Utah Man Who Dug Yellowstone National Park in Search of Treasure Pleads Guilty

by Madison Miller

In a quest similar to “National Treasure,” a Utah man hasn’t found treasure, but has certainly dug himself into a hole.

He, like so many others, felt the pull of a treasure hunt like no other. It is seemingly one of America’s last great treasure hunts.

Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, from Syracuse, Utah was caught digging for treasure in a cemetery in Yellowstone National Park. Now, he is likely facing 12 years in prison and up to $270,000 in fines depending on his sentence in March.

According to ABC News, Craythorn entered a plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Casper for illegally trying to traffick archaeological resources and damaging federal property.

So, what exactly was Craythorn looking for that was so valuable he was willing to potentially spend over a decade in jail?

Forrest Fenn Treasure Hunt

It all goes back to Forrest Fenn. He is a Santa Fe, New Mexico art and antique dealer. About a decade ago, Fenn published his memoir. In the book was a poem with clues as to the location of the infamous hidden treasure.

Many others have seemingly looked for the treasure in less harmless ways. Now, however, the hunt is left with a taint due to Craythorn’s destruction of property in Yellowstone National Park.

“The hunt for the Forrest Fenn treasure was often viewed as a harmless diversion, but in this case it led to substantial damage to important public resources,” Wyoming U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen said, according to ABC News.

Once considered a harmless act of fun is now over $1,000 in damages alone. Craythorn started digging from October 2019 to late May 2020.

At about the same time, someone else had entered the treasure hunt. They walked away successfully and without damaging important land.

Treasure Discovered in Wyoming

The chest containing up to at least a million dollars in gold and valuables was said to be hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

After Fenn released “The Thrill of the Chase,” the hunt had intensified with the poem clue. Since 2010, at least five people have lost their lives trying to find the lost treasure. Now, one is likely facing jail time.

While the hunt for Fenn’s treasure is tinged with a lot of destruction and death, it has also been positive for some. One person is Jack Stuef, a medical student from Michigan who had found the treasure himself.

“I think I got a little embarrassed by how obsessed I was with it. If I didn’t find it, I would look kind of like an idiot. And maybe I didn’t want to admit to myself what a hold it had on me,” Stuef said, according to an article from Outside.

On June 6, 2020, the Stuef found the treasure. After finding the chest, he brought it to Fenn that same day to validate it.

Fenn passed away not soon after at the age of 90 in September 2020.