I often check the stats of my website to find out how people ended up here.  Part of the information I can see is the search engines and they list what was the user was actually looking for when they found my page.  One of the most popular searches is “Where Can I Metal Detect in Missouri”.  I kind of snicker to myself because up until a couple years or so ago I was doing internet searches on where to metal detect in Missouri.

I now find it very easy to find places to metal detect and have so many possibilities I know I will never get to them all.

This article isn’t going to give away and exact locations of where to swing your coil but hopefully you can use some of my ideas and research tricks and tips you will be able to find places to metal detect in just about any county in the state.

The first thing you need to do is to locate a county that you believe to be worth detecting.  Some things that make a county worth detecting is by finding out how long people have occupied the county, did it see any Civil War Activity?  Did troops travel through this county to get from one place to another?  These are the kind of questions you need to find answers to before you even start to find spots to detect.

Next you will need some help.  Don’t be afraid to talk to people (especially older people) who live in the county.  One of the best places to meet people (and get information) about the county you are interested in is to visit the local museums, visit the local Historical Society, and visit the local libraries.  Some of this does cost a little bit of money but it is well worth it.

I am currently concentrating all my efforts on one particular county near Kansas City.  There was a lot of troop movements and skirmishes in this county.  After many attempts to find an old county map/plat book I was about to give up.  It is kind of hard to find old roads, old houses and schools without an old map.  My particular county the oldest map I could find online was a 1907 which was about 40 years after the war.  A lot of things can change in 40 years so I wasn’t going to be satisfied with a 1907 map.

As luck would have it while I was researching museums and historical societies in this county I found one that had advertised an 1877 County Plat book.  A Plat book is a book of county maps that show in great detail roads, river and creeks, springs and even houses that were present at the time the book is listed for.

I went to visit the County Historical Society and paid my $5 to tour their museum.  The tour guide was a wealth of information about the town and county history.  I told her that I metal detect and am interested in old places that might be forgotten by most people that might be good to get permission to metal detect and look for old coins and relics.  She came right out and asked me if I wanted to metal detect around the museum (which was a 1850’s house that had been restored).  As much as I was thrilled with the idea I declined the offer and said I prefer places a little less public.

At the end of my tour she took me to the research room and told me that if I join the Historical Society ($20 a year) that I would have unlimited access to all their research material.  One set up cabinets caught my eye right away, it was the 3 or 4 cabinets that held the micro film for every available newspaper in the county history.  Some of the ones that caught my eye were dated 1857 through 1871.  These would prove to be a gold mine of information.  By looking through the micro film of these old newspapers I would be able to find where Church Socials were held, Mothers Day picnics, Independence day gatherings and so on.

While in the research room I asked about the 1877 Plat book.  I was taken to the book shelf outside the research room with items for sale.  She pulled the large plat book from the shelf and said it cost $35.  As I thumbed through the pages I told myself I had to have it so out came my money.  This trip to the Historical Society cost me $60 but it was well worth it.  I was able to leave a handful of business cards I had made up for Metal Detecting, I met some individuals that were a wealth of information, I got my plat book and have access to county newspapers dating back to the 1850’s.

I suggest whenever you are working on a research project you need to create that projects own folder both on the computer and one you can hold in your hand.  There are so many times when I will be working on one project and then next thing I know I find information that will lead me into another research project.  You want to keep your information on the different areas you are looking at separate so you can make sure you know where it all is and you also know the facts that are important to that particular project

First I find an area of the county I am interested in and then find it in the Plat book.   I take this page and scan it into my computer and place it in my project folder.  I like to use the computer because it allows me to zoom in and out and move the map around to where I want it.

A neat little trick I learned is to take that scanned in map (or a portion of it) and overlay it on a map or satellite imagery that’s available online.  This will allow me to see where things used to be and where they are no longer.

Here is an example of the same area, one taken today and one from my 1877 map.  Can you see the difference?


As you can see in 1877 there used to be a road that went East to West and crossed the river and on today’s map you can’t even tell it was ever there.  There is also a North/South road missing.

The area where the road crossed the river would be a great spot to get permission and detect.  Water was very important to anyone traveling back then so they never passed up the opportunity to water their horses or to fill their own water jugs.  If it was close to night fall travelers would choose an area near where they had water to camp and that includes military soldiers.

Okay, now you know where you want to try your luck but you have no idea who owns that property or where that person lives.  You could take your maps and go knock on random doors and ask who owns it but in a big wide open area like the one shown you probably won’t have very good luck.

The way I like to find the owners is to use the counties GIS mapping website.  With GIS you can locate the property you want information about and it will tell you who the owner is.  If the owner lives in the same county you can do a search on his name and find every piece of property in the county that he owns including the property he lives at.


Luck would have it that the large area I am interested in (South of the old road and west of the river) is all owned by the same person and they live there on the property.

With this information and my maps I am now ready to approach the owner in an attempt to gain permission to metal detect.

It is important that you are aware of a few things before approaching the owner.

  1. Does he have crops in the field?  If he does I wouldn’t even approach him until the crops are out of the field.
  2. Weather.  Plan on approaching the owner and asking permission when the weather is nice enough to spend as much time as possible there on the first trip.  I have had the land owners give me permission one day and then the next day revokes it for some unknown reason.
  3. If the owner decides not to give you permission don’t get upset (I often get turned down).  There are other nearby properties and that may be just as promising if not better than the first one you asked at.  Just smile and thank him for his time and move on.

If you are still reading this very long post then you must be serious about looking for places to metal detect.  As I stated on the front page of this website “I want you to succeed” If you need further help or ideas feel free to drop me an email and just ask, I look forward to hearing from you and am always willing to point someone in the right direction when lost.


  • Don White says:

    Just getting started in metal detecting any help is appreciated

  • Michael Martin says:

    Thanks for taking the time to write such an informative article. I have wanted to purchase a metal detector for several years and finally have done so.

    I am curious about a couple things. Is there certain etiquette to follow when detecting regarding local public parks etc. and living in the St. Louis Missouri Area, any suggestions where a good place to start may be?

  • Brian Christian says:

    I am also new to metal detecting, I contacted my alderman who contacted the person best suited to answer my question if it’s ok to detect in city parks. The answer was yes, but you could not dig deeper than 6 inches. Now, I have read that you can detect in Forest Park, but certain areas were off limits. If anyone has any info on this, I would appreciate it. Thanks!

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