By Logan Hawkes
Embarking on a Texas beach getaway for the weekend has long been a Texas tradition regardless what part of the state you call home. Literally thousands of Texans flock to the white sandy beaches of Padre Island every year - sometimes multiple times per year - to pitch their tents, set up their RVs or to simply sleep on the beach in order to get their periodic fix of sun, surf and sand.
But have you ever wondered while you're laying on your beach recliner soaking up those golden coastal rays and enjoying the warm Gulf breezes, just how many bare feet have imprinted the same sands back through the years. And not just contemporary times, but times long past.
It's possible given the rich history of the Texas coast that you're standing in the footsteps of a few former and impressive visitors to the Island. On these sun-soaked sands have stood fierce Karankawa Indians, and conquistadors wandered down these beaches, as did French, English and Portuguese explorers. There were the pirates that used the island to hide their ships and treasures, the smugglers and the pioneers. There came also the armies of Spain and Mexico, of Texas, the Confederacy and the United States.
But regardless whether or not historical figures of the past stood upon the same ground where you grilled your beach burgers last night or not, there is still evidence from time to time, lying across the beaches and the dunes, that hint of different cultures and distant pasts. These treasures wash up on the beach or can be found buried in the sands or beneath the waters, and can include everything from natural artifacts like sandollars, coconuts and sea beans, to manmade artifacts like old coins, pieces of rope and clothing, anchors and canons - just about everything imaginable. For Padre is a treasure chest of history, and here you can find it and feel it, hidden just below the surface.
If you plan to sell gold jewelry online, maximize the money you receive by finding out if the buyer you’re thinking of making a deal with buys other valuable items like gold coins or scrap, so you can get rid of those items as well.
Perhaps one of the richest undiscovered treasures are silver coins and other artifacts from the wreck of one of three Spanish ships in the mid 1500s. (continued from previous page)
Much of the treasure was salvaged by Spanish crews a year after it was lost, and a few years back another rich stash was uncovered while dredging a channel on the north end of the island.
But legend has it that much of it remains buried in the sands and waters that surround Padre today, perhaps awaiting discovery.
If you’re thinking that treasure hunting the Island is something you want to try while visiting the coast, be aware there are historical and antiquity laws in Texas that make such treasure buried on public land the property of the state. And there are very clear cut salvaging laws for the open waters, especially offshore. But there are sunken ships and lost treasures to be found in the Gulf if you can afford the search.
But in spite of the laws that prohibit you from uncovering and keeping lost Spanish shipwrecks, there’s more than one kind of treasure on Padre.
For one thing, it’s not unusual to uncover artifacts from the Civil War era as both Confederate and Union troops occupied the area during the war between the states. Buttons, coins, bullet shot and other artifacts can be found from time to time. You might also stumble upon relics from the World War II period when soldiers used the Island as an outpost to watch for German naval activity. There were gun placements and areas used for exercises, like beach landings.
And while you should certainly keep an eye out for an old Spanish coin or some other historical artifact, be aware that most treasure of value turned up on the beaches of Padre are more contemporary, like rings and bracelets and necklaces.
Treasure hunters using a simple metal detecting device have turned up valuable pieces of jewelry on the beaches, especially in the neighborhood of the hotels. Often such lost property is never reported and it is often impossible to track the rightful owner.
While ethics dictate such finds should be reported to authorities in the event a lost item report was filed, if an owner can not be identified, it is proper to claim the prize as your own.
How To Get Started
If you're going to actively search for buried treasure on the Island there are some things you need to know. First, don’t start digging up the environmentally sensitive dunes and beaches randomly and without concern. Always leave an area in the same condition you found it. And avoid digging in the dunes. If you truly want to try your hand at treasure hunting, visit with an expert. Steve Hathcock, who writes a column for the Parade each week, is an experienced professional and can even rent you a metal detector and brief you in proper operation and the rules of hunting.
Always be aware of both the environment and local and state laws concerning the uncovering of historical artifacts. Before the Spanish came and conquered, the Karankawa ruled the Island. Their sacred remains have found a home beneath the surface of the sands and you wouldn’t want to disturb these restful souls.
And forget about treasure maps! If you look hard enough some good-samaritan local resident might find you one to purchase. Or perhaps you would prefer to hunt for Island snipes? Get it?
A treasure hunting adventure is more about the excitement of the hunt and not the booty you uncover. If you’re looking for real pirate’s treasure you’ll need more than luck on your side. But if hitting the beaches and getting into the spirit of high sea adventure is worth your time and entertains you for the thrill of it, then by all means get ready to start looking for that fortune buried in the sands of Padre. And if, by some miracle or strange twist of fate you should stumble upon a countless treasure cache of gold and lost jewels, remember the one who suggested the adventure to you in the first place!