CONWAY, Ark. – Lake Conway is being drained for the first time since it was constructed 75 years ago, and Arkansas Game and Fish has set up a way for potential pirates to reap some of what people have lost along the way.
At 6,700 acres Lake Conway was the largest lake ever constructed by a state wildlife agency at the time, so there’s no telling what’s been left behind.
Already people are reaping the rewards, and with five years planned for the lake to be dry, thousands more will give it their best shot.
Treasure hunters like D.J. Charles are already starting to crew. He’s the admin of a Facebook fleet of almost 5,000 members strong as of Nov. 11. They fly under the flag of “Lake Conway Treasure Hunting & Rebuilding”.
“These are the kind of treasures you can find if you’re lucky,” Charles said holding a replica gladius-shaped shortsword he claimed to have fished up once.
But in order to remove anything, treasure hunters would have to follow the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s code, specifically the Lake Conway item removal permit.
“Basically, it allows you to take found objects from the lake,” AGFC Assistant Chief of Communications Trey Reid explained.
Reid said when the lake-draining process started there was definitely a desire out there for people to hunt treasure on the lakebed, and the permit is a special case for them to make an exception to the rule that nothing can be taken off state property.
The item removal permit states any artifacts, soil and vegetation must be left behind. The signed permit must be carried at all times either physically or digitally to participate, but it doesn’t apply to landowners’ property on the bank.
All digging can happen after sunrise and only be a foot deep by three feet wide. Conditions must be returned to how you found it by sunset, apart from trash removal. Other rules can be found on the online permit.
The hunt will last roughly five years while the lake is completely drained.
“This is the largest single infrastructure project the Game and Fish Commission has ever done,” Reid said.
For those with the tools and know-how, it could be the largest haul of trash to treasure Arkansas has ever seen.
“There ain’t no telling what’s going to be out here, but I do know for a fact at least 15 boats have been sunk,” Charles said. “You know one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.”
Beyond the lures, sunglasses, and phones fishers dropped over the decades, a few tornadoes destroying homes have passed over Lake Conway dropping who knows what else.’
Shortly after the 2014 Vilonia/Mayflower tornado, one man worked to retrieve a safe from the depths.
Tuesday, a man using a metal detector located car keys four inches deep in mud.
“This lake is full of history, and with the renovation going on right now we are going to see a lot of history exposed in the form of treasures,” Charles concluded.