting to Designated Areas
- Bald Mountain Recreation Area
- Negwegon State Park
- Otsego Lake State Park
- Petoskey State Park
- Hayes State Park
- Mitchell State Park
You can obtain a full list of the state parks which allow metal detecting from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Legends of buried treasure exist throughout Michigan. Granted, not all of them seem plausible. However, there are a few which are certainly deserving of your attention.
The Berlanquette Treasure
In Fayette County, locals still tell the story of Berlanquette. According to legend, Berlanquette was a saloon owner who amassed a small fortune through his saloon and, most probably, some shady dealings on the side.
Berlanquette refused to store his money in a bank. Instead, he is said to have buried it in the Sand Bay area. He would return sporadically to withdraw from his fortune, although most agree it was nowhere near depleted by the time of his death. The exact location of Berlanqutte's treasure was known to nobody but the saloon owner himself. It lies waiting to be discovered to this day.
The Lost Treasure of Jennings
Treasure hunters in Michigan may also want to take a shot at finding the Lost Treasure of Jennings. It's alleged that a woodcutter by the name of John Larson left Sweden with close to $100,000. His settled in Jennings, where he started a family. Larson's initially blissful existence became one of misery when his wife died and his son went missing. He spent his remaining years alone, mourning the desolation of his family.
Larson died in solitude. The locals who found his body insisted that they were unable to locate his fortune, which he allegedly had converted into gold coins shortly after his arrival in Jennings. Most suspect Larson buried his fortune. All attempts to locate Larson's buried treasure have ended in failure. The search is complicated by the fact that the entire town of Jennings was actually uprooted in the 1920s and moved to another location.
Today Michigan doesn't have enough gold to support commercial mining. But before that became clear, a number of mining towns were established throughout the state. Few of these towns lasted more than a couple of years and most are entirely abandoned today. They may not bear much gold, but they're good for relic hunting.
Sherman was settled in 1854 in Keweenaw County. Most of its residents were miners working on the Central Mine. At its height, the town boasted a population in excess of 500 people. It also featured a school, a post office, a church, and a number of general stores and saloons. It was dealt a fatal blow in 1898 when the Central Mine ceased operations. The economy trudged along for a couple of years, but the closure of the town post office in 1906 essentially marked the end of Sherman. Today, a number of its original buildings remain standing, with the town church almost perfectly preserved.
The copper mining town of Mandan was established in 1864. It predates many of Michigan's other mining towns, but suffered the same fate. In its prime, Mandan was home to a number of mines. It also included a post office, a school, and several churches, general stores, and saloons.
Although Mandan enjoyed several decades of booming business, its end came swiftly. In 1909, all of its mines ceased operations within weeks of each other. This forced the miners to leave town in search of employment. With no miners to cater to, the owners of Mandan's various stores and saloons were forced to close up shop and abandon the town.
The town of Nonesuch was founded just one year after Mandan. From 1867 to 1912, the town's mines produced significant quantities of copper. This brought many job seekers and their families to the area. At the height of its prosperity, Nonesuch was home to more than 300 people. Its population was spread out across a series of general stores, saloons, schools, and a post office. It even had its own baseball team.
By the 1920s, Nonesuch was in decline. It experienced a brief resurgence in the mid-1950s, but is entirely abandoned today. Because Nonesuch was still active in the 1950s, it has modern relics that are not protected by the ARPA.
Gold prospecting in Michigan might not yield the best results. But for the average relic hunter, the state boasts ample opportunity for metal detecting. Relics from past battles, along with other noteworthy conflicts, can be found on private property throughout the region. Meanwhile, Michigan's legends of buried bounties inspire treasure hunters to venture to the state.