Searching for buried treasure isn't really an activity that people associate with modern society.

It paints an image of pirates sailing across oceans clutching a map with a big red 'X' marking where the chest full of gold is hidden — not of popping out of the office early to get a head start on your weekend of treasure hunting.

But that is exactly what tens of thousands of people have been doing, reports

An eccentric millionaire art dealer and archaeologist, Forrest Fenn, sparked the beginning of a frantic search in 2010 when he claimed he stashed a chest filled with gold and jewels somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.


The loot is estimated to be worth around $US2 million (NZD$2.74 million) and cryptic clues to its whereabouts were published in his memoir The Thrill of the Chase.

Mr Fenn reportedly spent 15 years planning the hunt after a cancer diagnosis in the late 1980s made him feel the need to do something to give back to society.

The chest is rumoured to contain hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs, with Mr Fenn's goal being to get people off the couch and out into the wilderness.

Unsurprisingly, the announcement sparked a modern day treasure hunt, with people risking life and limb to get a shot at finding the elusive prize.

The map and clues provided by Forrest Fenn. Photo / Benchmark Maps/Forrest Fenn
The map and clues provided by Forrest Fenn. Photo / Benchmark Maps/Forrest Fenn

There are whole websites dedicated to decoding the clues and attempting to find the treasure.

In an interview with in 2014, journalist Nick Lazaredes, who previously reported on Fenn's treasure for SBS said the treasure hunters ranged from being "obsessed" to "mad".

"People have been caught with metal detectors, other people have been arrested or caught digging up ancient graves," he said.

"The authorities aren't really happy with him. Yellowstone National Park (rangers) would like him to come out and say (where the treasure is) but without that there's not much they can do."

But this quest is certainly not for the faint hearted.

Four people have lost their lives while hunting for Fenn's treasure, the most recent to be named is Jeff Murphy, a 53-year-old US man who went missing on June 8 2017.

Mr Murphy had driven from his home in Illinois to Yellowstone to try his luck at finding the chest, but while out searching he slipped and fell 152 metres to his death.

The same month the body of another hopeful hunter, Eric Ashby, was found after he was out rafting on the Arkansas river.

The 31-year-old man had moved to Colorado in search of the bounty and was missing for more than a month before authorities found his remains.

Paris Wallace, a 52-year-old pastor from Grand Junction, never returned after telling his family he was going out searching for the treasure in the back-country of New Mexico in June 2017.

The first person who lost their life as a result of Fenn's treasure was 54-year-old Randy Bilyeu, who was found dead in July 2016 after looking for the loot along the Rio Grande river.

As the treasure is still yet to be found people have casts their doubts about whether there is any treasure at all. But Mr Fenn has repeated confirmed that the treasure is still out there where he first left it.

So if you fancy yourself a bit of a treasure hunter or you have a knack for riddles, here is the list of clues that reportedly lead to the elusive treasure:

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it's no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There'll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.
If you've been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I've done it tired, and now I'm weak.
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.