Tena Bar Money Find Spot

By ERIC ULIS

On February 10, 1980, exactly 3,000 days to the day after the DB Cooper skyjacking, an 8-year old boy named Brian Ingram discovered approximately $5,800 of DB Cooper’s ransom buried just under the surface at a beach on the Columbia River named Tena Bar. Specifically, he found three rotting packets of $20 bills with rubber bands still intact that immediately crumbled to the touch, stacked upon each other. How these three packets of DB Cooper’s ransom arrived at Tena Bar and when has been a matter of significant controversy and debate since the money was found.

Upon being notified of the discovery, the FBI immediately cordoned off the area and excavated the beach for nearly a week looking for additional cash or anything else related to the DB Cooper mystery. In fact, only small bits and pieces of additional money were found during this search. Moreover, everything that was found was unearthed in the immediate vicinity of the original money find.

Remarkably, the FBI did not record the precise location of the money find spot. For decades researches have not been certain as to the location of the precise money find spot. However, much work had been done by the Cooper Research Team to pinpoint a money find spot that was approximately 245 feet from the precise spot.

With that in mind, as I reviewed the Cooper Research Team data, old footage from 1980 taken during the FBI search of Tena Bar, contemporary images of the area—which now looks very different primarily because of beach erosion, and personally walked and analyzed Tena Bar I determined that I could in fact pinpoint the precise location of the money find likely within 10 feet. This location is 45.718591, -122.759434. In fact, today the precise location of the money find is approximately five feet offshore and suspended in the air approximately 10 feet above the surface of the Columbia River under normal conditions. (NOTE: These GPS coordinates were derived by locating the spot on Google Earth utilizing my iPhone after leaving the area.)

Below you will see several images that will give the reader an idea of what Tena Bar looked like at the time of the money find in 1980 and as it looks today. You will note that significant erosion has taken place over the last 39 years primarily because dredge spoils are no longer dumped upon beaches in the area as of 1974 which used to mitigate the effects of beach erosion at Tena Bar and other areas along the Columbia River.

Image 1 above is a satellite image of Tena Bar taken September 29, 1979 approximately 4½ months before the money was discovered.

Image 2 is the same as Image 1 but modified to illustrate a few points. First, the yellow dot under the $ symbol denotes the spot where the money is buried but yet-to-be discovered. Second, the series of dark blue dots denotes an angled dirt road that no longer exists but is prominent and recognizable in much of the 1980 footage of the area. Thirdly, the series of red dots is used to denote a small dirt road (not visible in this satellite image) that partially exists today and is quite prominent in the 1980 footage. This road was used to access Tena Bar by the FBI during their 1980 search.

Image 3 is a contemporary Google Earth screenshot of Tena Bar. The white $ symbol denotes the location of the money find—note it is no longer onshore. The series of yellow dots denotes where the above noted angled dirt road—Image 2 (dark blue dots)—used to exist. The series of white dots denotes the small dirt road noted by the red dots in Image 2 above.

Image 4 was taken by me on January 19, 2019. The series of white dots denotes the small dirt road—noted in Image 2 by the red dots and Image 3 by the white dots. In fact, a significant portion of the road today no longer exists due to beach erosion. Furthermore, because the road is no longer utilized much of it has been taken over by small vegetation. Nonetheless, when walking the road in person, the portions of the road that exist today are still quite noticeable and recognizable.

Image 5 is a fascinating picture taken from a helicopter during the FBI’s search of Tena Bar in 1980. Note that the transparent pale yellow circle with the white $ symbol notes the spot of the money find. The black dot to the left of the money find spot is the spot that the above Image 4 was taken from in 2019. Additionally, the black arrow points in the direction that the above Image 4 shot was taken. You can easily see the small dirt road in this image which is noted in Image 4 with the white dots. The white dots in Image 5 denote the angled dirt road which is referenced in a couple of the images above.

Image 6 compares Image 5 above with a contemporary GoogleEarth image from roughly the same perspective. This gives a great view of how much things have changed around the money find spot over the last few decades.

Image 7 displays a yellow dot which denotes the precise money find spot (river level) as it appeared on January 19, 2019 when the picture was taken. This spot is about 10 feet offshore and in actuality should be raised approximately 10 feet above the surface of the river.

It should also be noted that I walked Tena Bar with Richard Fazio on November 23, 2018. Richard and his brother Al own Tena Bar and the land that the money was found on. In fact, they owned the land at the time of the money find and were retained by the FBI to use their backhoe to dig trenches along the beach during the FBI search.

Richard described to me that on February 11, 1980, the day after the money was discovered, the FBI showed up to ask him to identify whose property a certain spot on the beach was on. At this time the FBI did not tell him what they had found or why they wanted to know who owned that portion of the beach. Richard was then taken to the money find spot and identified it as being on his property. The following day the FBI arrived enforce and notified Richard that a portion of DB Cooper’s ransom had been discovered at the spot he identified as being on his property, and that the FBI would be closing off and extensively searching the area. In fact, the money find spot is approximately 30 feet from the property line of the land owner to the north.