By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack
 
 

There were 11 of us involved with this particular Week-long Dredging Project. Our team included Craig Colt, Jason and Andrew Inks as individual dredge supervisors, and Otto Gaither as the Project’s shore boss. Over time, we have found that our dredging projects go a lot better when we have an experienced operator supervising each dredge, along with a shore boss that looks after all of the ongoing support needs on the river and in the camp. This leaves me free to work with beginners, coordinate the sampling program, and then push production forward as soon as we locate some high-grade gold.

Craig Colt and I had invested some time the week before, working out where we would launch this Project. New strikes are being made by active members of The New 49’ers all the time along the Club’s extensive mining properties. We pay very close attention to this; because once someone establishes the existence of high-grade in a section of river, it opens up a whole new perspective on where we are likely to discover more high-grade within the immediate area.

We have worked out a sampling program in these Projects that always works. So, how much gold we are going to recover basically comes back to how good the area is where we decide to launch the project in the first place. There is always some risk, though. This is because we never really know how much gold is present until the work is done.

There is not enough time in a week to change our minds and start all over again in a whole new area. So we must choose our area with care. In choosing an area, Craig and I must balance the desire for uncovering rich high-grade gold, with the risk of maybe not finding any high-grade at all. Finding nothing is the nightmare that we have managed to avoid on every project so far. We want to keep it that way!

After weighing all the options, Craig and I decided we were going to launch this Project into the lower-end of K-14. This is an area on the Klamath River just upstream from Portuguese Creek. That is about 20 miles upriver from Happy Camp. There were 2 very serious high-grade discoveries in there a few years ago. Several members were recovering ounces and ounces of nuggets along a bedrock shelf on the edge of the Highway-96 side of the river. They were using 5-inch dredges, although the work could have easily been done with 3-inch dredges, because the water and material were very shallow. Several other members were dredging a rich fine and flake-gold pay-streak using an 8-inch dredge from the far side of the river. But we never saw anyone work the river in the middle, between the two pay-streaks. Craig and I swam that section of the river with mask & snorkel, doing a thorough survey of the bottom. It looked good!

We work hard to prepare in advance for each of these Group Mining Projects. To get a head start, we launched the 8-inch dredge well in advance. This is the piece of equipment which takes the most time to set up. Our dredge supervisors and shore boss went through all our gear several days in advance. We bought all the supplies and fuel necessary to get us through the week. Everything was ready to go!

Then, the day before we were to begin, an oil tanker truck was involved in an accident about 25 miles upstream of our intended project site, and spilled some unknown amount of chemical substance into the river. This prompted the local authorities to issue a heath advisory, telling swimmers and rafters that they should avoid going into the river downstream of the spill.

So there went another perfectly good (great) mining plan! Although we will probably resurrect it during his next season, if nobody else beats us into that location.

All of this created somewhat of an emergency situation where our dredge supervisors and I found ourselves down on the river after dark on the night before the project, using two winches to pull our 8-inch dredge out of the river, up the side of a rather steep embankment, and onto the road. We needed to do this to keep from losing the first full day of the project!

Saturday morning found us back in Happy Camp, doing orientation and planning with all of our team partners in this Project. Everybody adjusted quickly to the news that we were going to go back up to UK-3. We coordinated a plan to get all the gear and camping outfits moved up to the Club’s camping location near the UK-Claims. Most of us drove up there in a long parade of trailered dredges and RV’s. That was really something to see!

After allowing everyone a while to set up camp on Saturday afternoon, we all drove down to look over our options along the UK-claims. We had to figure out where we were going to launch this project. Since we were starting this process over again right from the beginning, I took the time to explain everything important that I already knew about these claims along the upper Klamath River; where other members had already made high-grade discoveries, and where I believed the best opportunities were located.

It didn’t take us long to decide that we would drop back behind where we had done a very successful dredging project last year. Lee Kracher and his family had also operated several dredges in the same area the year before, and they had recovered a lot of gold. Our plan was to drop back just behind where they had been dredging. As good as they had done, it seemed reasonable that we would find something good just downriver.

So we devoted the remaining part of the first day launching a 5-inch, 6-inch and an 8-inch dredge into the river. Getting the 8-incher in required us to winch the dredge (using a trailer) down an embankment. This was a bit of a challenge, but we worked it all out pretty fast. Years ago, we mounted an electric winch in the back of a truck that we rigged up to support these mining programs. That winching system helps us gain access (with dredges and boats) to some of the more remote areas of the river. Being able to get your gear in and out of difficult areas without much trouble increases your sampling options!

  

The second day found our entire team getting started down on the river. We split the crew into three teams. The most experienced guys joined Craig on the 8-inch dredge. Those with some previous experience teamed up with Jason on the 6-inch dredge. Andrew and I planned to work with beginners on the 5-inch dredge for the first few days over in the shallow part of the river.

While these Dredging Projects are not classes or training events, it still remains necessary for us to show participants how to do the things that they need to do to contribute to the forward motion of the mining program. Some participants do not want to go underwater. Although, I will say that many change their minds about this when they see how fast other beginners take to it. For those who will support the program from the surface, we take the necessary time to show them how to do that part of the job. In this way, it does not take very long for helpers on the surface to become a strong and important part of the program

We also take the necessary time to help beginners through the early stages of getting themselves underwater. Doing this requires shallow water where we can help participants to get accustomed to the underwater environment in a location which is shallow enough that a person can lift his or her head out of the water anytime it feels necessary. This removes most of the immediate fear of drowning, so that the person can better-focus on the skills involved.

Every human being has a basic fear of the water. Some of us don’t feel that fear until some panic situation arises. For others, intense fear can be energized at just the thought of putting your head underwater. This is actually pretty normal. Through long experience, we have discovered that the key to helping someone through this is by beginning with some activity that the person is comfortable with. This might start with just sitting down along the edge of the river and getting comfortable breathing through the hookah regulator. Then, in a step-by-step process, just allowing the person some personal time to become comfortable with each step along the way, we will soon have the person breathing from the hookah regulator in shallow water. The rest is easy.

The main purpose for helping beginners to get comfortably through these first stages is that they will soon become very productive partners on the dredging program. By mid-way through the week on these projects, most beginners are already playing an important roll in the team effort to locate and recover high-grade gold.

We used a small boat and outboard motor to move dredges around during this project. This saves us time in swimming ropes across the river and pulling gear and supplies across. With the boat, we just hook onto the dredge and pull it anywhere we want to go. Sometimes, we put the dredge’s suction nozzle in the boat and just drag the dredge around backwards by the suction hose. This allows us to quickly reposition the dredges in an ongoing sampling plan without having to waste valuable time and energy in disconnecting and reconnecting the suction hoses every time the dredges are moved. All of this adds up to more productive activity.

Otto captured the following video sequences as we were using the boat to move our dredges around:

Craig’s crew wasted no time in setting up the 8-inch dredge on the far side of the river. Their first test hole was put down into high-grade gold not far off the stream bank. The streambed material over there was less than 3 feet on top of some rough bedrock. Those

guys came up hooping & hollering after the very first dive! I remember thinking, “Wow, this is going to be an easy week!”When I went over to take a look, they already had a good showing of gold in their pan for just the little work they had done! So I encouraged Craig’s team to drop the 8-inch dredge further downstream to see if they could pick up an extension of the high-grade.

Jason and his team set up the 6-inch dredge on the Klamathon Road-side of the river. Jason then went out into the river on an extended airline to do an underwater survey. This is a drill where we attach 2 airlines together so the person can get out as much as 90 or 100 feet into the river away from the dredge. While the dredge is operating at idle (to provide air to the diver), with his lead weights on, Jason crawled out to take a good look at the river-bottom in the area where we wanted to get a good sample. Normally when we do this, we are looking for places where the bedrock is exposed along the bottom of the river. This allows us to target sample locations where we know that streambed depth will not extend beyond our reach. While crabbing around out there on the bottom, Jason found a place where someone else had already dredged a sample hole to the bedrock in about 5 feet of hard-packed streambed material. He and his team were lucky. They would have an opportunity to get a sample out there without having to dredge an entire sample hole from scratch. This saved them about a full day of work!

Like Craig’s crew on the other side of the river, Jason’s team was cheering their results by the end of our first day on the river. Except that Jason’s crew was finding nice gold nuggets! The following video sequence was captured as Jason’s team was just pulling the first nuggets from their sluice box:

Andrew and I were not recovering very much gold on the 5-inch dredge over near the edge of the river; but by the end of the first day, all of our beginners had progressed to spending some time dredging underwater. This was a good beginning!

It took another day before all of our beginners had graduated to the 6-inch dredge. This required us to move a few of Jason’s guys over to the 8-inch dredge. Consequently, both dredges could be operated in shifts all day long. After that, we just used the 5-inch dredge to provide extra air for the divers.

As often happens, the two dredging teams quickly evolved into some friendly competition. While it is nearly impossible for a 6-inch dredge to match the production (nearly double) of an 8-inch dredge, Jason’s team gave Craig’s team a good run for their money all week long. This was because the stronger line of beautiful nuggets was running down Jason’s side of the river. The following video sequence captured how much excitement was going around while we recovered all that beautiful gold:

There was a little frustration during the first few days on Craig’s dredge, because the pay-streak was not as rich when they dropped back and dredged another sample hole. It is always hard to drop back on a high-grade pay-streak. We do it to block-out a whole section of high-grade material in front of us. This is kind of like having money in a bank account! Otherwise, you can dredge forward and drop tailings all over the best gold!

Since several of the participants in this Project were planning to stay around for another week or two after we finished (using their own dredges to work the pay-streak), it seemed worth the effort to drop back and provide them with some good high-grade to dredge when our week together was over. It took about 3 sample holes for Craig’s team to work it all out. After that was accomplished, they were hooping & hollering on Craig’s dredge for the rest of the week.

Because the streambed material was deeper where Jason got started, we did not bother to drop the 6-inch dredge back on the pay-streak. That would have taken too much of our limited time. So there will be plenty more high-grade to go back to during the upcoming season. We will do another Project in there unless someone else beats us to it!!

This was kind of an unusual dredging Project, in that we were recovering nice gold from our first day of operating dredges on the river. More often, it takes us several days of progressive, coordinated sampling to walk our way into a rich pay-streak. Still, we had some interesting challenges to overcome in developing this gold deposit. The richest portion clearly was located in the middle of the river where the water-flow was stronger. There were some big rocks out there that we needed to roll back. All of this took a serious, coordinated effort. The following video sequences will give you the reality that these are serious mining projects where everyone on the team is usually tested:

With all of the beginners integrated into the two production teams, and the friendly competition between the two dredges to find the most and best gold each day, this group evolved into a tight-knit team by mid-week. Nearly everyone was camped in the Club camping area located just up the road from where we were dredging. Evenings found us enjoying meals together over at Otto’s camp. We set up chairs near his barbeque, so we could enjoy the beautiful sunsets. There was a lot of excited conversation about the gold we were recovering – and the additional gold which must also be in that section of K-3. Otto is one of the best BBQ cooks I have ever met! He is always there with a friendly smile and helpful hand. So shared some nice, relaxing evenings after working hard on the river each day.

Our team was so grooved-in and organized by Thursday, that I found myself with nearly nothing to do. In fact, I was so bored, that I drank my whole thermos of coffee before noon, and had to go back to camp and brew up another pot! I am never comfortable just sitting around with nothing to do when there is productive activity going on all around me. Usually, on these Projects, there is an opportunity for me to take a short dive or two every day. I like to jump in and help with the sampling process. I like to jump in and operate the production dredge alongside a good support team that knows what to do. I get a big charge watching gold uncovered from a rich pay-streak!

But I found myself a spectator up in the boat on Thursday afternoon. There was no place for me on the dredges. This team had taken completely over. They knew exactly what to do to prevent any momentum from being lost. They had it together so well, that I couldn’t even make any suggestions how to improve things. So I resigned myself to work on my sun tan up in the boat, while sitting back proudly watching my team. These partners were so good, that if we went another day, we would have had to split-off a third team onto the 5-inch dredge just to make the most out of them.

Just to give them all a good run for their money, on Thursday afternoon, I challenged anyone to dive in on a breath of air, swim out to the middle of the river, and walk the 6-inch suction hose to the bank against the strong pull of the river. This is quite a challenging task. Not having done much that day, I was hoping to demonstrate for everybody how it is done. But Andrew succeeded on his first try.

At camp that night, we all agreed that we would use the final day to remove our gear from the river and do a final gold clean-up. As our project site was far from any road access points where we could back a trailer down to the river, we would normally break down the dredges and pack individual components up the hill. But this crew was so geared-up by now, that we packed the entire dredges up to the road without breaking them down! It only took us a few hours to remove all of our gear from the river.

We also helped several of the participants to move their personal dredges down the hill, so they could pick up in the pay-streak right from where we left off on the project. Other members were also moving in to take up positions not far up and downstream from where we were working. Smart moves! There was a lot of excitement going around!

  

We accumulate our clean-ups all week inside of a 5-gallon bucket and save it all for the final day. It would subtract too much productive-time during the week if we were to perform a final clean-up every day. So we always allow the afternoon on Friday to do the final clean-up and split-off the gold evenly amongst all the participants. The following video sequences demonstrate that the final separation and gold-split are a fantastic way to end off on one of these projects. Receiving a split of the gold is a very satisfying acknowledgement for all of the hard work:

Friday afternoon found our entire crew doing the final clean-up process together up at camp. In all, we recovered 99.2 pennyweights (4.96 ounces) in beautiful gold, of which there were 27.9 pennyweights of nice nugget material. Each person received some of the nuggets. Everyone was happy with their individual shares. But I believe everyone was even more excited about the team experience and lasting friendships that we created on this project.

After doing a group photo, those of us that had to leave said our goodbyes and broke camp. The others stayed around to work the gold deposit. Other members were arriving just in time to take up our camping spots as we were pulling out.

 

 

By Dave McCracken


This Group Dredging Project took place towards the lower end of the Club’s K-11 claim (Hwy-96 mile marker 63.58) along the Klamath River, not far upriver from Schutt’s Gulch. This is located about 3 miles upriver from where Highway 96 crosses Seiad Creek, near the small town of Seiad.

We conducted another Group Dredging Project towards the upper-end of this claim earlier in the season and did pretty well. K-11 is a very productive section of river, both for dredging and surface-sluicing activity on the far side of the river. The claim is quite long; and despite lots of successful activity, I don’t believe that most of the area has even been adequately sampled yet.

I have had my eye on the lower-end of K-11 since all the way back to 1997, when founding Club member, Tony Steury, was dredging there with a 5-inch dredge, consistently recovering an ounce of gold per day. I was buying his gold, so I knew he was getting it. And because of that, I made a special visit to Tony’s dredging site one day, and even swam down into his excavation to get a first-hand look. Tony was dredging towards the road-side edge of the river, pretty near to the lower-end of K-11.

To my knowledge, no-one ever returned to the area where Tony was dredging to pick up what he might have missed. Tony’s gold was all flakes and fines. It was a lot of gold for the amount of material he was processing through his 5-inch dredge.

Over the years, I have swam down through the lower-end of K-11 with lots of different members who were participating in various group events, and I have always encouraged members to go back there and search for the gold Tony left behind. Tony only dredged in there for a few weeks, so he could not have cleaned the area out. But I have never seen anyone go back there.

That’s the thing about the The New 49’ers; we have so many available options, it takes a long time to get around to all of them!

Anyway, “Tony’s lost gold” was one of the primary targets we were considering for this Group Project. I figured we could find it with an organized group using 3 dredges to sample around the target area. So, a few days before this Group Project, Craig Colt and I were down standing along the edge of the river at Schutts Gulch, taking a hard look at the speed and depth of the water, access points, parking, camping and other things that are important to these Group Projects.

Group Projects require at least a few slow, shallow areas where we can work with less experienced miners. Projects sometimes require more parking than would normally be needed. They require the access to not be too difficult. These are all things we have to think about in advance. Because we don’t know everyone who will be on a Group Project until everyone shows up on Saturday morning, we have to plan for members that might not be up for difficult situations.

Craig and I spent most of a day comparing the lower-end of K-11 to another very promising-looking area towards the lower-end of K-9. Here is another area where few members have gone, and where the dredging prospects look fantastic! No question that we will do a Group Dredging Project on K-9 in the near future.

Anyway, after spending the better part of a day weighing and balancing the two areas, Craig and I decided we would do this Group Project at K-9. It really looked the best for what we wanted to do.

But on our way back to Happy Camp, we saw a 5-inch dredge floating out on the river towards the lower-end of K-11; perhaps 100-yards upstream of where Tony Steury made his big strike. So we stopped to talk with the member, Bruce Johnson, who was dredging there. He showed us his gold, which consisted of plenty of fines and flakes, with some nice, crystalline nuggets. Wow!

Bruce told us he was getting his gold from around some larger rocks in a hard-packed layer around three feet into the material. The water was only about 6-feet deep out where Bruce was dredging. Bruce told us emphatically that he did not have any problem with the Group Project moving in around him, since he was about to finish his season, anyway. In fact, he said he would welcome the company.

So Craig and I immediately did the smart thing; we asked Bruce if we could operate his dredge for an hour or so, allowing him to keep any gold that we found. With no hesitation, Bruce agreed to allow us the use of his dredge. So Craig and I jumped right into his hole and started dredging without any further delay.

There is an important lesson in this: The New 49’ers is a highly-active mining association, with very expansive property reserves. The choices of where to go are endless. For better success, it is important to narrow the choices to the best-possible prospects any way you can. The most effective way I know to do this, is to get right down inside of an active mining excavation that is recovering high-grade gold. Then you can see for yourself what the streambed layers look like, and where the gold is coming from. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Members often ask me how I am able to readily locate high-grade pay-streaks on New 49’er claims. There is no secret to this. I pay attention to every strike that is made on our claims. Whenever possible, when there is a new strike, I go right down and look at where the gold is coming from, what streambed layers are involved, how wide the pay-streak is, how much volume is being processed, and how the deposit lines out in the waterway. These are things that I never forget!

My memory is poor on some things. But I never forget the details of where someone finds gold! Because I know I can always go back to those same areas with a sampling team and pick up where the earlier miners left off – either at one end of the pay-streak, or a little further up or downstream, where the next pay-streak is located.

The nice thing about a Group Project is that I can direct a dozen or so people, using several dredges, in a very-organized sampling program that is targeted to re-establish a gold-line that has already been found before.

So when Bruce offered to allow Craig and I to use his dredge to have a look at a pay-streak he was actively mining, we wasted no time getting into the water. Bruce told us that most of his gold was coming from the contact zone on top of a really hard-packed grey layer down about three feet into the streambed material. He said he could see the gold sitting right on top of the grey layer. It didn’t take but about 15 minutes for Craig and I to work a top-cut (reaching out and working about 4 or 5-square feet of material off the front of Bruce’s dredge hole) down to the grey layer. Sure enough, we saw the pieces of gold sitting right on top of the grey material. That’s all we needed to see!

The wonderful thing about our mining group is that we have so many really nice people associated with us as active members. Miners helping miners! I cannot tell you how lucky Craig and I felt when Bruce invited us to bring the Group Dredging Project into the area where he was actively dredging up a high-grade gold

deposit!

Here’s my secret to finding gold: When someone offers you a sure thing, take it!

So Craig and I quickly altered our plans to manage this Group Project at the lower-end of K-11 near Schutt’s Gulch. Fortunately, the Forest Service has a very nice developed campground at O’Neil Creek (Hwy 96 mile marker 65.50), about a mile upriver from where we were going to be doing the Project. We made arrangements to rent the group camping site for a week, so participants would have a comfortable, quiet place to camp.

This Group Project involved 12 participants (11 men and 1 woman), plus my two very-experienced helpers, Craig Colt and Ernie Kroo and myself; 15 of us in all.

Several of the participants were dredging for the first time ever, and several others had little previous experience under the water. One of the primary objectives of these projects is to help all participants achieve personal confidence while dredging underwater. We take this responsibility very serious. The nice thing about this Project was that since we already pretty-much knew where the gold was, I was going to be able to put 100% of my own focus into helping others dial in, to what we needed to do.

Most of us camped in the Forest Service O’Neil campground for duration of the project. So, we were also able to spend some very pleasant after-hour time visiting and enjoying our moments together during this adventure. Ernie Kroo is one of the best guys on a BBQ-pit that I have ever seen, and he takes great pleasure in making sure everyone eats well on these Projects. The food was great!

All of the participants in this Project arrived full of motivated-enthusiasm. When Craig and I walked everyone down on the first morning to show them where the gold had already been located, it was everything we could do to slow things down enough to keep track of the activity. I have to say, this was the fastest I have ever seen three dredges put into the water and set up. People were actually running with the loads! Usually, I am happy if we just get camp set up and the dredges in the water on the first day. But this was all done before lunch on the first day of this Project!

So with just a little discussion, we turned three separate teams loose on Saturday afternoon in an organized sampling plan. One dredge was placed around 60 feet in front of where Bruce was dredging, directly in line with him. Another dredge was placed around 60 feet downstream and directly in line with where Bruce was getting his gold. And the third dredge was sent about 100 yards downstream in an effort to find “Tony Steury’s lost gold.”

This type of gold mining (dredging) is not rocket science. Since Bruce was getting good gold, we were nearly certain that if we got directly in line with him in the river, and dredged down to the very same layer, that we would get gold, too. We proved this theory correct by the end of the first day. While our upstream dredge was already producing fines and nice-sized golden flakes, the downstream dredge started producing nice big corn-flake-sized crystalline gold nuggets.

I just cannot tell you how excited everyone was! I was sitting back thanking my lucky stars for how easy the week was going to be for me. Incredible!

These Group Dredging Projects are usually very challenging for me. While there are many things we have to make happen during the week, they all basically add up to three very important things: (1) we have to help all the participants get dialed in to what we want to accomplish, with no-one getting injured. (2) We have to locate a high-grade gold deposit. (3) We need to develop the gold deposit in such a way as to recover as much gold as we can during the remaining time allowed to us.

While the other things are incredibly important, I can tell you from plenty of experience that it is the recovery of lots of gold that carries the emotional tone of the group during the project. Every gold deposit is different, and therefore causes different types of feelings. This deposit was full of beautiful, crystalline nuggets that were being picked out of the dredges after every dive – and sometimes even while the dives were happening. All week long, people were rejoicing in their excitement about the nuggets we were recovering. What a week!

All of the important choices and decisions are discussed during these Group Projects. This is part of the experience. Because, just like the fork in the road when you only have enough time to go in one direction, every main choice during any gold prospecting expedition will affect how things come out in the end. While we have narrowed the choices down to just a few by the time we begin one of these Projects by choosing the section of river, we still must decide where we will do our sample holes, and how much time we will devote to each sample.

There are never any fixed answers to these choices. There is an emotional and intellectual chemistry involved where the results of samples are compared to each other, measured against the prior information we have about the area, and balanced against how much time we have. Seldom is there a fixed right-or-wrong answer. You just do the best you can and push forward. We always try and get all of the participants directly involved with this chemistry; because this is the risk-taking adventure-side of prospecting that turns to an incredible feeling of wonder and excitement, and a fantastic feeling of team-work accomplishment, when high-grade gold is recovered.

Having seen Tony Steury’s gold back in 1987, I knew without a doubt that his pay-streak was richer than the one we were mining near­­­ Bruce. But the question was: When there is a limited amount of time, and we are already mining a very good pay-streak further up-stream, how much of our available resources should be invested into looking for something we might not find? One of our three dredges (33% of our production-capability) was being spent looking for “Tony’s lost gold” with no luck so far. So, by mid-week, we collectively decided to move the third dredge up to the sure-pay-streak and leave the richer strike for another day.

The main challenge we faced in the established pay-streak, was that the richest gold was being recovered out of the deepest, fastest water out in the middle of the river. Although, luckily, the biggest, nicest nuggets were being recovered closer to the edge of the river, where the water was much slower. So we spent most of the remainder of the week shifting crews off and on, with everyone dredging where they were most comfortable. I think it is safe to say that everyone involved with the project was personally challenged in meaningful ways as the week played out.

In all, we recovered 5.5 ounces of gold for the week, of which 52.7 pennyweights (half the gold) were nuggets. This was, by far, the most nuggets (5 nice nuggets to each participant) we have ever recovered during a Group Project.

 


Several of the participants, along with other members of the Club, stayed around the immediate area to work out the deposit with Bruce after our project was completed.

But don’t think for a moment that this claim is worked out. We could easily devote 10 more Group Dredging Projects to sample this very long claim! The potential is fantastic!

 

 

By Sara Koehler

It has been said that there is a time for everything under the sun. Well, the time for dredging is definitely summertime…And, there is no better place to dredge than Happy Camp, California! “Happy Camp.” The very name makes me smile in disbelief! This place really does exist! The water is cool, but not too cold, and the weather is usually quite mild. Better yet, there are “Gold Nuggets” as big as your thumbnail! We always find enough nuggets to make every day feel like a “surprise” birthday party!

Wherever we settle in for our dredging season, we all work as a team to make our home away from home as comfortable and relaxing as it can be. The children take turns taking care of our trash, making sure we always have a nice, clean camp. Everyone takes turns doing dishes and setting the table for meals…all except for Scott and me! With six children there are plenty of extra hands, eager to be of help.

When Scott and the boys get our equipment ready to launch at the spot we have chosen on the Klamath River, we dredge for a couple of hours at the beginning of each day. We can’t contain ourselves, and check our sluice box for gold every time we stop the engine to refuel. If some of the children are on the beach and hear the dredge engine being turned off, they all dive into the river and swim up to the edge of the dredge to get a sneak preview. We lift the flare’s flap, and “Surprise,” there are beautiful gold nuggets staring us in the face!

At the end of the day, we jump in our car and drive back to our camp. We try to take turns talking about everything that had happened to us during the day. Our adventure is not just about finding gold; but, also about the frogs, the insects, the birds, the swimming feats, the great lunch, the interesting people we meet at the river, the weather conditions, and all the “little things” that make us laugh.

How did we find this place? We’ve always had an interest in gold mining and had heard about Dave Mack’s videos from a friend of my brother. We bought Dave’s video at a mining equipment store in Sacramento, and had become spellbound watching Dave’s mining techniques, instructions and demonstrations. This is the first time that we had ever heard of the New 49’ers and Happy Camp! I knew that my husband, Scott, was going to get really excited about “all this new information!” Immediately we called the New 49’er office, that very same day!

We don’t want to sound like expert gold nugget hunters, because we’re not. We don’t own any private claims. When we became members of the New 49’ers Prospecting Club we instantly had over 60 miles of mining claims along the Klamath River and its tributaries in the northwest corner of California. Thus, we began our dredging adventure –we signed up for group dredging projects, and we even ordered a 5-inch dredge!

All winter long we watched all of Dave Mack’s videos, so that when we finally got to meet him face-to-face, our kids thought that they already knew him personally. Dave was very surprised, and taken aback, by all the admiration and affection our kids showered on him. If Dave Mack had a free hand, one of my kids had a hold of it. The other ones just waited until another free hand became available so they could latch on. I have to say that Dave took our children’s affection with good cheer and appreciation.

Our six children accompany Scott and me on our gold mining adventures. I do all the cooking and run errands, but there is also plenty of time for me to enjoy reading and sewing on the beach. It is very relaxing, and when Scott comes up for a break or lunch, we enjoy just being together in these great outdoors and fresh air. The children assist in all the various aspects of dredging, but there is plenty of time for swimming, getting sunburned, and eating!

Scott spends as much time as possible under the water, “vacuuming” the bottom of the river. We started out with both Pro-Mack 2-inch and 5-inch dredges. Then the second summer we ordered a 10-inch, customized, “wonder”-dredge. It is a beautiful piece of equipment! Being on it makes one feel like a “King and Queen of the River.”

We made our first trip to Happy Camp in June of 1995. Taking our tents, tent-trailer, and dredges, we camped at the Anderson Campground, on the Klamath River. The weather was chilly and wet, but we sure did have fun anyway! We dredged, panned, and high-banked. We attended group mining projects and attended claim tours. We cooked, washed clothes, read books, talked-over ideas and created many “plans.”

During our first week in Happy Camp the Discovery Channel (Cable TV) paid us a visit at our home on the river. Their crew was producing a show entitled “Easy Does It!” They wanted to film a piece on small-scale gold mining and they spent most all of one day with us. The cameraman filmed Scott dredging and the children panning. They interviewed both Dave Mack and us. The next time we heard from the Discovery Channel was at the end of the summer when they called our home to ask how much gold we had found. A few weeks later they sent us a copy of the 5-minute segment that they had made for television. Then a few months after that we were actually on television! We were thrilled!

After our time at “Anderson Campground,” we moved to a place down-river from Happy Camp named Independence. During that same first summer we camped on a roadside turnout, 230-feet above the claim. Getting down to the river each morning, which was a difficult access from that location (downhill), made for an exciting beginning and ending of each day. Scott and the kids immediately went to work cutting a trail down to the river. It was a very steep trail, and perilously paved with poison oak! Our children became experts in identifying poison oak! The section of river we were on had small and large boulders that created a nice area for our kids to swim in, away for the rushing flow of the Klamath. It was deep enough and safe enough for Ben, our youngest, to dive off some of the boulders. At the end of the day we would all get filthy-dirty clawing our way back up to our camp. The “best,” or should I say most challenging, part of the day was that we had no running water! But, otherwise we certainly got a lot of great exercise! That particular summer was extremely hot, and there was no break from either the heat or the “jack-braked” semi-trucks. The high point of our experience at Independence was being invited by some very hospitable, new friends to take showers in their home!

The next summer, 1996, we stayed with friends in their house, and felt free to dredge anywhere that looked appealing. We learned how to work the 10-inch dredge. We couldn’t believe the attention the dredge received, running or not. It has incredible size, volume, power, and beauty! This is when we first met the Andrezejewski family for the first time.

By the beginning of the summer of 1998 our family was no longer working and functioning in isolation. We teamed up with a wonderful couple, Max and Lesley Andrzejewski, and their five children. They had driven to Happy Camp every summer for three years from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with their children. We “hit it off” immediately when we met them for the first time at a weekly New 49’er potluck. We have become extremely good friends since then! We have done so many things together; dredging, eating, shopping, making repairs, putting out fires, and even doctoring “ouch-ies.” All these activities have firmly “cemented” our friendship!

Two sets of parents, eleven children, two dogs, a pan full of gold, and a cool river on a hot day all add up to non-stop adventure and fun! We have all learned a lot from each other in many, many ways! Some of the lessons we learned together even included “bloopers,” such as: Don’t fill your dredge’s gas tank while it is still running; keep plenty of duct-tape on hand; don’t forget to wash your ears out with Domeboro after dredging; peanut butter and jam sandwiches taste best when eaten on a beach; any kind of cookies and chips will be devoured; and be sure to take lots of food to the Saturday night potlucks! Happy Camp is a great place to bring a family. There’s no doubt about it! It’s also a good place to invite your friends to come and visit. The area is really beautiful and the New 49’ers are a great group of people. They are helpful, friendly, hardworking, and adventuresome.

But, did we find many gold nuggets? Yes! We kept our ears open and heard a hot tip from Dave McCracken during one of his river tours with 20 or more people. “Go to this spot! It has nuggets along the far bank,” he said. We checked it out, and sure enough, he was telling the truth!

We’ve been coming to Happy Camp for the last four summers. We’ve camped in campgrounds and on a highway turn-out, stayed in a motel, “borrowed” and rented friends’ houses, and this year we’ll probably buy our own property. I will be glad to have a “permanent” place to call home during the summer when that “dredging itch” needs scratching, and we all climb into our car and head back to Happy Camp!

Really, though, we didn’t start gold mining to become rich. God has truly blessed us with a wonderful family and many, very dear friends—who have become family. We have already found the Motherlode!

 

 

By Dave McCracken

Everything was going normal. My partner and I were using an 8-inch dredge, pumping rich gold from underneath about seven feet of hard-packed streambed. It was just another day in god’s country. Then, without any warning, we ran out of air. “Out of gas,” I thought. As I turned around to go back to the dredge, there it was, upside down, with the engine muffler resting on the bottom of the river!

Dave Mack

 
flipped dredgeThere are few things more disheartening in gold dredging than flipping your dredge upside down in the river! But if you spend some time talking with experienced dredgers in river-dredge country, you will find a good percentage of operators have experienced turning one or more dredges over at one time or another.

Dredges get flipped over because of numerous different factors. One common reason is not having enough flotation under the dredge. Another is having a dredge design where the dredge is not wide enough. Another common problem is in dredge designs whereby the forward-most floats are not tapered enough to help deflect the river’s flow.

Design problems aside, there are two common situations which cause dredges to flip over. The first is when something happens to cause the sluice box to start loading up with the material you are pumping. As more and more material piles up in the sluice box, and then perhaps onto one of the pontoons, the increased weight eventually overwhelms the dredge’s floatation capacity, and over she goes! This can happen in minutes if you are feeding the nozzle at production speed!

The second common reason for flipping a dredge is floating it out into faster water than the design can manage. Every dredge has its limits! A dredge which might float just fine in shallow, slack water might not last five minutes in the faster flow of a river. fast water

As fast water often poses more risk to the dredge than an experienced operator, sometimes you have to find some slack water along the edge of the river where it is safer to float the dredge!

Gold quite often deposits in the fast water sections of a river. Also, because of the faster water, these areas often have less gravel and overburden covering the pay-streaks. Less streambed makes sampling go faster. Consequently, river dredgers often find ourselves dredging in the faster sections of gold-bearing rivers—including white water rapids.

It is difficult enough to overcome the underwater problems associated with fast water dredging. Knocking out plug-ups in the suction hose is particularly difficult. A dredger should not also have to worry about his or her dredge flipping over at the same time. Therefore, a certain amount of dredge modification might be necessary on any store-bought dredge before it is used under fast water conditions.

Normally, dredges are modified for fast water by adding more flotation—sometimes to the sides, sometimes to the forward-part of the dredge.

Here’s something important: Additional side flotation tends to make the dredge more stable from side to side and generally prevents the flipping problem. However, additional side flotation enormously increases the dredge’s water drag in the fast current. This puts a great deal of pressure on the tie-off lines, and it also makes it more difficult to get on and off the dredge, or work around the dredge (knocking out plug-ups) without getting swept down river. This is because the additional drag directs a larger volume of water around the sides of the pontoons.

It is usually more difficult to mount additional flotation as an extension of the front of your dredge; but we have found in our own operations that this is the better overall modification for several reasons. Reduced water drag is very important in swift water conditions. More floatation up front helps prevent the dredge from doing a submarine dive! Also, the additional platform in front of the dredge provides more space to place support gear on your dredge. And, in the case of larger dredges, if you should ever want to mount a winch on the front of your dredge, the extra flotation and frame will already be in place.

But you do not need to be in fast water to flip a dredge over. As mentioned above, a very common reason for a dredge to flip over during operation is sluice box load-up. This is when rocks and gravel overwhelm the sluice box, start flowing over onto the decks, and eventually cause the dredge to list over to one side and flip. If you have a water-flow problem with your recovery system, the problem must be resolved before you operate your dredge without someone at the surface to keep an eye on it. The key is to get enough water-flow to keep all of the rocks and material moving through and out of the recovery system. We always make sure we have a little more flow than necessary, because we choose not to hire a dredge tender to stay on deck.

Occasionally, even with a dredge which is set up perfectly, just the right rock can lodge in the sluice box and create an obstruction. Then that single rock can be the cause of a sluice box load-up. If not caught in time, the load-up can collect enough weight to flip the dredge over. This is why I say many experienced dredgers have had the fun (not) of flipping a dredge. Helpful hint: It never hurts to look back every once in a while to make sure your dredge is floating alright!

Tying off the dredge properly in swift water is also an important factor in preventing a flip-over. Obviously, you do not want your dredge sitting broadside in a fast current! It is a matter of applying Murphy’s Law: you must observe the water-flow and its effect on the dredge. If it looks chancy, come up with another plan.

When a dredge is flipped over, you usually lose all of the items that float. If the river is swift, these things are usually quite some distance down river before you get back up on the bank and remove your dive gear. I will never forget the time we came up from a dive several years ago just in time to see the five-inch dredge that was operating just downriver from us was underwater and

hanging by just one pontoon. The guy was dredging when we started our dive, so we assumed he was still underwater, pinned by a rock, or perhaps knocked in the head by the dredge when it flipped over, or something. Because the owner of the dredge was nowhere to be seen!

However, it turned out that when the dredge flipped over, the dredger came to the surface and saw his other pontoon going downstream fast. He off-loaded his dive gear and swam through three separate sets of rapids trying to catch the pontoon. These were the very substantial rapids on our Mega Hole claim at K-15A! He never did catch up with the pontoon. He showed back up at the dredge about 45 minutes later, exhausted and demoralized. We already had dragged the remainder of his gear out of the river. Using my jet boat, several hours later, we located his pontoon about eight miles downriver in a back eddy. It only took him several days to get his dredge running again. He installed extra flotation to prevent further such incidents.

When a dredge is flipped over, after it is set right-side-up again, the water needs to be completely removed from inside the engine and hookah air compressor. We usually do about half a dozen oil changes, starting the engine for a few seconds each time, to remove more water. As long as the oil keeps turning milky, it is necessary to keep changing it.

It is not as hard on an engine if it is not running when it goes underwater! Sometimes it is necessary to remove the electrical components and blow them out with air or replace them altogether in order to get spark at the spark plug again.

The air compressor must have all water removed from inside, as well as the intake air filters and air lines. If the compressor was running when it was submerged, it will be necessary to pull out the reed valves and make them straight again or replace them.

And of course, if you were dredging gold, some or most of that will have been lost from your sluice box when it flipped over. So, you will have to decide whether it is worth going through your cobble and tailing piles to retrieve it. It usually is not worth the effort, because you can get more gold by just continuing forward on your pay-streak.

One important dredge modification worth doing is to secure the sluice box to the frame or deck of your dredge so it will not flap free in the current should the dredge become flipped over. This prevents the box from being damaged or lost altogether. It also makes it a heck of a lot easier to get the dredge flipped back over.

At the end of last season, one of our local commercial dredgers was trying to winch his dredge up through a particularly difficult section of rapids on our K-17 property along the Klamath River. He was trying to test a potentially-excellent hot spot that no one else had ventured into, yet. The spot looked great; many pounds of gold were recovered just upstream and just downstream. The spot is probably still loaded with gold!

He was moving the dredge alone, using a power winch anchored to the streambank some distance upstream. Just as he was almost around a large rock, the outside edge of his dredge took a dive and the dredge flipped over — just like that. This is the way it usually is in fast water; when something goes wrong, it happens quickly and decisively. Usually, there is little time to do anything effective about it.

connecting sluiceBesides all of the damage to a dredge, the loss of support gear, and the loss of production time, there is also a large amount of embarrassment which goes along with having a dredge floating upside down in the river!

Once we found out about his problem, we put the word out, and experienced New 49’er members from the area converged on the site to help our friend. It is no small task to right an eight-inch dredge in fast water! The images in this article were captured as we made it happen.
First, we had him winch the dredge around the rock and pull it into slower moving water. This did not help the equipment much, because his sluice box was dangling in the current and dragging along the river-bottom. His engine was also dragging the bottom. Not good!

We spanned the bottom of his pontoons with some beams, and then cranked his sluice box back up to his deck before trying to winch the dredge back over.

winchingThen, we had several divers go under the dredge and use chains and a come-along to lift the sluice box up and secure it to the deck. We used a boat to set up an electric winch on the far bank. We secured the two outside corners of the dredge to the bank on the close side of the river. We secured the winch cable to the opposite corners of the dredge and we winched the dredge over. What a mess the dredge was! Since it was late fall anyway, this pretty-much finished the dredger’s season. Miners are a hardy bunch; he returned the following year, better and smarter than ever!


The moral of the story is that a little prevention goes a long way. Another thing: we are dealing with the forces of nature. We use our observation and judgment. We take some chances and we are not always right. Murphy lives! And, when he wins a battle, it doesn’t mean he has to win the war. There is always another day and another opportunity.

Another thing: We are dealing with the forces of nature. We use our observation and judgment. We take some chances and we are not always right. Murphy lives! And, when he wins a battle, it does not mean he has to win the war. There is always another day and another opportunity!

Never quit!

 

 
 
 

By George Anderson

My adventure started the day I arrived in Happy Camp, California, a small town located on the Klamath River, and headquarters for The New 49’ers Prospecting Organization.

My first order of business was to join The New 49’ers, so I went to the headquarters, and after paying my membership dues and signing a few papers I was asked to go on a tour of the more than 50 miles of claims that I now had access to. It was that simple. The gentleman who took me on the tour was very knowledgeable about claim locations, boundaries, camping areas, club rules and regulations, and those stretches of the river that he felt would be good dredging for my size dredge. On the tour we stopped often as he would point out access points, newly-exposed bedrock from this past winter’s flood, and newly-deposited gravel bars that looked like good prospects.

After the tour I spent the rest of the day looking for what I felt would be the ideal place to dredge. To help me in my search I had been given an indexed list of each claim, which included a detailed description of the location, access, camping, maps, and information about the prospecting and dredging potential. This information proved to be invaluable in my assessment of the many different stretches of river and tributaries I was interested in dredging.

After a few hours of looking at, and reading about, the claims I had access to, I found a stretch of river that looked to me like an ideal place for placer gold to deposit. It was a submerged gravel bar located on the inside of a bend, just downriver from a high pressure area. There were large boulders half-buried, sticking out from the bank. I knew these boulders would make low pressure eddies behind them during high water. The high water during this last winter’s floods laid the trees at the river’s edge right down. 20 feet up the bank in this particular area I could picture that raging water running over these boulders, and hopefully carrying gold to be deposited in the low pressure areas behind them. This looked like a textbook location to find a good placer gold deposit.

So on the following day, after setting up camp I pulled my dredge to the river’s edge, put it together, put the rest of my gear on the pontoons, and suited up. Then I floated it across the river to a point just behind a large boulder that stuck out from the bank about 3 feet. This boulder was also dug into the bank about 3 feet and had saplings growing around it, which told me it had been there a few years.

I started dredging about 6 feet downstream of the boulder, moving forward and down as I dredged. When I got to the boulder I was beneath it. As I dredged the last foot of material from behind it I saw a beautiful nugget wedged between the boulder and another rock. I pulled the nozzle away, plucked the nugget from between the rocks and held it in front of my mask. It was the prettiest nugget I’ve ever seen, and later weighed in at 2.2 pennyweight. Underwater it looked like it weighed a half-ounce, which really added to my excitement!

After I regained my senses I placed the nugget on top of the boulder and kept dredging. After just a few more passes with the nozzle, and about a foot from the outer edge of the boulder I saw about 8 pieces of shale standing on end, spaced about 1 inch apart. I made another pass, and there in front of my eyes were four more nice nuggets! Now, by this time I was really getting excited, and thinking I’d hit the Mother Lode. I lay there staring at them until my breathing returned to normal. It was a sight I’ll never forget. So, after relishing in the moment, I plucked them from their hiding place and sat them

on top of the boulder, also. The largest of these weighed 1.6 pennyweight. That evening while panning out the material from the sluice box I recovered 5 matchhead-sized nuggets and a bunch of nice pickers. My first day of dredging had proved to be very rewarding–I’d recovered more than 6 pennyweight of gold from this one test hole! I was really looking forward to what tomorrow might bring.

The next morning I decided to drop back to see where the end of this paystreak started, so I moved the dredge downriver and punched another test hole. After a few hours I found just a few pickers, so I moved forward to just downstream of my first test hole and dredged into it. I made it longer and wider. I dredged behind, under and around the boulder and found one more nugget and quite a few pickers. Before I felt it was unsafe it undermine it much more, I decided to move upriver to the next boulder.

I punched a hole to bedrock, which was about 4 feet deep, behind this second boulder. I found a shale-like seam about a foot wide and rough, inset about 2 inches below the surrounding bedrock. I really started getting excited with anticipation, knowing this was another textbook location for gold to deposit. I hastily dredged a 4-foot-square area above the seam down to bedrock, leaving a few inches of material covering the seam, and after waiting a minute for my sluice box to clear I dredged the seam material out. You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered there wasn’t any gold in the seam. It’s my belief that someone beat me to this spot, due to the lack of any hard-packed material over the seam. I also saw an area to the inside of this seam, consisting of a cement-like material (caliche), where it appeared to me that some had used a pry bar to break it apart. I did pull a couple of nuggets and a few pickers from this hole, but not what I was hoping for.

The next day I dropped back to the end of the gravel bar where I had spotted 4 large boulders. By large I mean they were as big as a dresser and twice as wide. These boulders were wedged against each other in a horseshoe configuration and about half-buried. This looked to me like another good place for gold to deposit. As I started dredging I hit a semi-hard packed material just a couple of feet down, and could see small nuggets lying amongst the large rocks. Within an hour I found a beautiful 3/4-pennyweight nugget, just behind the first large boulder I came to. I dredged here for the next few days, going around this horseshoe configuration of boulders, from about 4 feet out to under and in-between them, recovering a lot of gold. I would check my sluice box every couple of hours, gold pan and tweezers in hand, and was always rewarded with five or six pickers for my effort. All in all I recovered 19-7 pennyweight from the six test holes I dredged.

In conclusion I feel this particular gravel bar has good gold throughout, but that the paystreak runs 2-4 feet deep. I didn’t have time to see how far out in the gut the paystreak ran. I’ll have to determine that the next time, but I do know it looks pretty rich along the bank to 10 feet out, as all my test holes had a good showing, except for maybe the fourth one I punched on the seam towards the front of the gravel bar.

I had a great time dredging in the Klamath River country. And, I plan on returning very soon. I want to thank the people at The New 49’ers for this opportunity, and their help. I met some really nice people there, while dredging, especially Jerry H., a true prospector and friend who makes the best hobo coffee in the world. Good luck to you all. Hope to see you real soon!

 

As most of you have probably heard by now, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 670 into law which has placed a statewide moratorium on suction dredging in California until the Department of Fish & Game (DFG) completes an updated Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This EIR process has already begun. Under the present schedule, public hearings will begin in November of this year. DFG is now projecting to complete the process by the fall of 2011. If they remain on schedule (unlikely, in my own opinion), this means we will miss two dredging seasons in California.

Just in case you didn’t know, this new law only stops suction dredging within California’s active waterways. It does not have anything to do with the other types of prospecting or mining that we do in California. Unaffected prospecting activities include panning, sniping & Vack-mining, sluicing & high-banking, booming, electronic prospecting and other types of prospecting that do not use a suction nozzle within an active stream, river or creek. It also does not affect our group weekend projects.

We are Immediately Implementing a 3-Pronged Solution for California Suction Dredgers

As we are not very good at sitting around complaining, here is what we are doing:

1) Participation in the Administrative Process: The EIR on suction dredging in California must be completed through a CEQA Process (California Environmental Quality Act); which, based upon best available science, requires the authorities to identify any important concerns. Then, those concerns must be addressed through implementation of regulations which are least-restrictive upon people and economic activity. This is not new to us, since we actively participated in the earlier EIR which was completed during 1994.

We have already lined up specialist-biologists on our team who are ready to participate as the process moves forward. Our lobbyists are already busy soliciting assistance from the friends we have in the California legislature. Hopefully, some of their aids will also participate in the process, helping us to keep things on a “fair and balanced” approach and moving along towards completion as soon as possible. Our attorneys are continuing to pursue remedies in the Alameda Superior Court to help move the process along.

We will be actively involved with the Administrative process, pushing it towards completion while fighting to prevent unreasonable solutions (regulations) from being imposed upon our industry. Ultimately, if we do not overcome the new law (outlined in solution number 2 just below), completing the Administrative process is going to get dredgers back in the California waterways. We are right on top of this.

2) Challenging the New Law in Federal Court: In anticipation of the possibility that SB 670 might be signed into law, several months ago, we asked our attorneys to perform legal research to prepare ourselves for a challenge in federal court to overturn the new law. This new law is clearly flawed, and there is a reasonable chance that we can overcome it.

As always with legal matters, I have to try and present you with enough details to keep you informed, but not so much that we tip off our adversaries (who read every word published on every Internet forum having to do with mining).

To help with an explanation, here is a summary which our lead attorney has provided.

Even the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) is taking the position that the Mining Law, Organic Act and their own Section 228 regulations pre-empt the new California law. My sources are telling me that USFS will not enforce the new law and will continue to allow suction dredging on USFS lands. California may try to enforce it, but the USFS will not and will not accompany California officials in the field. My understanding is that USFS is taking the position that the U.S. Supreme Court case known as €œGranite Rock directs only reasonable state environmental laws “of general applicability”€ can apply to operations authorized by the Mining Law. It says that state or local regulations or laws “€œcannot say no”€ to mining activities on federal public or National Forest land that comply with the Section 3809 or Section 228 regulations, respectively. The Granite Rock case originated in California.

Under existing federal law, mining is the priority-use of the public lands. Regulations can only be imposed to lessen unnecessary impacts. Regulation cannot be used to prohibit mining. There is a lot of existing, controlling case law on this. Yet, without any proof that a single fish has ever been harmed by suction dredging in California under our existing suction dredge regulations, even while they continue to issue fish-kill licenses to millions of others, the State just passed a new law which declared suction dredging as “harmful,” and prohibits suction dredge mining until such time as the activity can be further studied with new regulations imposed upon our industry.

Our federal challenge will be to try and prove that a state does not have the authority to prohibit or impose unreasonable regulations upon mining on the public lands. The outcome of this challenge will most likely have an important impact upon mining in all of the states. So we must be very careful about what we do. If we win such a challenge, it is reasonable to expect all states to back off on all the unreasonable regulation of mining activity within their borders. Winning would solve a lot of problems for miners!

If we lose such a challenge, we can expect the states to step in with even more unreasonable regulations upon mining.

This leads me to the subject of how we will pay for a challenge of this new law in federal court. We need to have some certainty that there are enough supporters on our side who will help New 49’€™ers cover the costs. This, so we do no€™t make the fatal mistake of starting a fight that we cannot finish!

Most of the industry manufacturers (and others) are supportive of a federal challenge. So we have been able to pull together a very substantial list of prizes for this new fund-raiser.

The donors of these prizes have authorized our office to automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets, etc). There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win. The drawing will take place at our headquarters in Happy Camp on 9 March, 2012.

Legal contributions can be arranged by calling (530) 493-2012, by mailing to The New 49’€™er Legal Fund, P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039, or by clicking here:

Make a donation

Asking the €”federal supremacy”€ question in federal court will most certainly affect the future of all small-scale mining (and probably even large-scale mining) in America for the foreseeable future. In my view, the responsibility is too large to place on a single attorney who is being managed by just one or two people from the whole industry. It would wise to get more organizations and more specialists involved with this. With your support, we are ready to play. Our attorneys are as good as you can find! We would like to see other organizations also actively participate.

This fund-raiser is going to be the decision-maker concerning New 49’€™er active involvement in a legal challenge in federal court to California’€™s new anti-dredging law. We will make the decision based upon how much initial financial support that we receive from you guys.

Thanks for whatever you can do!

3) Working out Suction Dredge Opportunities in Oregon: Oregon’s annual suction dredge permit presently costs $25 per year for both residents and non-residents.

We have struck high-grade gold on our dredge sampling project along the Rogue River. You will be hearing much more from us during the next few months about how we intend to support our members who wish to operate your dredges in Oregon.

Meanwhile, as you know, we continue to have the best high-banking opportunities (anywhere) along the Klamath River in Northern California for members who prefer prospecting for gold above the water.

 


By Marc Rogers

Chuck and Chris Carfrae have a rich and varied background in gold prospecting and treasure hunting. Their interest began in 1974 when they took a vacation up through the Mother Lode area of California. While there, they decided to try their hand at gold panning.

They didn’t have much luck until they saw a sign offering panning lessons for $2. Their teacher was an old miner who “didn’t hesitate to tell you if you weren’t doing it right,’ and after taking the lessons they fared much better. They finished up that vacation with a week spent on the Feather River where they found 1/4 ounce of gold, panning! They decided that if they could do that well panning, they should get some equipment, so Chris bought Chuck a 2 1/2-inch dredge for Christmas.

The following season they found almost an ounce with Chuck’s little dredge, so Chuck bought Chris a 3-inch dredge with air the next Christmas. They bought a motorhome so they could be comfortable while they dredged, and at home they joined a local club, the PCSC (Prospector’s Club of Southern California), and have continued to be active in the club for many years. Through club outings they gained knowledge and interest in metal detecting and drywashing, bought equipment to participate, and by this time were planning all their vacations around dredging. They spent a number of years visiting different areas of the Mother Lode, eventually dredging every major river from the Merced to the Yuba.

One year they wanted to do something different, so they flew back to Georgia on vacation, taking their smallest dredge, and rented a car. They went first to the Dahlonega area where they spent time dredging and finding gold, and visiting local mines and miners. Then they moved on to Franklin, North Carolina, and other nearby areas, where they dug in the gem fields.

They then visited nearby relatives who told them of a Civil War battlefield where they thought they might detect. After receiving permission from the owner, they recovered numerous minie balls, one of which was unusual. They found that it was a special one shot intermittently to clean the gun. They then moved on to Norfolk, Virginia, where they detected some of the old canals, and made several good finds, the best find being a very old ruby ring which Chris found.

The next year they decided to try detecting in Hawaii. They found most people detected in the mornings. Since there were a lot of nighttime shows on the beach, and all the lights from the hotels provided plenty of light, they did their detecting about 11 p.m., after seeing one of the shows. They had very good luck, and came home with a nice bunch of jewelry and coins.

Both Chuck and Chris have a very mischievous twinkle to the eye, and you know that whatever they do, it will be interesting. So when you hear about the unusual finds they’ve made while dredging, it doesn’t surprise you too much. Most people consider themselves lucky if they find one good cache in their lifetime. Chuck and Chris have found two, and they weren’t even looking for them. They found them dredging and panning!

The first was on some property they own in the Mother Lode area, which has a small creek. They were vacationing and panning in and around some rocks, since there was not enough water to dredge. The material was very hardpacked, and Chuck was having a hard time breaking it loose. He finally got a pan full, and was swirling it around as he worked at loosening it all up when he found a hard rectangular object in the pan. After cleaning it up they could see that it was a hard leather case.

Taking a screwdriver, Chuck worked the case open to find it was full of dirt. He was using the screwdriver to scoop the dirt out when a coin popped into view! They hurriedly got another pan and carefully scooped the contents of the case into it, then carefully panned off the dirt. What they were left with was 19 coins and two gold nuggets. The nuggets were 3 dwt. and 2 dwt. in size; the coins consisted of 3 silver dollars, one $5 gold piece, and 14 half dollars. All were from before the turn of the century. They later learned that the case was an 1870 Spencer rifle bullet case.

When they found this cache, Chuck and Chris didn’t even know what the gold coin was. They thought perhaps it was a token of some kind. They took it to a coin shop in a nearby town, and asked if they could identify it. The store owner told Chuck it was “just an old coin,” and he would give him $25 for it. Chuck almost took it, but finally decided to keep the coin. He later found that the gold coin was worth $350.

The second cache was found on the Klamath River, on New 49’er claims. They had just joined The New 49’ers, and came up to spend a vacation dredging club claims on the Klamath River. Chris was dredging in a shallow spot that bordered an area that had already been dredged by someone else. While she was working a large rock fell on her leg. A trip to the local doctor showed nothing broken, but the doctor told her to stay off the leg for a few days.

At the end of that time Chuck thought Chris should dredge first so she wouldn’t build up a fear after being hurt. While she dredged, Chuck sat on a rock nearby, panning concentrates left from the day Chris hurt her leg. Just as he was picking out the nice pieces of gold to put in the bottle, the pan tipped, and all the gold fell back into the water. The bedrock was clean and smooth there, so he had Chris stop dredging and he maneuvered the dredge so he could pick the gold back up with the nozzle.

When he started picking up the gold it didn’t all come. Some of it had fallen into a crevice, and was scattered along the bottom of it. He worked the crevice as far as he could, but it went under a large boulder. He felt around underneath as far as he could, and it felt like smooth bedrock but, thinking that some of it could still be in the crevice underneath, he got the pry bar and worked until he moved the boulder over. When he went back down, he could see there was some hardpacked streambed there. It was packed so hard, in fact, that the nozzle couldn’t even budge it! He used the bar to loosen it up, and then worked the nozzle in a back and forth motion to try to clean the area down to the crevice. All of a sudden he saw something shiny and large. He laid the nozzle down and waited for the water to clear. Chuck says, “All I could see was a pile of shiny coins.”

At this point he stopped dredging and worked with the pry bar until he’d completely moved the large boulder out of the way. Then he began working the material very carefully. At one point he came across a piece of wood, so he carefully removed all the material around it, but as soon as he touched it, it disintegrated in his hand, turning the water almost purple.

When he finished cleaning out the spot he had a hole about 3 feet in diameter, and 12 to 18 inches deep. Their cache consisted of 35 silver dollars and 3-five dollar gold coins! They have them in safekeeping with their other finds. They decided they didn’t want to even clean them. The newest of the coins was a 1927 silver dollar. The boulder that covered the cache was about the size of an office desk, so they think the cache was lost possibly in a flood, and the boulder came to rest on it some time later. Last year Chuck and Chris went to Alaska and carried their dredge on the truck for 72 days before they found a place they could dredge. They report that there were a lot of places where you could pan, but not many where you could dredge. As always, however, they enjoyed their trip.

They finished their vacation in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, at the World Goldpanning Championships, where Chuck and Chris entered the competition. Chris was the only American woman entered, and she won the beginner’s competition!

They spent an entire week there, joining in parties every evening with German, English, French, Swedish, and other competitors, and in making friends from all 17 countries represented. Chris says “We didn’t even have trouble communicating with the people who spoke no English. We enjoyed visiting with all of them! We traded pins and sweatshirts, and had a great time. We were even loaned Klondike pans from the group from Great Britain, to use in the competition.”

Whatever else they do next summer, you can bet that there will be a lot of fun involved. Chuck and Chris are great people to be around. They are eager to pitch in and help anyone with almost anything. One thing for sure, if there are any organized activities going on, and Chuck and Chris are around, they will be in the forefront of the activity. Speaking for both of them, Chuck has said it this way: “The most fun is being directly involved; to be helping the people who are getting things accomplished.”

This article was first published in Gold & Treasure Hunter magazine.

 

By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack

 

Rogue RiverGold

Opening

Note: Oregon Now Has Placed a Moratorium on Motorized Prospecting!

We decided quite some time ago that as long as things are running smoothly in Happy Camp, our field staff (Richard Krimm, Ray Koons and others) would be overseeing activity this season along our mining properties on the Klamath River, while Craig Colt and I provide help and encouragement to members who want to dredge for gold along the Rogue River in Southern Oregon.

We have maps and an Access Guide on line for all members who wish to suction dredge along the Rogue River. Members are also invited to contact our office for more information.

We struck high-grade gold during a dredge sampling project along the Rogue River last fall. So we have been planning to support our members who wish to operate your dredges over there however long the dredging moratorium remains in affect in California (at least though the present season).

One of the best ways I know of to encourage our members is to take a dredge out on the river and start sampling for high-grade gold deposits. Since most gold follows along a common, narrow path in the river, once high-grade is established in one place, we can begin lining other members up to get a piece of it. Then, as other members start finding acceptable levels of gold (or better), everyone becomes encouraged.

When Craig and I started, there were already several members dredging in the section of river that we had targeted downstream of the Gold Ray dam. Some of them were already dredging some high-grade gold, amazingly on both sides of the river and also out in the middle. This made things a lot easier for Craig and I. Usually we are the ones who have to go out and make the first strike!

Using my jet boat to gain access to the far side of the river, Craig and I initially launched a 4-inch dredge about 100 feet downstream of where one member (Tom) was already dredging about a quarter-ounce of gold per day. Whenever possible, we try and learn as much as possible from someone who is already into high-grade gold. The information tells us exactly what we should be looking for in our own sampling. Tom was getting some nice nuggets off the bedrock, under about a foot of an orange-colored hard-packed streambed which also contained lots of fine gold. Easy dredging!

Here is a video sequence that was taken while Craig and I were talking to the guys dredging just up in front of us:

The problem was that the river was running faster down below Tom. With Craig holding the 4-inch dredge out into the river for me, it was everything I could do to hold a position out in the river to dredge a sample. The water was only a few feet deep, so it was not dangerous. It was just hard to hold a position against the fast flow. There were several hundred feet of very fast water here; and I was betting that because other sections of the river are so much easier to work, nobody had ever dredged this area before.

Craig ColtIt turned out that I was right about that. I found the orange-colored hard-pack as soon as I started dredging material into the 4-inch nozzle. I reached bedrock within just a short time. The material was less than a foot deep. Easy!

Slowing down on the bedrock to have a more careful look, I started spotting occasional flakes of gold right away. It is always so uplifting when you start seeing gold while dredging. If you are seeing the gold, it means you are on the common gold path. Individual pieces can be followed into pockets of gold when the bedrock is right. Tom told us he had uncovered multiple pockets of beautiful nuggets just the day before.

I didn’t see any pockets of gold while spending about an hour getting a sizable section of the bedrock uncovered. But I did see sporadic flakes of gold along the bedrock surface. It really cuts into how much you can accomplish if you slow down too much to look for the gold. So once I established that there was gold present, but not in pockets, I mainly focused on getting as much volume sucked up as possible so I could complete a good sample.

When we looked into the sluice box afterwards, we were amazed to see that it was laced thick with thousands and thousands of small flakes of gold. We were into high-grade gold on the first try; unbelievable! Since there was so much more gold in the sluice than what I saw underwater, it was clear that most of the gold is concentrated inside of the orange layer of hard-packed streambed. This was good; because it means that the gold deposit is not depending upon bedrock conditions. I have found many times in the past that concentrations of fine gold in a pay-layer tend to be very consistent.

The following video segment captured all the excitement we

Sample gold in panwere experiencing when we performed the first clean-up on the dredge:

Our next step was to assemble and float my 5-inch dredge to the location. In anticipation of the potential new DEQ regulations, Craig had already welded a 4-inch ring onto the nozzle. Once we moved the larger dredge onto the far side of the river, we decided to drop further back on this pay-streak and see if we could pick up the same paying orange layer. The water was just as fast back there, so Craig was mainly supporting my samples by holding the dredge out into the current. This was so I could dredge further out in the river. We found the paying layer as we dropped further back two more times on the pay-streak. Wow!

Craig and I were really excited! Here follows a video sequence Craig filmed with my explanation about how we were figuring things out:

Here is a look at the 5-inch dredge operating on the river as we were doing the sampling. The water in the video doesn’t look nearly as fast as it felt when we were doing the work!

Since we were spreading the news to other members about what we were finding, those with boats began moving their own dredges over and setting up in the slower water well up in front of us, but in line on the river with where we were finding our gold. Those guys also immediately started finding the shallow layer of orange-pack with fine gold. They also started picking up pockets of nuggets in the bedrock. The nuggets are getting bigger as members establish the paying line further upstream. One member was picking up pennyweight-sized nuggets when I talked to him a few days ago.

Here follows some of Danny’s explanations of how things are going on the river:

This is all directly in line with where we established high-grade gold last fall, perhaps 500 yards further upstream. This is a very large river, and there is a lot of room!

Craig and I have since set up our two dredges side-by-side and are working the deposit in a friendly competitive fashion, seeing who can get the most gold. I recovered an ounce of fine-sized flakes the other day in less than three hours of running. Back during my younger years, I might not have been so enthusiastic about recovering an ounce of gold. But at today’s value, an ounce per day is something to get excited about!

Here is a video sequence we filmed just as we completed the clean-up on my 5-incher several days ago:

Gold clean-upOther members have established a completely separate line of gold on the access-side of the river, and another line out in the middle of the river. I gather the reason there is more than one gold line is that there are multiple sources of gold entering the river just upstream. One of our members working the access-side of the river showed me a bottle of beautiful nuggets which even has me rethinking the plans for where I will operate my 5-inch dredge!

One member (Danny) who is doing really well with his 4-inch dredge up in front of where Craig and I have been dredging says that his dad is doing even better than he is just using a 3-inch high-banker. His dad is mining about 3 miles downriver from where we are, using the suction nozzle to suck up material from the bottom near the river’s edge. He is getting nice nuggets, too. Here is what Danny had to say:

I have been too busy over the past week trying to establish and confirm high-grade to drive around to all the river access points and see how other members are doing along the Rogue River. I hope to have a report for you guys in next month’s newsletter about that.

What I can tell you at this point is that there is definitely high-grade gold to be had by dredging on the Rogue River. I can tell you that so far, everything we have seen involves shallow streambed material to the pay-layer, and that it is pretty easy going. We have quite a few happy members over there.

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