Metal Detecting in Wisconsin: A Complete Guide for 2022

If you are looking for a guide for your next metal detecting quest in Wisconsin, you’ve come to the right spot.

Wisconsin is one of the best states when it comes to treasure hunting and metal detecting. The weather is great for metal detecting and the land is rich in gold and hidden treasures. The experience is so thrilling and you never know whether you find jewelry, coins, lost treasures, or even gold nuggets. However, it is important to do your due diligence and understand the state and federal laws regarding metal detecting in the Badger State of Wisconsin.

Metal detecting laws in Wisconsin

Like every other state, metal detecting in Wisconsin has its own set of laws and regulations in place.

Metal detecting laws in Wisconsin are regulated by Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). The aim of this regulatory body is to preserve items of historical and cultural significance. As a result, ARPA prohibits the removal of human-made objects more than 100 years of age from the public grounds of Wisconsin.

The first thing to keep in mind while metal detecting in Wisconsin is that you must not metal detect on any of the historical grounds in Wisconsin. This means metal detecting on any public lands with a significant history associated with it is not legal. Therefore, think twice before performing any excavation works into aboriginal mounds, burial sites, or earthworks.

Moreover, it is also illegal to metal detect on State-owned lands and on State and National park lands without any permits. Sometimes you may get lucky and get permission to detect metal in these places but it is infrequent.

It seems like a lot of areas in Wisconsin are not legal to metal detect, however, it’s far from that. Once you understand the laws, you can better interpret them and find your way around them. 

As a responsible metal detectorist, you will also need to understand the law regarding private properties. Since most of the land in Wisconsin is considered private property, you will need the landowner’s permission to detect or dig treasure.

All in all, it is crucial to understand the laws and follow them while metal detecting in Wisconsin. Breaking these laws will have serious repercussions including fines or at worst jail time. Therefore, if you are planning to detect in the new location in Wisconsin, contacting the city, county, and state officials to ensure you’re following all pertinent laws is a good idea.

Related: Dumpster Diving in Wisconsin: A Comprehensive Guide

Is it legal to metal detect in Wisconsin?

Yes, it is legal to metal detect in Wisconsin. However, there are limitations to the legalities. As mentioned earlier, it is illegal to go metal detecting in historic lands, state parks, and federal lands of Wisconsin without the permission of either the park manager or the concerned authority.

Also bear in mind, that metal detecting on Trust’s land is also illegal in Wisconsin without the authorized permit.

Where can you metal detect in Wisconsin?

Even though Wisconsin’s regulations have made some of the historical metal detecting areas illegal, there are plenty of other wonderful places to go metal detecting in the state.

Your hometown is one of the first spots to go metal detecting in Wisconsin. Not only would knowing the history of the location save you time, but it will also allow you to hunt for tremendous treasure. The locations you choose to metal detect, as well as the history of the location, will determine what you uncover and how valuable it is. Overall, when compared to detecting on random lands, metal detecting with historical studies will produce better results.

Some of the best places you can go for metal detecting in Wisconsin are:

  1. Abandoned Buildings and Structures
  2. Abandoned Parks
  3. Old wagon train routes
  4. Native American Trails
  5. Natural Disaster Destruction Sites
  6. Wisconsin Beaches, Rivers, Lakes, and Creeks
  7. School yards
  8. Civil war sites

Are there any lost treasures in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is not only a beautiful state with amazing landscapes but it also has a rich history and chronicles. Wisconsin has a great amount of lost treasure that is still out there, just waiting to be discovered! Although a lot of these stories lack supporting evidence, treasure hunters and metal detectorists are positive that they’ll find it one day.

As of today, there are at least 8 lost or hidden treasures in Wisconsin. And they are yet to be found.

Lost TreasureAmount and Location
Dillinger’s SuitcaseA suitcase full of $210,000 in cash was said to be lost in Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowa Waters, Wisconsin.
Balsam Lake Lost Treasure$200,000 worth of gold bullion is said to be lost near Balsam Lake, Wisconsin.
Sand Island Silver CoinsA treasure chest full of silver coins is said to be hidden in Sand Islands, which is a part of Apostle Island and situated in Ashland County, Wisconsin.
Sheridan Park Coin WashCoins were said to be washed ashore from a ship wreck on Lake Mississippi. It is located in Cudahy, Wisconsin.
Stockon Island GoldA collection of hidden gold nuggets and ores can be found in Stockton Islands. Stockton Island is also a part of the Apostle Islands in Ashland county, Wisconsin.
The Fort Crawford TreasureA collection of gold coins is hidden along the Mississippi River near Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
The James Becker Treasure$50,000 worth of government bonds were lost in Glidden, Wisconsin.
York Island Gold Coins$12,000 in gold coins was lost on York Island. York Island is a part of the Apostle Islands in Ashland County, Wisconsin.

Metal detecting on Wisconsin Beaches

Wisconsin is home to more than 800 miles of Great Lake coastline and almost 200 miles of Mississippi River shoreline. Metal detecting on Wisconsin Beaches is perfect for finding lost jewelry and coins. As a result, you will find a lot of fellow metal detectors flocking over the Wisconsin beaches in the evening for their metal detecting adventure. 

As of writing this article, metal detecting at public Wisconsin beaches are perfectly legal. However, if you find any stuff with archaeological importance, the state of Wisconsin has a right to take it away from you.

Some of the most famous beaches to go for metal detecting in Wisconsin are:

  1. Kohler Andre State Park
  2. Bradford Beach
  3. Schoolhouse Beach Park
  4. South Shore Beach
  5. Harrington Beach State Park

Metal detecting in Wisconsin Rivers

Wisconsin is rich in rivers and creeks as well as beautiful Great Lakes shorelines. It is an excellent site to go metal detecting because it has multiple rivers, creeks, and streams. When detecting in rivers and streams, make sure you have adequate waterproof metal detectors. In Wisconsin, some of the best rivers and creeks for metal detecting are:

  1. Nemadji River, Douglas County
  2. Crystal River, Waupaca County
  3. Des Plaines River, Kenosha County
  4. Beaver Creek – North Channel, Juneau County
  5. Cleaver Creek, Juneau County
  6. Dawes Creek, Wood County

Metal detecting in Ghost Towns of Wisconsin

Wisconsin is the home of thousands of old ghost towns. These are the towns where mining used to be done and the residents simply abandoned it when the ore ran out. There are countless other old cities where residents have left for a variety of reasons.

In Wisconsin, all of these small, abandoned villages and communities are termed ghost towns. These towns add to Wisconsin’s fascinating heritage. Keep in mind that metal detecting in Wisconsin’s ghost towns may require permission from local officials. Once you determine whether you require a permit and obtain one if necessary, ghost towns in Wisconsin will undoubtedly become one of your favorite metal detecting destinations.

These ghost towns may contain a variety of historical treasures. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to find a coin spill, beautiful jewelry, or other valuable goods in these Wisconsin ghost towns.

Some of the popular ghost towns in Wisconsin for metal detecting are:

  1. Apostle Islands – 1
  2. Cooksville – 9
  3. Falls City – 4
  4. Pokerville – 9
  5. Donaldson – 2

Metal detecting clubs in Wisconsin

Metal detecting is one of my favorite activities since it allows me to reconnect with old friends while also making new ones. Therefore, I highly recommend joining a metal detecting group in Wisconsin if you want to make new friends and embark on a metal detecting expedition together.

Metal detecting groups may provide you with a wealth of information and assist you in finding new places to detect. You’ll probably have trouble adjusting your metal detector for a specific area as a beginner. As a result, Joining a metal detecting club is a good way to deal with this problem.

There are plenty of wonderful metal detecting clubs in Wisconsin. Metal detecting clubs can help you improve your skills whether you are a novice or an experienced metal detectorist.

Most of the metal detecting clubs run offline physically. If you just want to join an online club, Facebook groups are an excellent way to interact with other Wisconsin metal detectorists and share your expertise.

Some of the best Metal detecting clubs in Wisconsin are:

  1. Four Lakes Metal Detecting Club, Madison
  2. Marinette County Hobbyists, Marinette
  3. Midstate Metal Detector Club, Wisconsin Rapids
  4. Milwaukee Metal Detecting Group, Milwaukee

Similarly, some of the most popular Metal Detecting Facebook groups in Wisconsin are:

  1. Metal Detecting Group
  2. Detecting the Heartland
  3. Metal Detecting Finds and Advice
  4. Group for Metal Detecting Finds

Final Thoughts

Overall, Wisconsin is an excellent area to satisfy your metal detecting hobby. Wisconsin’s natural beauty, history, weather, and relaxed rules make this a fun activity. Just make sure you’re familiar with Wisconsin’s metal detecting regulations before attempting it in public. If you’re on private property, be sure you obtain the landowner’s permission first, otherwise, you could face trespassing charges.