Is There Buried Treasure Under Portland, Oregon?

A supposedly 160-year-old map in storage in a research library has some people wondering if there's loot to be found

Portland, OR
Portland, OR
Adam Blank

A little under two hours from where Mikey Walsh and his motley crew of treasure-hunting friends struck gold in Astoria back in 1985, there may be more treasure to be found in Oregon still.

Per a report from Atlas Obscura, there’s apparently a pretty convincing argument based on a treasure map that lives at the Research Library in Portland — or rather, manuscript number 2039. The map, which April White describes as “6 inches tall and 18 inches wide, covered from edge to edge on one side with long strings of blunt capital letters written in blue pencil, and a crude map sketched in blue and yellow,” is supposedly 160 years old (although it didn’t become public until 1940) and seems to depict Portland as it existed at the time, at least somewhat, authentically.

If the map is to be believed, “SIMS.MONEY” potentially remains buried five feet below ground, and between two graves, on “PIKE.ROAD.TOO.MILES.FRO.MROM.PORT.LAND.OR.” That said, it remains unclear who Sims was — or whether he ever really existed at all. Even still, that didn’t stop the map from going missing for several decades, presumably at the hands of opportunistic treasure seekers, nor those who succeeded them from searching upon its rediscovery.

Of course, before you drop everything and race off to Portland, it’s worth noting that the treasure in question is purportedly “two separate caches” of $3,000 each — so $6,000 altogether. A small fortune for its time to be sure, though — given the current state of things — $6,000 would cover a roundtrip flight to Portland, a three-night stay in a four-star hotel and…not much else.

Nevertheless, a nearly 200-year old treasure map shrouded in mystery is enough to, at the very least, solicit feelings of nostalgia. After all, the crumpled piece of tracing cloth, which is kept in the library’s climate-controlled vault, is not all that dissimilar from variations I once constructed as a kid after having watched The Goonies for the very first time. It’s also why, according to White, the map’s main function in the year 2022 is showing children that “archival stuff can be fun.”


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