By Dave McCracken General Manager





Group Photo

I kind of buy into the idea that what goes around, comes around; that the whole universe has a way of equalizing things out in the end. But looking back on my own life, I cannot see any really important thing that I did, or even the accumulation of smaller good things that I accomplished, that blessed me and The New 49’ers into the acquisition of our mining property at K-15A This property has been being wonderful to us since Eric Bosch and I dredged up 100 ounces of gold there in about two weeks all the way back in 1984.

During earlier years, the primary focus of this property was suction dredging for high-grade gold. In 1987, the first New 49’er member in there, a guy who was in his mid-70’s, made a dredging strike with a 3-incher in shallow water that prompted a full-on gold rush. Later that summer, the U.S. Forest Service floated down in rafts and interviewed 130 different New 49’er members, all who were dredging high-grade!

These days, the primary focus is on high-grade high-banking ground. I am talking about hand mining with digging tools and buckets.

There is a huge gravel bar towards the upper-end of this very long property which went pretty-much ignored until about 3 or 4 seasons ago. Prior to then, we were using boats to ferry members across the river to a gravel bar located further downstream on this same property during our weekend group high-banking projects. There is plenty of high-grade gold on the far side of the river. But we were getting so many members involved with the weekend projects, the time involved with transferring participants across the river and back was subtracting too much from how much work we were able to get accomplished.

As far as I know, long time member, Otto Gaither, was the first person to make a great strike on this bar. Otto’s strike was so good, I had to really put pressure on him to show me where his “secret spot” was. Once he did, we have not done a weekend or week-long high-banking project anywhere else since. That’s just how good this place is. It is also very large.

Initially, we worked a discovery down towards the lower-end of the bar, near to where Otto had been mining. That line of gold was closer to the river. It took us a several seasons to work out most of the line. Lots of members continue to work an area after we do a weekend project, so steady work was being done down there, both during the summer and winter months. A natural line of trees and other vegetation between the gold line(s) and the river make it very easy to trap and settle water from our recovery systems. The place is ideal for surface mining activity.

Then, even before we finished the first gold line, maybe two seasons ago, someone discovered an entirely new line of high-grade gold that ran the entire length of the bar perhaps 30 feet further inland from the first line of gold. That is the line of gold that we were mining all last season. As this second line had not been worked very much towards the upper-end of the bar, my plan has been to focus our high-banking projects up that way this summer. There is still plenty of gold to recover there.

Another blessing in my life these days is that we get quite a few very experienced members helping to manage the weekend projects. They have asked me numerous times what I intend to do when the gold plays out on K-15A. I answer that we have about 140 miles of potential high-grade mining property on the surface (out of the active waterway) if you count both sides of the river.

Still, one of my biggest worries is going out with a bunch of members on a weekend and not recovering enough gold to split between all the participants. In 24 seasons, that has never happened. I do not want it to happen – ever!

This all leads up to the first weekend project of this season. Just a few days before the project, a major storm front moved through and dumped several inches of rain in parts of northern California and southern Oregon. This caused the Scott River to flood its banks and raise the Klamath River by several feet along K-15A. I went down to look at our planned work area for the project on Friday, and the location where I wanted to dig was all underwater. Great!


We had 55 members signed up for this project, and all of them showed up on Saturday morning. This was a really good bunch; everybody had their smiles on and seemed eager to review a few hours of theory which I presented with a blackboard down at the Lions hall. After lunch, we all went out to K-15A. This is a property which is located about 12 miles upstream from Happy Camp.

Very experienced prospectors, Rich Krimm, Craig Colt, Alan Mash, John & Diane Leslie and Ray, Peggy and Eimer Derek were all out on the bar ahead of us. They were going to help manage this project. We have found that it is helpful and more productive to separate participants into smaller groups with assigned team leaders to keep the work coordinated and focused. This is especially important when we are sampling.


These projects would not go off nearly as well as they do if we did not have wonderful, experienced helpers like this who are willing to come out and help. It is the friendly members that make The New 49’ers a wonderful experience!

The first thing my helpers told me when we got down on the bar was that we could not do the project in the location where we had planned. While that area was no longer underwater, there was a water table that submerged any hole being dug there. It is difficult to dig and sample with a shovel underwater. Material gets washed off your shovel. If you are recovering gold, it is hard to figure out exactly where it is coming from. This was the first time I can remember seeing the Klamath River run high and muddy in June since 1987.

It is a really good thing we were not doing a dredging project; whew!

So we were going to have to find an entirely new strike further away from the river; yikes! This is something we have not had to do on these weekend projects for 3 or 4 years. Since being on the upper-end of K-15A, we have always known, more or less, where we could get into gold on every project.

Once we were all organized down on the bar, from an excavation that my helpers had already opened up for me, I pointed out to participants exactly what hard-packed natural streambed is, and also how it lays down in different layers. This is very important to see, because we recover nearly all of our high-grade gold from the contact zones between different layers – and sometimes directly off the top of the upper layer of hard-pack. It is one thing to read about this. It is quite another when someone can point to it and show you exactly what you are looking for.

I then showed the participants exactly how to gather a sample by first clearing material out of the way so that you can accumulate most of your material from the contact zone where high-grade is most likely to be. Then I provided a gold panning demonstration.

After that, all of the participants began a coordinated sampling program with some guidance from our team leaders. Since things were very wet over towards the river, the only direction to go was further inland on the huge bar. As far as I know, we had never sampled up that way.

I confess that I did not really have my hopes up very high that they were going to find high-grade further inland on the bar. Why is that? Actually, I have done quite a lot of introspection on this very question. Gold is so valuable, if you have not made a discovery yet; you tend to believe it is not going to be present. That would be just too good to be true! I have seen this with most prospectors; especially those who have not found their own high-grade, yet. In fact, it is the personal doubt (that high-grade gold will be there) that gets into the way of most sampling programs.

Mainly, You have to push through with enthusiasm. Then, once you begin to turn up positive signs, you try to follow them into high-grade if it is present.


It is always a really nice surprise when high-grade materializes in a sample hole.

And that’s the way it was on this Saturday afternoon as soon as our participants began digging a little further inland. They started coming up with good pans right away. At first, I thought it was just an anomaly; perhaps a little gold located off the main line. Then, others started recovering the same kind of gold. The average pieces were larger than from the earlier line that we had established down closer to the river. Wow, this was a real bonus!

Here is a video sequence with Alan Mash and some of his helpers showing the excitement of the new discovery:

I devoted the remainder of Saturday afternoon encouraging the team leaders to have their crews sample in both directions along the bar. Before I departed, it was clear that we had established an entirely new line of high-grade gold running down the bar for at least 200 yards; probably even longer. This adds another two years of productive high-banking activity for our members just in this single area.

I was out there trying to remember something I did when I was younger that was a really good deed; something to deserve this wonderful blessing. Not being able to come up with anything, I am now hoping this is not some form of credit that I will be obligated to pay for later. I cut up my credit cards a long time ago!

Saturday night’s potluck get-together at the Lion’s hall was a full house. We had 88 members there. The food was great, and there was a lot of excitement going around in anticipation of how well we would do on Sunday.


Our team leaders had already set up the equipment on Saturday afternoon as soon as the new strike was made. So Sunday morning found lots of members out there filling buckets (half full) and feeding pay-dirt into three different high-bankers. Everybody was working. There were people moving rocks out of the way. Others were digging pay-dirt and placing it into buckets. A few people were packing buckets to the high-bankers. Some were feeding the high-bankers. A few people were taking pan samples of the pay-dirt to make sure we were still into the gold. We were! It was like a big oiled machine. Man was this an enthusiastic bunch of people! Please check out this video segment with Ray Derrick explaining what was going on:

This new pay-streak is positioned along the bottom of a top layer of hard-packed streambed, which is sitting on top of a really hard layer of dark brown material. Sometimes, the lower layer looks like dirt. It is very easy to see the layer change. Most of the gold is

sitting right on top of the brown. Some of the diggers were actually seeing gold sitting right on top of the brown. The depth of the pay-dirt changed from one place to the next, anywhere from about 12 to 18 inches. Sampling had already shown that it was notproductive to process down into the brown layer beyond what gold we could scrape off the surface.

The whole key to effective production is to fill buckets with the material you have identified as the pay-dirt. This entire crew was keyed into that. Their team leaders were really doing their job. Because pay-streaks are not always consistent, and sometimes they are spotty, it is important that you do continuous sampling to make sure you are filling buckets with material that contains gold. The following video sequence caught Craig Colt in the middle of this process while working with his own crew:

If you want to get a lot of gold, much has to do with how deep the pay-streak is. For example, this pay-streak was coming out of about a foot of material. If we had to process two feet of material to get at the same pay-streak, ultimately, we would only be recovering about half the gold in the same time period. A foot of material is really good for hand work. When you work a foot of material properly, you also never create much of a hole that you have to back-fill later.

The depth of the pay layer also makes a difference in how much gold you need to see in your pan when sampling. The deeper that you have to dig, the richer the pay-dirt must be to make a mining program pay off to your satisfaction. Finding this whole new line of gold on K-15A was truly a stroke of luck. Here follows a video segment capturing my own explanation as all the action was happening:

We like to process material through the high-bankers for a few hours on Sunday morning and then take a break. This gives everyone a chance to have some lunch and sit back and enjoy this wonderful outdoor paradise where we spend our summers along the Klamath River.

After a light lunch, we start up again and run for another hour or so. To keep the motivation levels up, we always clean-up the high-grade section of one or two of the high-bankers so that everyone can see some of the gold we are recovering. When we shut down this time, we could see gold nuggets! This caused quite a lot of excitement. In fact, as shown in the following video segment, after seeing the nuggets, at least one crew immediately resumed processing pay-dirt, even before Craig had finished panning the high-grade that was removed from their high-banker!

Normally, we shut the high-bankers down at around 2 PM on Saturday afternoon. That allows us time to put the gear away and go around to make sure that we have back-filled our holes and smoothed things back to normal out on the bar. Then we meet back over at the Lions Hall in Happy Camp to do the final clean-up separation and split the gold. Everyone has an opportunity to participate in this, and everyone who works on the project is entitled to an equal share of the gold. For many who participate, this is the first gold they have ever found.

In all, we recovered 16.4 pennyweights of gold. That is more than ¾ of an ounce, or $1,000 at the current gold price. There were 14 nuggets. This is pretty good considering that we operated three high-bankers for several hours. Here follows Rich Krimm’s introduction to the final clean-up and gold split. We had a lot of fun. Check it out:

It was around 6 PM when we ended off. There were a lot of smiling faces; some who were planning on moving their own gear into the new strike at K-15A on the following day. That seemed like a really good idea to me!