Rio History: Rules of the Hunt

Special to the PRESS

Hello Steve,

I have been enjoying the stories on your website and had a question. I grew up in San Benito but now live in Fort Worth. I have recently started the hobby of metal detecting and have found some old relics but never old coins. Not yet at least. I have planned a vacation on Padre Island and was wondering if it is legal to metal detect on the island? I have looked on the internet and some say, “no you can’t” and then I see your web site saying you can. What is the law as far as metal detecting? As I do plan to bring my Mine-Lab Exterra 705 Gold with me. If you say yes, it is legal I am going to kick myself for not picking up this hobby when I was younger and living down there. I love the Rio Grande Valley. – Miguel A.

Hi Miguel,

Thanks for the comment about my website (southpadreislandtreasurehunting)

In answer to your question: the laws on metal detecting are rather vague and for the most part, loosely enforced. I have been metal detecting on the beaches of Padre Island for over twenty years and have yet to be told not to do it. But that’s not to say that it is legal. You can look up Texas Antiquities Act online, which can give you some insight into the law.

The Antiquities Code of Texas was enacted in the late 1960s after a group of treasure hunters located and salvaged one of the Spanish ships that wrecked on Padre Island in 1554. Basically, the code prohibits metal detecting within a certain distance of known wrecks or other historically significant sites.

It is DEFINITELY illegal to metal detect on North Padre Island, as it is part of the National Seashore. South Padre Island itself is mostly made up of private owners with a few government entities such as Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Willacy County Irrigation District and a nature conservancy group. Together, those three control most of the land near the “Cut” (Port Mansfield Channel) and you would be wise to use caution so that you are not hunting on their properties most of which are clearly posted.

I follow a certain set of self-imposed rules which include asking permission before commencing a hunt on private property, no hunting or digging in the dunes, always burying any holes I dig. Picking up trash including any pop-tops or beer cans I locate and just generally being a good steward of the land.

I generally like to hunt areas where there are tourists. People ask me what I can expect to find and I tell them to “observe what people are wearing on the beach. That is what you will find.”

L.Q. of Racine, Wisconsin was hunting near access road 5 when he located a Mexican 1945 dos peso coin which contains about 1/20th of an ounce of gold. In today’s market, it’s bullion value is around $62. Lots of coins, beer cans and pop-tops have been found in Isla Blanca Park on the southern tip of the Island but the most common piece of jewelry seems to be toe rings.

So there it is Miguel, I hope you have a safe trip to the Island and please send pictures of any finds.

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