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Tips for Underwater Metal Detecting Old Swimming Holes

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Matt is a professional painter who enjoys fishing and metal detecting on the weekend for old coins and rings.


Metal Detecting in the Water for Old Coins and Rings

Old swimming holes are excellent places to find old coins and rings with a water-proof metal detector. Before public pools and air conditioning existed, swimming in lakes and creeks was a very common summer activity in the 1800s. Many natural waterways in the United States had water parks and resorts where thousands of people swam and dropped valuables.

While most of these water parks and swimming holes are long gone, the coins and rings people lost still remain on the bottom, waiting to be found. These places are awesome to metal detect because most people won't even know they exist unless they've researched the local history. This gives you a big advantage.

Researching and Finding Old Swimming Holes

Taking the time to research local history is key for finding rare coins and jewelry in the water instead of trash. Personally, I love history and enjoy the research part of this hobby. Finding old swimming holes to metal detect is more difficult than finding places on land because there's far less documentation.

Here are a few methods I've used to research and find forgotten swimming holes to treasure hunt:

Old Post Cards

Water parks in the 1800s were often featured on postcards. Postcards are helpful because the photo gives you an idea of how many people gathered there and its whereabouts. Many forgotten water parks in rivers and lakes attracted thousands of people and featured water slides. The date, city, and name of the waterway are usually documented on the card so you can narrow down the search.

Search for old postcards on the Internet using the city name and body of water you're interested in metal detecting. Be sure to include the search terms "swimming hole" and "water park." Sites like eBay and Amazon are also worth searching for old postcards. There are hundreds of old postcards on eBay alone.

Old Newspaper Articles

I've found old swimming holes in my area from old newspaper articles published in the 1800s, using Google News archives and other sites. Old articles are great because they often mention the name of the road or even the exact location of the swimming area in some cases.

Search the Google News archives by town, or by river name, to find related newspaper articles. I was able to find an old swimming hole in my area through an old article that featured an interview with a local resident at the time. The local mentioned the road name and the name of the farm where the swimming hole was located, and I was able to easily find it by looking at a free plat map.

Google Maps

Open Google Maps and search for swimming areas in your city. Some Google Maps users create public maps for swimming areas and other places of interest. You can also search through listings for rivers and lakes in public places, some of which are forest preserves that have been used for a long time. Check your local laws before metal detecting on state land.

Using Google Maps in combination with old plat maps is really helpful. I use both to find all of the places I metal detect. Google Maps, or Google Earth, both make it easy to find places from old maps and postcards and also figure out where to enter the water.

The control box of my water-proof Garrett AT Pro metal detector.

The control box of my water-proof Garrett AT Pro metal detector.

Waterproof Metal Detector and Headphones

If you're new to this hobby, buy a waterproof metal detector if you plan on going into water deeper than the control box on your detector. Buy waterproof headphones too so you can submerge them without destroying your equipment. I use the Gray Ghost waterproof headphones.

The Best Metal Detector for Water

The only metal detector I currently own and use on land and in the water is the Garrett AT Pro. You can submerge the coil and control box in ten feet of water, which I've never done, but you can if you want to. I've used mine multiple times in chin-deep water in lakes and rivers without any issues.

You cannot use the Garrett stock headphones underwater. They're for land only. For underwater metal detecting, the Gray Ghost headphones work perfectly with the AT Pro.

Unless you want to metal detect with scuba gear in really deep water, you don't have to spend a lot of money for fancy water-proof gear. For freshwater treasure hunting in swimming holes, the AT Pro and the handheld Garrett Pro-Pointer are an excellent combination for land and water.

My sand scoop I use in swimming areas.

My sand scoop I use in swimming areas.

Treasure Hunting Gear for the Water

Treasure hunting in the water often calls for more gear than what you would use on land. You have a reliable metal detector and a pinpointer, but you need a way to recover your underwater finds. Recovering objects in deep water is much more challenging than recovering things from a hole on land. In deep and murky water, it is almost impossible without a good sand scoop.

Gear for Metal Detecting Swimming Holes

  • Sand scoop
  • Pinpointer
  • Gloves
  • Water shoes
  • Snorkel mask

Use a Metal Detecting Sand Scoop

Retrieving coins and rings from a swimming hole is very challenging without a sand scoop unless the water is shallow and clear. In shallow depths, you can dunk your head underwater with a snorkel mask on and recover the object with a handheld pinpointer, but if the water's deep, that won't be easy without a scoop. The best scoop is one with a wide basket and a long handle.

Wear Water Shoes and Gloves

Never metal detect in the water without water shoes and gloves on. Not only is it extremely painful stepping on rocks, but you can get seriously injured. I metal detected a lake once and saw a broken glass bottle sticking up from the bottom like a knife. Broken glass and sharp pieces of metal can cause serious injury without protection, especially in murky water where you can't see the bottom.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Matt G.