"Every time we go out and don't find Randy it's discouraging, but we're not going to give up," says Fenn

Forrest Fenn
| Credit: Jeri Clausing/AP

Randy Bilyeu’s whereabouts have been unknown since Jan. 5 when the 54-year-old set out on the Rio Grande River in a raft with his dog to search for a treasure-chest that has been hidden for over 5 years and contains $2 million in gold and jewels.

The legendary box, hidden by antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn, is rumored to be located somewhere in the Rocky Mountains – a cryptic poem in Fenn’s 2010 memoir The Thrill of the Chase hints at the treasure’s secret location.

“He read Forrest Fenn’s books and he read the poem and got really into it, just trying to find the treasure,” Randy’s daughter Carissa Nieves told KDVR.

She added, “It feels like a roller coaster. There have been no clues.”

Bilyeu, of Broomfield, Colorado, was last seen purchasing an inflatable raft, compass and wetsuit on Jan. 5 before setting out on the Rio Grande near Santa Fe, New Mexico.

His ex-wife, Linda Bilyeu, reported Bilyeu missing on Jan. 14, and the next day his raft and dog, Leo, were spotted by helicopter crews on the riverbank.

Sacha Johnston, an Albuquerque native involved in the search efforts, says Leo was placed back on the raft by rescue teams in the hopes that he could lead them to Bilyeu, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican.

“He’s a small dog, not a tracker,” Johnston told the news station.

She added, “We have covered quite a bit of ground, but we still have some areas ”

Search and rescue teams along with New Mexico state police looked all over the canyons and mesas in the area, but authorities suspended their efforts after a few days, reports the Associated Press.

Fenn has been heavily involved in the search mission and has been flying out in chartered helicopters and planes scanning the more remote parts of the upper Rio Grande river looking for his super-fan, according to the Associated Press.

“Every time we go out and don’t find Randy it’s discouraging, but we’re not going to give up. There are still places out there that I want to look,” Fenn told the AP.

In an excerpt of The Thrill of the Chase (below), Fenn describes where hunters should begin looking for the treasure:

” 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 ”

Despite the incredible danger Fenn’s mysterious chest poses to treasure-seekers, the author and archaeologist, who estimates that 65,000 people have looked for his box of gold, says he will not reveal its location.

“There have been too many people looking. It would not be fair to them if we shut the thing down,” he said.