Time Space Equation

The Blue River Treasure and Beyond

Leonard Lea Frazer

In the past, buried ‘booty’ attracted would-be treasure hunters and tomb raiders of the world and, in more recent times, outdoor enthusiasts and geo-cache participants and enticed them to begin deciphering clues, listening to legends and confronting the wilderness in order to claim the ultimate prize.

Gold and silver coins and bars, precious jewels and, in some cases, paper money have been buried and hidden over the years for various reasons and not just by ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’.

American gangster, John Dillinger, buried $200,000 in small bills inside a suitcase a few hundred yards behind the Little Bohemia Lodge in Mecer, Wisconsin in April of 1934 after escaping a stakeout by the FBI. He was shot to death in Chicago two months later, never getting a chance to go back to find the money.

Amateur archaeologist, Forrest Fenn of Texas, collected ancient artefacts all his life.  When he was diagnosed with kidney cancer in the 1980s he decided to hide his most beloved artefacts and give everyone the clues to find his treasure, which he estimated to hold $1 - 3 million worth of gold, jewellery and other valuable artefacts.

In June of 1876 Captain Grant Marsh was in charge of the Far West, a steamboat, making its way up the 138 mile long Little Bighorn River through Wyoming into Montana. He was carrying reinforcements and supplies for General George Custer to aid his fight against the Indians. When Captain Marsh heard of General Custer’s defeat (268 dead and 55 severely wounded) and found out he would have to transport the injured men away from the battlefield, the only thing he could do to keep the ship from sinking under the weight of so many men was to bury $375,000 worth of gold bars on the shores of the Little Bighorn. Some say that Marsh had collected the gold bars from worried miners who didn’t want to be attacked by the Sioux. Researchers agree that gold was on board the supply boat and that it was buried on shore, but they disagree on how it got there and on the precise location of the stash.

Closer to home, 382 pounds of coins were hidden in the North Thompson area of British Columbia in 1971. The coins were worth approximately $2,000 and were donated by an anonymous man, a Kamloops resident, who initiated a treasure hunt with clues.  This was his own personal Centennial project. The province was celebrating its centenary as a partner of Canadian Confederation that year. If the coins were not found by January 1, 1984 the appointed custodian of the cache (who checked on the treasure’s whereabouts every year) would claim it himself. The donor hoped that by providing the outdoor challenge he could share his love for exploring nature with others.

The treasure was hidden in the hills surrounding Blue River, BC. It was somewhere between Clearwater and Clemina near a lake and within several miles of a distinctive natural feature not duplicated anywhere in British Columbia. It was also within a two-hour walk of a major road. Also, the coins were hidden, yet could be seen.

Other clues for the Blue River Treasure included: Buried between the mouth of a lake and the first waterfall. Military hat badge nailed to a tree, six feet from the ground, within one mile of the treasure. On the lake there is an unusual raised surface. The treasure is hidden on west side of North Thompson River.  From the Blue River it is possible, for a physically fit (the physically fit part is important) person to walk to and from the treasure in one day. There is a mineral claim posted close to a hat badge on the tree. The hat badge is of the South Saskatchewan Regiment. Above the road is a large painted blue rock. The rock is approximately eight feet high and 15 feet long. The rock is within 10 miles of the buried centennial treasure. On the blue rock are a number of chiselled pictures: A. a serpent with two wings and seven humps near her tail; B. sun showing nine rays; C. Egyptian Cross; D. number 3196. The head of the serpent points towards the treasure. Near the blue rock, 700 paces away, in a coffee can, are 33 gold sovereign coins. On the tree above the buried can of coins is a tie tack with the number 40 (1940). The serpent’s wing (with the sun above it) points towards the hidden can of gold. At the centennial treasure area there are two large landslides, approximately 1000 feet long - which can be seen for two miles. On the east side of the North Thompson many people stop their vehicles to eat their lunch, admire the view and stretch their legs. When they do that, they are looking at the buried treasure area. A trail leads uphill from the old provincial highway, which at one time had crossed the C.N.R. tracks. Look for an abandoned bulldozer blade. The name of a nearby stream is associated with “king” and “oar”.

When on property owned by the B.C. government look up in a westerly direction. A large logging chain is wrapped three times around a tree. The end of the chain points in the direction of the treasure. Old railway ties are prevalent in the general area. More than 1,000 railway spikes are scattered within one mile of the treasure. Go uphill from the end of old abandoned railway spur. 

The following is an excerpt from the “Yellowhead Magazine” Spring 1978


“I guess by now most of you folks have heard about the celebrated Centennial Treasure, hidden in 1971 by a sporting chap from Kamloops. Well, this summer my partner, Bill Binder, and I decided that the only thing to do was to mount an ex-pedition to find that treasure.

It started out with a visit to the Kamloops courthouse where upon asking for the appropriate topographical maps we were confronted with a question which would reappear more than once, “You’re looking for the treasure too, eh?” After securing the maps we rifled through the library’s “Centennial Treasure” file, the sceptic librarian humouring us with her advice. We then made a rather thorough check of the Kamloopian bars, keeping our ears on standby for any vagrant snatches of treasure conversation. Supplies were purchased, last minute arrangements made and we were off!

The clue which mentioned “King” and “Roar” suggested to us the Lion (Lyon) Creek area, north of Avola, although there was some doubt as to whether “Roar” was real-ly “Oar” for we’d seen both in print. Hitchhiking brought us to an intersec-tion of the old provincial highway and the C.N.R. tracks. So far so good. Now to find a trail that led up to the moun-tains. Hopeless. How about a tie tack on a tree? No chance. Would you believe a logging chain wrapped three times around a trunk? Good Luck.

To help make a long story short; three days of wandering aimlessly about netted us nothing but a load of mosquito bites and a sceptical thought or two. Marching through chest high devils club and woods as thick as molasses, we ended up like the rest of the would be millionaires.

One consolation for us was that of be-ing able to add our names to the growing list of Centennial Treasure hunters at the little Variety Store in Avola. Yup, it looks like the Binder Brothers aren’t the only ones to strike out on this one. Fame and fortune seekers of the world take heart. The Blue River Centennial Treasure remains at rest.”

By January of 1983, 36 clues had been released but no one had found the treasure.  The time for discovery was then extended to June 1987. By this new date no one had claimed to find any of the several caches and the custodian (the originator appeared to have died) announced he was retrieving the buried treasure. However, he would not permit a newspaperman to accompany him and there was soon a civil law suit pending, alleging misrepresentation.

Knowledge of the Blue River Treasure sparked the interest of hundreds of individuals between Kamloops and Valemount over the years and in 1984 an enterprising person published a panorama map with all 36 clues listed, and showing the location of ten proven ones. Eleven of the clues contained references to railway matters and three of them related to the area near Lyon Creek Embankment, where a valley and a creek had been filled in to cover up a railway trestle that once spanned the swampy Cottonwood Flats area.

There were lessons to be learned from the unfortunate turn of events in the case of the “Blue River Treasure.” So, in 1993, when it was decided by two Kamloops businessmen that a gimmick was needed to draw tourists to the Thompson River area, the “Golden Skull Treasure Hunt” was born. Money was raised through sponsors. A 22-Karat gold skull with ruby eyes was produced as the prize. Also, a plastic facsimile was made. This time the replica skull would be the treasure to find by following clues that were available.  Whoever found the replica would win the original. To promote the hunt, treasure kits were sold for $20 each. They included a list of clues, a grid map dividing the search area into 156 sections, an audiotape telling the fictitious legend of the “Gold Skull” and a poster. Treasure hunters came from across Canada, from all 50 US States, Germany, France, and New Zealand. The promoters sold so many kits that they broke even by 1995. 

Wayne and Sandy Sunderman of Clearwater found the treasure in 1999 buried in a white plastic bag on the banks of Third Canyon Creek. They ended up selling the real gold skull to a gold scrap dealer in Montreal for $37,000. Unfortunately, the price of gold has tripled since they sold their prize. The Gold Skull treasure hunt led the way for other promoters and a string of treasure-hunting adventures followed.

The McArthur Island Treasure Hunt is a series of 15 geo-caches in Kamloops started in 2011. It’s a family activity where GPS units are supplied along with clues, and the highest standard of geo-caching etiquette is promoted.

“Wells Gray Treasure Hunt,” designed for family groups, followed in 2014. It helped to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Wells Gray Provincial Park.

In 2016 the “Treasure League Game,” in Calgary, Alberta became a citywide treasure hunt with clues leading to a real treasure chest containing a cash prize inside. A new treasure hunt is initiated every month.

No doubt, there’s treasure out there somewhere.

The road crossing the railway near the “Blue River Treasure” site.
The road crossing the railway near the “Blue River Treasure” site.
“On the lake there is an unusual raised surface.” A view of the Thompson River.
“On the lake there is an unusual raised surface.” A view of the Thompson River.

Treasure hunter, Leonard Frazer, exploring the mouth of the tunnel at the Lyon Creek Embankment.
Treasure hunter, Leonard Frazer, exploring the mouth of the tunnel at the Lyon Creek Embankment.