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Low lake levels leave plenty of ground for metal detectors to cover

Dry shoreline, once under water, could reveal lost treasures — or lost cellphones and fishing lures — as the drought continues.
by Robert Medley Published: January 20, 2013

On a crisp, sunny day on the west side of Lake Hefner, Larry Dobbs walks on what once was water.

His metal detector makes a long beep followed by several short beeps. He's found something under the soft soil. With a trowel he digs up a 2-ounce lead fishing sinker.

Nearby, Dan Pierce is slowly swinging his metal detector back and forth.

“I've got money,” Pierce said. He digs up a copper penny. It's the start of this day's hunt.

Treasure hunters in Oklahoma have found more ground to cover because of extended drought. On dry lakeshores, where the water used to be, metal detectors are finding collectible items.

Guns and ammo

Rifle parts and unused ammunition have been uncovered from the dry silt of Lake Hefner.

“There are a lot of bullets in this lake,” said Larry Nowlin, a metal detecting enthusiast from Oklahoma City.

Old fishing lures, coins, rings, watches, cellphones — all items that used to be submerged — are being found and bagged in numbers.

At Lake Hefner, where the water level is the lowest in its 66-year history, things tossed out of boats or off the riprap dam or dam road have resurfaced.

Nowlin scooped up an assault rifle barrel.

“It had been under the lake a long time,'' he said. He's also found unused armor-piercing bullets. “You wouldn't believe the amount of ammunition people have thrown into that lake.”

Nowlin, 64, said he used to spend time with a metal detector on the dam riprap finding coins and car keys. Now he can walk several hundred yards before reaching water.

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