The Kinzua Bridge Treasure
Kinzua Bridge State Park is one of the highlights of McKean County and the Pennsylvania Wilds. (In fact, the Kinzua Experience is one of the region’s top tourist destinations!)
At the time it was built in 1882, the Kinzua Bridge was the longest railroad bridge in the world, stretching over two thousand feet across the creek. At that time, it was made from wood, and it was refurbished in metal in 1900.
Governor William Scranton declared the area a state park on 1963, though it actually didn’t open for visitors until 1970. The park offers hiking, picnicking, chances to see wildlife, and a great scenic view that goes on for miles.
The bridge was badly damaged by a tornado in 2003, when about half of its length was knocked down, flattened across the valley. By 2011, it was recreated as a pedestrian walkway.
The park near Mount Jewett is an attraction for visitors who come for the history and the view.
And if all that’s not enough for you, there’s the buried treasure.
This story goes back over a century. As far back as 1893.
According to legend, a man robbed a bank in Emporium. Exactly how much he got varies according to the source — estimates range between $20,000-60,000 in most repetitions of the story. The part that stays consistent, however, is where the robber went from there: He ran north, to the Kinzua Bridge.
Chased by police, he spent some time hiding in the woods. Days later, he was found… But the money wasn’t.
The robber was sick and delirious. He was taken for treatment, talking about burying the money in glass jars. According to his semi-coherent story, he’d hidden the money within sight of the bridge, under a triangle-shaped rock. He died without revealing anything more.
Immediately, people ran out to search for the treasure, but never found it. This began a tradition that continues to this day; for over a hundred years, people have been going to the Kinzua Bridge to look for the treasure.
It’s worth mentioning that there seems to be very little primary source documentation on this incident. The treasure may be nothing more than an old legend, but that hasn’t stopped people from searching for it.
I’m one of them. I’ve taken my kids up to look for the treasure myself.
It sounds as if it’d be easy. All you have to do is find a triangle-shaped rock within sight of the bridge.
There are two major issues with this: “Within sight of the bridge” is a very long stretch of space, and practically every rock within the park is triangle-shaped.
As I am still doing freelance writing, it’s safe to say that I didn’t find the treasure. It’s still out there to be found, somewhere, if it exists.
(State park officials have specific rules on treasure hunting and metal detecting within the parks, and it’s recommended that visitors check with them at 814-778-5467 before they go.)
Even without the treasure, a visit to the Kinzua Bridge State Park is a great way to spend the day. The history of the place is fascinating, the hikes are excellent, and the view from the bridge is worth the trip. Just don’t trip over a triangle-shaped rock.
While in the area, be sure to stop into the the PA Wilds Conservation Shop at Kinzua Bridge State Park, where you can learn more about the Pennsylvania Wilds and find one-of-a-kind products made by regional artisans in the Wilds Cooperative of Pennsylvania (WCO).
Learn more about how products are sourced for the gift shop, managed by the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, here.