By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack

 

 

It’s always a great feeling for me to watch one high-grade gold discovery evolve into another exciting discovery through just a little more sampling further upstream. This substantiates our long-established theory that most high-grade gold deposits follow a common path down along the bottom of a gold-bearing waterway. More often than not, further sampling along the same path upstream or downstream from an already established high-grade pay-streak in the river will turn up additional rewarding gold deposits, sometimes even richer than the first!

And that’s what happened in this case. The first high-grade pay-streak that we located was directly at the top-end of the (very) extensive gravel bar near the top-end of K-15A (Mega-hole claim). You can read about how we made that fantastic discovery during a surface mining (high-banking) project in our July newsletter.

The thing that made this event so interesting is that it was the first time that we ever tracked the Klamath River’s gold path from a high-grade deposit up on a gravel bar to high-grade gold out in the active river; very exciting indeed! No doubt, this will have us taking a fresh look at other sections of the river this next season!

It was early during this past season, and Haze and Andi Williams had already consented to capture the video and photography for all of the week-long mining projects for the summer. They were also looking for a good place to put their new 5-inch dredge while they were in the process of filming the surface mining project in late June. So when Craig Colt made the high-grade gold discovery at the top-end of the gravel bar on K-15A, we all did the natural thing; we looked just upstream in anticipation of what might be a continuation of the pay-streak. Haze and Andi moved their dredge into location just upstream only a few hours after Craig made that discovery. This turned out to be a really smart move! Not surprisingly, they found the very same type of gold (course and nuggety) in the very same type of streambed material (ancient, compacted, dark-colored) at about the same depth below the surface.

It only took a few dredge samples before Haze and Andi were in high-grade gold just upstream from the gravel bar where Craig had made the original discovery. They were into it pretty good just before we started this dredging project. The nice thing about this deposit was that it was located in shallow, slow-moving water, not far from the edge of the river. This was a very safe place for beginners to dredge. Since they were going to be involved with this dredging project anyway, Haze and Andi suggested that we start the project in the gold deposit they had just located. This sounded good to me. It’s always good to begin a week-long project in a place where we can start some of the dredges working in an established gold deposit!

There were 24 of us involved with this dredging project, including myself. The first thing we did was gain permission from a landowner living across the road from Highway 96 (a New 49′er member) who possesses an access road which would allow our group to gain an easy perch at the top-end of K-15A, near to where Andi and Haze had been dredging their gold. An access road was going to save our crew from making a pretty fair hike in and out of the site every day. That was good!

The first thing we do is set up a camping area where we can have our planning sessions each morning.

The first day on these projects is usually focused upon setting up a group camping area and launching all of our dredging gear into the river and setting it up. There is a wonderful, shaded camping area on K-15A. Once we were all set up there, all I had to do was make a comment that the access road needed a little work before we could launch our dredges. By the time I got over there, the work had already been completed and we had easy access to the river, along with a nice place to stage the beginning of our program. It was great! This crew was so geared up to go, I quickly realized that it was time to assign some team leaders and let them get to work!

Andi and Haze offered us the use of their dredge, so we added an additional airline to allow a second person underwater. This team was so motivated, that we had a team already working in gold before lunch on the first day! As Haze and Andi were tied up capturing video and photography, others completely took their dredge over for the whole week and they didn’t seem to mind. They were showing off nice gold on that dredge just within the first few hours. That got the whole team pretty excited!

The team got right to work on Haze & Andi’s dredge!

The rest of our team stayed busy on the first afternoon launching a 4-inch dredge, two 5-inch dredges and a 6-inch dredge. Craig Colt had just finished devoting 3+ months into building the best 8-inch dredge ever made for the Klamath River. But we wanted to establish a good gold deposit where we could use it, before launching that beast into the river!

We placed the 4-inch dredge in shallow water just off the little perch that we had made, a perfect place where we could show beginners how to do the underwater work. This location was about 150 feet directly upstream from where Andi and Haze had been dredging some very nice gold, so the prospects were pretty good that our beginners would also find something good on the bottom.

During the first several days on these projects, we are more concerned with just helping beginners to overcome the underwater environment in a location where the water is slow and shallow enough so that there is very little danger of having any accidental traumatic encounters. It’s not uncommon for some participants to arrive who have some fear of the water, perhaps from an earlier near-drowning event. We have found that the key in helping someone to overcome these fears (if they want to try), is through a progression of easy steps, starting with something which nearly anyone can do.

The following video sequence captures how we follow a step-by-step process to help beginners become a productive part of the underwater mining crew:

This was a very easy location where beginners could learn!

The place where we set up the 4-inch dredge on this project was about the easiest I have ever seen. There was a shallow, even bottom in clear water where beginners were able to get used to crawling around along the bottom of the river in a safe place. It wasn’t long before all of our beginners were down helping in the dredge hole!

By the end of our second day, all of our beginners had eagerly progressed through their early steps and were contributing to forward progress in the water.

All of our beginners were initially assigned to the 4-inch dredge on this project. The rest of the crew was teamed up on the other dredges. One dredge was used to put down a sample hole about half way between the 4-inch dredge and Haze’s dredge. With good luck going our way, that dredge touched right down on beautiful gold within the first few hours.

Another dredge was sent several hundred feet upstream from the 4-inch dredge to do another test hole. But it could not find any hard-pack streambed up there. After several

tries, we decided that the river dynamics in that area did notallow hard-pack to form during previous major flood storms. Ultimately, that dredge was drifted down to work side-by-side with another dredge in the pay-streak.

The 6-inch dredge was drifted across the river to dredge some samples on the other side. This, because some members had reported several years ago that they were finding nice gold over there mixed with pieces of metal from some kind of old Chinese camp. This all took place at the top end of K-15A. But we were not able to find hard-pack streambed on the far side of the river, and did not want to invest very much time over there since we were doing so well on the road-side. One hard effort was made to dredge a sample in the middle of the river, but we gave up when the loose streambed material reached around 6 feet deep.

Meanwhile, our hard-charging beginner-team on the 4-inch dredge had managed to establish a pretty high-grade portion of the pay-streak in about 4 feet of hard-pack streambed, just behind a major change in bedrock. This turned out to be the reason for the pay-streak in the first place. There was a 4-foot bedrock drop-off; behind which, was filled with a hard-packed assortment of boulders and ancient hard-packed material. Here, beautiful golden nuggets were found along the bedrock. Once again, the beginner-team had walked right into the richest part of the pay-streak! With lots of excitement, the guys and gals on that crew worked out a continuous round of shifts, only shutting down the dredge long enough to put more fuel in the tank.

Here follows a video segment of a 4-inch clean-up that Haze captured during one of the first few days. It’s not surprising that the beginners learned how to dredge so quickly!

The beginner-dredge was bringing up nuggets on nearly every dive!

There was plenty of hooping and hollering going on about the beautiful nuggets being found on the 4-inch dredge. The nicest gold from the week was found by people who had never even operated a dredge before!

When some of the boulders were too large to move by hand, as a team effort, we moved in winching gear and attempted to pull them out of the way. Several of the huge rocks proved to be even too large for our winch, so they still remain in place, probably sitting on top of the best gold nuggets!

By mid-week, we had strategically positioned five dredges on top of the pay-streak and evolved ourselves into production operation. Here follows a video sequence of the productive activity once our team really got dialed in:

A sixth dredge was floated further down K-15A to sample for more high-grade gold deposits. My trusty helper, Craig Colt and I supervised this sampling, because most of it was done in either deep or very fast water.

All in all, we completed 5 good sample holes in several hundred yards of river. Each of the holes were put down to bedrock in ancient, original Klamath River streambed (never been mined before).

Because Andi and Haze had donated a pay-streak to this project that was easy to work in a location where there was near-zero risk that anybody could be hurt (slow, shallow water), we were in a unique position where Craig and I could run off with the most experienced participants and do some serious sampling. So we took the opportunity to place several sample holes down in a part of upper K-15A that we didn’t (until then) know anything about. The risk in this type of sampling is that we might not find much gold. Since we already had 5 dredges producing in gold, our group unanimously agreed that the risk was worthwhile just to see what we might find in that virgin section of the river.

Dredging sample holes in deep or fast water areas that you know nothing about is a very challenging activity; definitely not for the light-hearted! The main challenge is that you usually don’t know how deep the streambed is going to go before you reach bedrock. This leaves you with all kinds of uncertainties along the bottom of the river. The best thing to do is just pour on the steam the best you can. And it’s always a great feeling when you do reach the bottom! The whole program feeds on a never-ending stream of hope. Here follows a video segment captured as our sampling program was happening out on the water:

We were severely challenged by one section of very fast water which we believed, because of the difficulty, nobody had ever sampled before. The following video sequence captured some of the team spirit and fun involved in our sampling effort. Keep in mind that this is all the real thing. There is no play acting here. There is just a video camera that happens to be present while we were doing the work:

There was gold in each of the holes, but not the high-grade we are looking for. That’s just that way it goes in sampling; every stretch of river does not give up high-grade on our first pass through the area. Still, we did establish to our own satisfaction that most of this portion of the Klamath River remains void of any previous mining activity. This is a very good thing! The gold is there. It will just take some time to find it!!

  

Since K-15A is so close to Happy Camp, I was going home every night. Andi and Haze were also returning to Happy Camp. So they were able to capture amazing video footage of a forest fire that had just started up from a massive thunder storm during the dredging project. The fire was so severe, for several days, there was talk of evacuating the whole town!

We were fortunate to have Otto Gaither back this season as our shore boss. Otto adds a wonderful human touch to these projects. While Craig and I are more focused on the production-side of things, Otto is more concerned with making sure that people are eating right. Otto also started managing the beginner-dredge on this project, and the beginner-dredge has been breaking production records ever since. Everybody was raving about the meals at Otto’s camp during the mornings and evenings.

There is always a magic cultural chemistry which comes together in these projects, each one distinctly different from the rest – always with Otto at the center. And this project was no different. Towards the last day, when we realized that, as hard as our advanced team had worked in our extreme sampling efforts to locate some exciting, new high-grade, it was going to be the hard work of our main crew under Otto’s leadership, in a gold deposit that had been freely contributed by Haze and Andi, that was going to carry our week. And everybody was alright with that.

We pulled all of our gear off the river on the final day and performed a full clean-up of the week’s gold production. Everyone participates in every step of this process. Several other participants moved their personal dredges into the pay-streak to continue working it. Andi and Haze continued to work the same pay-streak throughout the remainder of the season, and did good until the cold weather chased them out. That was a great deposit!

  

All in all, we recovered 95.5 pennyweights of beautiful gold on this project, of which 56.3 pennyweights (more than half) consisted of nuggets. This allowed for just under a ¼-ounce share for each participant in the project.

 

 

By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack

 

   

Quite often in gold mining, your best-laid plans fall completely apart as soon as you get started. This happens to me on a regular basis. In late August, we had a firm plan to do a week-long dredging project on our Lower Seiad Claim (K-14). I know of a place there that should deliver up a substantial high-grade gold deposit. But the day before we were to start, a large truck drove off the highway and spilled some kind of oil into the Klamath River. Not wanting to take any chances of exposing our team to the possibility of hazardous material, we decided at the last minute that we needed to do our dredging project upstream from the oil spill. So we went up to UK-3. Through just several hours of sampling, we got right into a rich pay-streak up there. Everything turned out alright in the end. I suppose the lesson in this is that in prospecting, you just have to adjust yourself to setbacks when they happen and keep on moving forward.

Then, since we had not finished up the rich deposit that we found on UK-3 in August, we were planning to go back in there on our September group dredging project and pick up right where we left off. It is a lot of stress off my shoulders to begin a dredging project in an already-established pay-streak. This allows me to put more of my personal focus on working with the project participants. Out of the 15 people associated with the September project, 9 of them had never even breathed off a hookah-air system before. Wow; that is a lot of beginners to get grooved into an underwater program all at once! So already having an established high-grade gold deposit in place meant that we would not have to sample. This was good!

As these group projects only last a week, and the first and last days are mostly devoted to orientation, moving gear on and off the river and final gold clean-up, there really are only 5 production days to make the gold add up. Making the gold add up is important to the last day when it is time to split it off amongst all the participants. I know this better than anyone, because I am the one that weighs and splits each share. The bigger the share, the better it feels when you get it! So every day matters to the final outcome!

It is also true that a beginner who is worried about drowning in the river does not care very much at that moment about how much gold is being recovered. That person just wants to stay alive!

I devote a lot of the season helping beginners through the early stages of underwater mining. So I have an intimate understanding of the different feelings and motivations.

First of all, I just want to say that everyone has a primal fear of drowning. It’s really a matter of how energized that fear is at the moment. I’m a strong swimmer and spend a lot of my time around the water. So I am reasonably comfortable under normal (for me) circumstances. But when I tried surfing several years ago in Maui, and found myself tumbling head-over-heals along the underside of a big wave, I immediately tuned into a panicked madman fighting for my own life. It didn’t feel like I was going to live through it! After that, I was afraid every time I tried to catch a wave. Numerous times when I really had the opportunity to catch a great wave, I chickened-out and decided not to go for it. I never did learn to surf very well. I’m afraid! So it is easy for me to identify with the fear that others experience around the water. That fear is very serious stuff!

Many beginning participants on these group dredging projects arrive with a healthy fear of the water. Some have had earlier traumatic experiences. Some were born with fear of the water. Some just have a healthy respect. With 9 beginners in this project, I knew that a lot of my personal focus would need to be devoted to helping them get through the beginning steps of dredging.

Just for the record, these group mining projects are not a school or a class. They are joint mining ventures where all participants work together as a team to locate high-grade gold deposits and recover as much gold as we can out of them by the end of the week. Those that are not able to contribute to the underwater work are utilized in other activities on the surface to help with forward momentum. Those that do not know how to do the underwater activity, but who wish to contribute there, are helped through the beginning stages so they can become more productive to the group venture. Everyone (including me) learns something on every mining project. I’m sure that is true of any type of activity where a person is personally challenged. As the project manager, without compromising safety, my personal job is to get as much productive activity as I possibly can out of each member of the team. More productive activity channeled in the right direction will produce more gold by the end of the week. This makes everyone happy with the final result.

Showing someone how to get comfortably underwater during the first few days of a dredging project means that we will have yet another person helping us to recover high-grade gold later in the week. Therefore, my plan on this project was to direct our 5 more-experienced participants to get started in the established pay-streak right away, while I invested my time working with the beginners. This way, we would be accumulating gold from the very beginning. That is always a great way to start!

And here is just one more example (of many) of how a great mining plan fell apart even before we got started: We arrived on UK-3 on Saturday afternoon, only to discover that the Iron Gate Dam had increased its water release that very same morning, causing the river to rise about 18 inches in the section of river where we had intended to dredge. This made the water flow there too fast for us to dredge! So much for that plan!

One thing I have learned is that dwelling on problems or failures does nothing to increase the size of gold shares at the end of a project. So after allowing myself just a brief moment of personal disappointment in the realization that we would need to find another high-grade gold deposit with just 5 people, our newly-formed team did a complete survey of the UK claims in search of a new place to begin a sampling program.

The river was running higher and faster. So our options were actually reduced to just several locations. Each of these looked pretty good. As a group, we always allow some time to discuss each option. There is often some debate on these matters, but I must ultimately make the final decision. This time, we decided to go down to the upper part of UK-2. Mainly, this was because we had left some high-grade gold behind there during an earlier dredging project (last season). In addition, longtime supportive member, Lee Kracher, happened by at just the right moment and told us that his son had been pulling a lot of gold out of the river not far downstream from where we had already mined some high-grade along the upper portion of UK-2. I assumed this was probably an extension of the very same deposit we had been mining the year before. As Lee said his son was pulling out gold through the last day of his vacation, this area seemed pretty-much like a sure thing for our project.

I always go for the most sure thing I can find when results really matter! Our new plan required us to work until dark on the first day to get all of our dredging gear moved to our new project site.

Luckily, Craig Colt and Jason Inks were along to give us a hand on this project. Both have extensive experience in serious dredging and team management. We split up our experienced participants into two teams on the morning of the second day; with Craig’s team operating the 8-inch dredge, and Jason’s team operating the 6-inch dredge.

   

Because every day counts, we set realistic targets every morning. These are the things that we must accomplish to ultimately achieve our objective (plenty of gold) by the end of the week. Craig’s and Jason’s targets on Sunday were to both get their teams established in the pay-streak before the end of the day. We positioned their dredges downstream of where we had been dredging high-grade last season and they didn’t waste any time getting started.

Then we set up a 5-inch dredge just off a shallow sand beach where I could work with the beginners. I always begin with those who seem like they will get through the initial steps quickly. Those persons are then directed to operate the 5-inch dredge as part of the ongoing sampling program, while I work with the participants who will require more time along the edge of the river. As soon as they demonstrate that they are up to it, some beginners graduate off to help on one of the other dredges where they can be more productive. By more productive, I mean that a good sampling program requires that we do sample holes out into the deeper, more challenging parts of the river. Sometimes, this is where the richest gold deposits are found. Sampling for high-grade is a lot like playing hide-and-seek. You have to be prepared to go anywhere the deposits might be located.

Starting into the third day, both of our serious dredges were pushing out further towards the middle of the river. While they were finding some gold and small nuggets in closer to the bank, we believed the gold was going to get better as we moved further out. It did, but it still was not as good as we wanted. So we decided to move the 6-inch dredge further upstream, closer to the area where we were mining rich gold the season before. By trial and error, we just kept up the process of doing small dredge samples here and there and checking the results to trace the gold into the richer portion of the pay-streak. The following video was captured just as Jason’s team was starting to uncover what we were looking for:

Shortly thereafter, Jason’s team started expressing the excitement of seeing gold while uncovering bedrock on the river-bottom. In other words, they were hooping and hollering it up pretty good. This is always a good sign to me that things are moving in the right direction.

“The first nuggets started coming up after we moved the 6-inch dredge further upriver”

By the end of the third day, all of our beginners (except for one person who insisted from the beginning that he was not going underwater) were through the initial learning curve and being productive underwater. So we moved the 5-inch dredge just upstream of Jason’s team, and they immediately also started uncovering high-grade gold along the bedrock. Everybody started getting pretty excited!

There is nothing quite like seeing gold nuggets on the bottom of the river to help a person get over their initial fear of the river! I’m serious! It is always good to try and get a beginner extroverted. A good way to do that is to get the person helping to uncover high-grade gold from the bottom of the river!

Some participants arrive on these projects with deep-seated fears or phobias of the water. Some participate with the hope of overcoming these fears. Others arrive with no intention of going underwater; they just want to help on the surface. This is alright with me. We talk this all over as a group on the first day, and always then move forward with an understanding that everyone will just participate the best that they can to help get the job done. It is important to get the right kind of team chemistry in place on the first day. Working together with a good team, so far, we have always managed to locate high-grade gold.

Interestingly, everyone I have worked with that has started out with a serious fear of the water goes through very similar stages as the fear is overcome. I always just start the person out doing something that he or she is comfortable with – like just sitting or standing alongside the river without a face mask, getting used to breathing through a hookah regulator. Sometimes this first step is the most difficult in the whole chain of progressive steps! It is not unusual for someone’s body initially to reject having a regulator in his or her mouth (creates an impulse to gag it out). Still, a person standing up on the bank has little to fear from putting the regulator back and trying to breathe from it some more. Amazingly, the body always makes its own adjustment about this rather quickly all on its own. It is not a mind process. Thinking or talking about it does not seem to help very much with the process. The answer is to just keep the regulator in the person’s mouth until it is no big deal anymore. This usually happens pretty fast if the person just does it.

The next step is to have a person just get comfortable wearing a face mask. Sometimes we start out with this step before the regulator. It doesn’t really matter. But, if we are trying to overcome a healthy fear, we always do these two steps by themselves, before we ask the person to wear the face mask and breathe through the regulator both at the same time. It is just a simple matter of taking things one step at a time. No big deal. This all plays out alongside the edge of the river, while the bigger sampling program out in the river is being moved forward by the more experienced participants

Everyone has a threshold where traumatic fear overcomes everything else. This is commonly referred to as “panic.” That’s the place where you lose personal control and totally freak out! Water can bring that threshold very close to the surface with some beginning dredgers. I have worked with so many people on this over the years that I have developed an intimate sensitivity to what people are going through. The important key is to avoid pushing someone beyond his or her personal threshold of fear.

The step-by-step routine works every time. Most of the process is just to get the person’s body accustomed to being in a different environment. That’s all.

Once the person can breathe comfortably through the hookah regulator while looking through the face mask (even while standing or sitting alongside the river), the person has already made it well beyond the half-way point in getting comfortable underwater.

This all gently progresses to having the person float around in shallow water along the edge of the river while looking underwater through the mask and breathing through the regulator. Here is another milestone in the program, because the body initially doesn’t believe that it can breathe with your face in the water. Again, the key is just to do it!

The internal fear almost always presents itself in discussions, like “I have never been a mouth-breather.” I have found that discussions usually do not help very much with the progress. So I just coax the person to just keep putting his or her head in the water as much as he or she can tolerate until the body makes an internal adjustment. Initially, the person never believes that the body will adjust. That is just part of the internal fear being expressed. The body always adjusts just by doing it. It usually happens very fast. Because personal embarrassment also comes out with the fear, I usually back off a bit and just allow the person to work through this on his or her own. I usually only step in when I see the person is not continuing to put his or her face in the water. That’s the key. In 25 years of helping beginners, I have never seen a time when the person did not get through this step very quickly, as long as the person just stuck with it.

Usually, within just a short time, the person is swimming around comfortably while looking around at the fish, or watching the dredging program if it is close enough to be seen. That’s when I go over and gently press the person underwater. This step is always done in shallow-enough water that the person can push his or her head above the water’s surface if he or she feels the need to do so. They almost never do, though. By now, the person is already through most of the fear. This is relatively an easy step in the progress.

Then I straddle a set of weights across the person’s back to let him or her sink to the bottom in shallow water. This is also an easy step, because the person always finds that he or she has more personal control with the weight, than when I am holding him or her down. Soon thereafter, I buckle the weights onto the person to keep them from slipping off. The person has now comfortably made it to the bottom of the river. It’s not so difficult as long as we don’t try to move things along too fast and overstep beyond the person’s fear threshold.

In dredging, it is important to be weighted heavily to the bottom of the waterway. But the heavy weights usually make a person a bit top-heavy. Because of this, you cannot swim or walk around very effectively. The right way is to crab around on the bottom using your hands and legs. Balance is everything.

The final step in the process of helping a beginner is always to have the person go underwater and roll over onto his or her back, and then roll back over again. We do this several times. About the worst thing that can happen is that you lose your balance and roll onto your back like a turtle. So, in shallow water, we just get the person to do this right away and get it over with! I am always standing right there with the person’s hookah line in hand – more for moral support than anything else. Once a person has rolled around on the bottom of the river a few times, the body will automatically learn how to maintain its own balance. From there, the rest is pretty easy.

Until the person as demonstrated an acceptable level of personal confidence, we usually have someone keep a firm grip on his or her hookah airline just for safety. Although, to date, I have never actually had to drag anyone in by their airline.

Really, it is amazing how fast people adjust to the underwater environment! Most people have more courage than they allow themselves credit for. The following video sequence was captured while several of our beginners were working through the process:

Out of our 9 beginners on this project, the 4 woman got through the initial learning curve surprisingly fast. This was probably because they were giving each other a lot of assistance and moral support. By mid-week, we had woman dredgers helping with an important portion of the underwater work on both the 5 and 6-inch dredges. The following video was captured just as the two dredges were beginning to recover high-grade gold:

Everyone was so excited about it, on the 5th day; even the guy who insisted that he would never go underwater decided he wanted to give it a try. As he had spent so much time watching the others learn how to do it, it only took him about an hour to get underwater. Now 100% of our dredging team was working in the water.

While we had both the 5 and 6-inch dredges into high-grade on the third day, we could not set up the 8-inch dredge there because of the way the river was flowing in that particular location. There simply wasn’t enough room. That was too bad, because the 8-inch dredge will process more stream-bottom than the 5 and 6-inch dredges combined. This is especially true when Craig Colt is operating the suction nozzle!

Craig’s team pushed their downstream sampling program further out beyond the middle of the river in search of high-grade. But they still had not struck the pay-dirt that we were looking for. In a sampling program, if what you are doing is not producing adequate results, you try something else. And you just keep trying different things until you find something good. The problem here was that we only had several days to make it all happen. We were running out of days!

So once all of our beginners were safely established underwater, I personally took on the mission of locating the dredge excavation which Lee Kracher’s son had made earlier in the season. Nobody was quite sure where that was. We could not see where it was from the surface of the river. Lee had pointed downstream and across the river. That’s all we knew. Since they had recovered high-grade from that location, our plan was to move the 8-inch dredge over there for our next sample. We were feeling a strong need to do something effective, and soon!

I take the opportunity to do a lot of underwater prospecting during these projects. By this, I mean swimming around underwater to have a look at what is on the bottom. It’s the only way I know of to see what is down there! By doing a survey of the bottom, I can see where the bedrock is visible and what it looks like. Seeing exposed bedrock will allow our team to dredge samples nearby without having to go through deep streambed material (which takes more time and effort).

Surveying the river-bottom also allows us to discover where the hard-packed natural streambed is and where the boulders are. It also allows us to see where others have dredged before. I almost always swim around and survey the bottom of the river before deciding where we will dredge sample holes.

There are two ways I know of to survey the bottom of the river. One is to put a long extension of air line on your dredge’s hookah air system; like about 200 feet. Then, with your weights on, you can survey a big area around where your dredge is floating.

The other way is to float with the flow of the river, diving down on single breaths of air, to get a look at the bottom. Doing this without a wet-suit makes it easier to get down to the bottom and stay there longer. While you cannot stay down very long on a single breath of air, not being connected to anything allows you the freedom to survey long stretches of river.

Depending upon the circumstances, sometimes we float long stretches of river holding onto the bowline of my boat, just drifting along with the flow. It’s amazing how much you can discover about a stretch of river just by swimming it a few times! The following video sequence was captured while I scanned the river-bottom of UK-2 looking for that pre-existing dredge hole that Lee told us about:

It just took a little while for me to find the excavation which Lee’s son had left behind. While swimming along, I just kept looking for a dredge hole, a cobble pile or the tailings. I spotted the cobbles first. This turned out to be big hole; Lee’s son had done a lot of work! Fortunately, the excavation was just as he left it. He had been dredging in about 5 feet of original hard-packed, gray-colored Klamath river-bottom material. There were some large boulders visible. It would have taken us the better part of a full day or longer just to open up a good sample in this same location using the 8-inch dredge. Luck was on our side that someone else had already accomplished all that work for us and made the gold discovery there. It was going to be easy for us to go right into production in this hole!

This is one of the great things about being a member of The New 49′ers; it seems like someone is always coming along and letting you in on some already existing, exciting opportunity!

To save time, we just put the 8-inch dredge nozzle in the front of the boat, and I reverse-motored the whole platform across the river. This is a common way for us to move a dredge around when sampling in slower-moving water. Once to the other side of the river, all we had to do is tie the dredge off and go to work. The following video segment shows how we transferred the whole 8-inch dredge program from one side of the river to the other:

Two hours later, we had our first high-grade clean-up on the 8-inch dredge. The following 2 video segments were able to capture some of the excitement (and relief) we all felt when we finally got the 8-inch dredge into high-grade gold:

By Wednesday afternoon, all three dredges were in high-grade gold and all of our beginners were helping push underwater production forward. That sure was a long way from where we began at the beginning of the week!

As is normal, there was not much for me to do on Thursday. Our whole group had already pulled together as a polished team. Everyone already knew everything that needed to be done. Those that were so frightened of the river early in the week had long-since evolved into experienced gold dredgers who were working together with the team to recover as much gold as we could in the time remaining to us. I could have taken the day off and probably nobody would have even noticed! I always find myself feeling a bit helpless towards the end of these projects when everyone else is doing all the work and there is little for me to do.

   

Because so much time is required to do the whole process, we always accumulate our concentrates in a bucket throughout the week and do the full gold clean-up on the final day. We also needed to pull all of our dredging gear off the river this time, because it was the end of our dredging season along the upper Klamath River. We all worked together on this. Fortunately, there are several river access points down towards the lower-end of UK-2. We used the boat to tow all 3 dredges down there. Then we used the electric winch mounted in the back of my truck to load the dredges on trailers, tie them down and hoist them up to the road. Even the 8-inch dredge came up the hill without a single hitch! The following video sequence captured how smoothly the whole process went:

“Dave Beatson from New Zealand”

We often have visitors in Happy Camp from other countries. This time, we were honored with the presence of David Beatson, who is a very enthusiastic gold prospector from New Zealand. David is one of those rare individuals that always adds more life and fun to the party. He also carries a big part of the work load! It was interesting to listen to David talk about his gold mining adventures in New Zealand. There is a common bond created amongst gold miners that cannot be duplicated in most other types of endeavors. Here follows some of what David had to say:

This season, we were also rewarded with the presence of Otto Gather on all of the group projects. We call Otto “Mister Mom,” because everyone looks to him to provide all of the important basic necessities, whether it is a cup of coffee in the morning, fuel to keep the dredges operating, a spare part, a Band-Aid, or even a spanking if you deserve one. I’m not talking about anything kinky here. Otto has a kind way of telling a person to quit being a sissy just at the time you need to hear it! He adds much-needed life and substance to these projects that make them better for everyone.

Final clean-up was finished in camp on late Friday afternoon. All participants are always encouraged to participate in the final clean-up. Because we accumulate so much gold, there is actually quite a lot of work involved! The following video sequence captured the highlights of the full process which we normally follow:

“Otto Gather provided a lot of help on this year’s group mining projects!”

Altogether for the week, we recovered 118.4 pennyweights (5.92 ounces) of beautiful gold. That included 27 pennyweights of very nice nuggets to go around. Everyone was pleased with the result, and we all said our goodbyes before going our separate ways. This was the end of another very special chapter in each of our lives.

 

 
  

We recently completed a very productive week-long (dredging) Group Mining Project on our Kinsman Creek claim (K-7), which is located upstream on the Klamath River about 30 miles from Happy Camp. We had done an earlier Group Dredging Project on this same claim a few years ago and actually broke our gold production record there. So we felt pretty good about investing another week to develop more of the claim’s underwater gold deposits.

There were 24 of us involved with this most recent Project, including myself and my longtime, trusty assistants, Jake Urban and Jeff Butcher. Richard Dahlke was present to give us some help, and Otto Gaither has also been helping us out with this year’s week-long Projects, taking on the job of “??Shore boss” ?? which basically means keeping all of the gear running, team needs supplied and resolving most of the organizational challenges which come up along the way. Having a full-time “shore boss” on a Project allows me to spend more time working with participants to sample for high-grade pay-streaks.

From a long history of prospecting on this section of river, we already knew before this Project started that there is a rich line of gold nuggets, flakes and fines traveling down the far side of the river, and a strong line of fine gold traveling down along the highway-96 side of the river. Members have mined different high-grade and moderate-grade pay-streaks on K-7 over the years. Our basic plan for this Project was to dredge test holes between the areas where others had already established high-grade. We believed it was likely that we could discover more high-grade that had been overlooked by the earlier mining activity.

The main problem we were facing early in the week was that the Klamath River was still flowing abnormally high because of the record amounts of rain we had last winter. High (fast) water was making it nearly impossible for us to complete sample holes out in the middle of the river.

Our first day was devoted to setting up a base camp for the Project, and also launching 4 dredges and a small boat onto the river at K-7. I used the boat all week to ferry people, gear and supplies around to both sides of the river along the entire length of the claim. We set up a great camp in the shade right there on K-7 in large pull-off areas on both sides of Highway 96. This made it possible for most of the participants to visit before and after project hours. Otto and others organized some great potluck meals every evening throughout the week. It was a great camp!

On the morning of the second day, we split ourselves into 4 teams. On dredging Projects like this, we normally form up our initial teams based upon the relative experience levels of the people who are involved. Then, we direct each team to dredge test holes in a coordinated sampling program, taking on tasks which each team is comfortable in performing. The advanced team normally samples the more challenging areas (deeper or faster water). The least experienced group (usually consisting mostly of beginners with a team manager) samples in the less difficult areas (shallow, slow water). Those with moderate experience pull together in 1 or 2 teams to sample and dredge in those areas which require some skill, but are not too difficult for those who are involved. In this way, we are able to utilize all of the Project participants in a well-orchestrated sampling plan in search of high-grade gold. As the week evolves, we keep adjusting the teams so that everyone is given an opportunity to participate in a variety of ways according to their personal level of skill and competence. Several of the participants who began this week with no past dredging experience stayed with that same dredge all week. Others progressed to helping perform very productive dives on the advanced dredge before the week was over. Through some juggling around, we are always able to find a good place for everyone to contribute to the mining Project.

We place a lot of attention with the beginners during the first day or two of these Projects. The idea is to help them through the initial steps so that they can become more productive participants in the ongoing sampling and productive aspects of the bigger program. Beginners are graduated to more advanced work as the days go by and the sampling program evolves. All of the effort combines to a very effective mining program.

We were very lucky during this Project to have Jeff Butcher on board as the team leader of the beginner-dredge. Experienced dredger that he is, Jeff’s lifelong professional background is in firefighting and emergency services. He also has a bottomless depth of patience and understanding, while never losing track of the work that needs to be accomplished by his own team. So in addition to bringing his full team up to a level of competence within the first few days of the Project, Jeff’s team also discovered and began developing a moderate-grade gold deposit using a 5-inch dredge right on the first day! While some of Jeff’s people were graduating off to other dredges during the week, the remainder stayed there and contributed to a substantial part of the week’s gold recovery.

Richard Dahlke put a very productive team together consisting mostly of participants who had some amount of previous dredging experience. They dropped a 6-inch dredge down river to about mid-way on the claim; and again, managed to get into a moderately-rich pay-streak on the far side of the river. Through some trial and error, they quickly discovered that most of their gold was being recovered out of a gray hard-packed layer up off of the bedrock. So they quickly organized themselves into a production crew, and devoted most of the week trading off in shifts to contribute to the ever-increasing amount of gold that was adding up in our bucket.

Jake Urban also put a team of moderately-experienced participants together and launched a substantial sample out into the river from the high-way 96 side of the river. Jake is more of an aggressive, competitive team leader. He is happiest when his team is producing the most gold during a Project. So we directed Jake’s 6-inch dredge to an area where they were challenged with faster water conditions. The gold deposit they found there was richer than what the other two teams were mining, but it still was not the high-grade that I was hoping to find on this claim.

‘Jake Urban directing the activity of his team.”

Again, higher water levels were making it nearly impossible for us to push our sample holes out into the middle of the river where we anticipated that the highest-grade gold deposits were going to be. We were doing the best that we could under the circumstances.

The following video segment was edited together to show the process we were going through to develop these gold deposits:

We almost never begin these Group Mining Projects already knowing where the high-grade gold is located. We initially choose a mining property where we hope high-grade is going to be. Then we must find the high-grade through a well-coordinated sampling plan in which the whole group helps to accomplish. Difficult river conditions can sometimes prevent us from completing important samples which can help us trace down the high-grade deposits. This was the problem we were facing on about the 4th day of this particular project. We had to decide if we would just keep working the moderate pay-streaks to get as much gold as we could out of them, or if we would keep sampling for something better. This is

a tough decision that I am often faced with during these Projects. We always spend some quality time as a group in the mornings discussing the situation as it develops and debating various solutions.

“A-team smiles for the camera’

Our 4th dredge team on this Project was being managed by Rick LaRouque. Rick was joined by several other moderately-experienced dredgers. But these were some seriously motivated guys! They started referring to themselves as the ??”A-team’ from the very first day. Everyone in the Project agreed that’s exactly what they were! As the A-team was prepared to do just about anything to strike high-grade, we decided on the 5th day that the other 3 teams would continue to recover as much gold as possible from the moderate-grade gold deposits, while the A-team continued sampling for high-grade gold. So we floated their 5-inch dredge down towards the lower-end of K-7, not far from where other members were dredging high-grade just last year. I spent a lot of the 5th day working with the A-team. Time was running out! And while we kept picking up signs of the high-grade that we were looking for, high, fast water out in the middle of the river was preventing us from getting far enough out there to reach beyond where the earlier members had already mined.

Fortunately, the water release from the Irongate dam was reduced just in time, and the river dropped about a foot by late on the 5th day. This made a huge difference in the speed of the water out in the middle and allowed us to reach out into the river just far enough to strike high-grade before the 5th day was finished. The streambed material was shallow out there, so we were able to uncover enough bedrock to see gold scattered all over the place. That’s when we uncovered some very nice nuggets!

This following video segment was edited together from footage captured by our shore boss as we evolved through the sampling process of discovering the high-grade. It began with seeing just few flakes of gold. Through some trial and error, working closely together, we walked our way right into a rich pay-streak. It was incredible:

As hard as they worked for it, in all of the Group Projects I have been involved with, I am not sure I have ever seen a more excited group of miners. The A-team seriously wanted to dredge until it was too dark to see! No question, in just an hour or so, they had recovered more gold on their single 5-inch dredge, than all the combined gold recovered from the other 3 dredges for the entire day!

The thing about high-grade is that when you uncover it, the whole world changes to a much better place. Especially when you first discover it! I was fortunate to be down on that particular dive with Buzz Schwartz. The A-team had just reached bedrock on a sample in the middle of the river and said they thought they had seen some gold during the dive. Buzz and I went down to open up the hole and have a closer look. About 30 minutes into the dive, we uncovered a crack in the bedrock that was just loaded with golden treasure! Each time we expended the hole, we just kept uncovering more beautiful flakes and nuggets. Even underwater, I could hear Buzz yelling out his personal excitement.

Here follows a video segment which shows how excited the A-team was as we were looking at the gold that we had just recovered from the initial rich discovery:

‘Exhilaration” is the best word that I know of to describe the feeling that you experience when uncovering high-grade gold. I’m serious; I cannot think of very many things in this life that will prompt a more exhilarated feeling than what you experience when you uncover Mother Nature’s rich, virgin treasure! That’s also the way everyone felt in camp that night when we showed them what we had found!

‘Our A-team was carefully planning its next moves early on the morning of the 6th day.”

The 6th day of the Project found our whole company eager to get an early start on the river. The first thing we did was float Jake’s dredge and team downstream to fall-in alongside the A-team. It did not take very long for the teams to get both dredges into production. I personally devoted most of the rest of the day using the boat to ferry participants from the other 2 dredge teams, so each person on the Project had an opportunity to dive down and dredge up some of the high-grade gold deposit. The following video sequence goes a long way to demonstrate the action and excitement as it continued to unfold:

While all of this additional activity slowed everything down bit, I felt it was important to give everyone on the Project a chance to see what real high-grade gold looks like when you find it. Perhaps this was even a greater reward than getting a share of the gold. Because once you have actually seen high-grade gold, you will thereafter always know what you are looking for during sampling. It is one thing to hear or read about it. It is quite another to actually experience high-grade as it is being uncovered from the bottom of a waterway. Dredging high-grade gains you some personal certainty that Mother Nature’s rich natural golden treasures are right there for the taking. All you have to do is go out and find them. Finding high-grade once lends confidence that you can find it again.

As usual, there was very little I could do to participate in the last day of dredging out on the river. So I spent much of the day leaning back in the boat, watching with pride how all of the team participants enthusiastically worked together. They were pushing to recover as much gold as possible during the time remaining in our Project. They knew how to do everything without any further direction from me. Watching them discuss and work out a production plan together, once again, made me reflect upon how lucky I am to be part of these mining Projects.

Most of these people did not even know each other only 6 days before. Yet, here they were on the river working together as an experienced team of prospectors who had overcome all of the unknowns that we began with, worked their way together through some pretty difficult conditions, kept the faith throughout the whole process, and pulled off a wonderful success in the end. The transformation of group chemistry during these Projects into something really rewarding never ceases to amaze me! With that amazement always comes my own personal sadness that another fantastic partnership will soon end. Still, I am certain that meaningful friendships are sparked on these Projects that will last a lifetime.

The process requires too much time to clean-up the gold from multiple dredges each day. So we allow our final concentrates from each day to accumulate in a single bucket which remains in my care until the end of the Project. We devoted the 7th day to pulling most of our gear off the river and doing the final clean-up of the gold that we had accumulated during the week. As you will see from the following video segment, it was a lot of gold:

  

Everyone participates in the final clean-up steps, and every participant receives an equal share of the gold. In all, we recovered 120.2 pennyweights of gold. That’s about 6 ounces. There were 327 nuggets in all, which allowed everyone at least 14 nuggets.

There were a lot of smiling faces on Friday afternoon!

 

 
Dave Mack

This entire group, including myself, was comprised of 22 people. We started with 13 participants, but my two assistants (Craig Colt & Shawn Higbee) were there to help coordinate the activity. George and Heidi Hurteau contributed to a lot of the dredging activity using their own dredge. Scott Langston was already present with his personal dredge when we started, so we invited him into the group project. And a real strong member named Leif (we call him Hercules) from Sweden also jumped in to give us a hand. All in all, we used a 3-inch dredge (to start less-experienced participants), four 4-inchers, and a 5-inch dredge. It was a pretty sizable project!

Since the area was so accessible for our group, we decided to sample one of the areas along the Salmon River. We had heard that there had been some successful dredging there in the past, so we were hoping to get in on a piece of that action.

We started the week sampling the upper end of that area, just below the set of rapids. It was a good place to allow our more-experienced participants to begin the serious sampling activity, while I could start working at getting less-experienced helpers comfortably into the water.

Hercules (Leif Sollier) at work!

In supervising these group dredging projects, I am finding that my biggest personal challenge is to balance the need to get an effective sampling activity going as quickly as possible (followed by some volume production to accumulate some gold to split off at the end of the week!), while also helping less-experienced helpers get through the initial stages of panic and fear. It also takes some time and effort to groove more experienced participants into the finer points of underwater production techniques.

In the foreground, Dave Mack is giving direction to New 49′er member, Fred Zajac, who participated in this group mining project.

Total recover for the week weighed in at 2.5 ounces. Half of the weight was in nuggets!

It took me the first few days to size everyone up so that I knew how I could effectively (and safely) utilize the human resources to get some good sample holes completed. As the less-experienced helpers gained more experience, we moved them further out into the river. And it was not long before, as a team, we started to figure out where the gold is (and where it isn’t) on that portion of the Salmon River.

By the end of the 2nd day, even though we were accumulating some flood gold in our concentrates, we had pretty-much established that the area just below the rapids had been dredged before – probably back in the late 1980′s. Just about all our sample holes were finding loose cobbles and boulders (with light sand or silt around them) along the bedrock.

Since Scott Langston’s dredge was in good hard-packed streambed material about 120-yards behind us, and he was getting a pretty good showing of gold there, during the 2nd day, we broke out the new Griphoist (pretty-serious hand-operated rock winch) and invested several team mates there to get Scott’s sample hole enlarged. That proved to be a smart move, because Scott’s dredge immediately began recovering good gold (with nuggets) as we got down to bedrock through about 3 to 4 feet of material.

The success on Scott’s dredge prompted us to immediately drop all the dredges back down the river about 100 yards, and we started a whole new series of samples on the 3rd day, all which were going down into hard-packed material – meaning that no-one had been there before us with a dredge. This was good!

While we were getting pretty good gold out of each sample, by the 4th day, we established that the gold was richer towards the other side of the river (on the side away from the road). This caused us to abandon two excavations and start new ones further upstream. Early success in these holes motivated us to rig up for more serious winching on the 5th day. I have a 4-ton electric winch mounted on the back of my flatbed truck. We set my truck up

on the side of the road and double-pullied back to increase pulling power. Then, after some discussion about winching techniques, by half-way through the 5th day, participants were slinging boulders like they had been doing it for years.

Vincent Xavier, from San Diego, gives his “thumbs up” on his day’s mining experience.

Marge Strutt gives her approving smile of the day’s clean up.

By the end of the 5th day, our accumulated concentrates for the week were looking pretty good. We had pulled several gold nuggets (from small up to 2.5 dwts), and we had pulled two platinum nuggets (the larger one weighing in at 8.5 dwts!). Other than a few less-experienced dredgers that I was continuing to work with near the bank, all of the participants were taking shifts out in the deeper-water holes. We were operating four dredges in gold, and winching rocks using two winches.

I’ll say that the 5th day was one of the most hectic and stressful days I’ve had in a long time. That is a lot of action to keep track of! My main concern was that no-one got hurt. I ran and swam around non-stop trying to stay on top of everything. As it turned out, the participants had everything under control.

On the 6th day, after a short talk about safety and teamwork, we set out to work knowing that this would be the only real full production-day of the week. By this time, group-participants were doing nearly all the work like a well-seasoned crew. We had established a pay-streak through sampling. Everyone understood where the gold was coming from and how we found it. The participants set up all the winch rigging, did all the start-up routines with the dredges, worked out the dive teams, and were into production as if they had been working together for years.

I spent most of the 6th day sitting on a rock-perch calmly keeping a watchful eye over the whole program. It was quite impressive. Boulders were being winched simultaneously from both sides of the river. Four dredges pumped material non-stop, with shifts changing one person at a time. Signals were given flawlessly. And I proudly watched it all unfold, in awe that 21 people could be brought together and shaped into such a fine team in less than a week. I was also already feeling sad that just as the team was really pulling together, the project would end soon. We recovered 4 or 5 nice gold nuggets on the 6th day, the largest being 1/4-ounce. There was lots of excitement and team-pride at what we had accomplished.

Scott Langston proudly holds the week’s 2.5 ounces recovery from the dredging project.

Dave Mack and Eve Kihn take a moment from the training to smile for the camera.

I spent most of the 6th day sitting on a rock-perch calmly keeping a watchful eye over the whole program. It was quite impressive. Boulders were being winched simultaneously from both banks. Four dredges pumped material non-stop, with shifts changing one person at a time. Signals were given flawlessly. And I proudly watched it all unfold, in awe that 21 people could be brought together and shaped into such a fine team in less than a week. I was also already feeling sad that just as the team was really pulling together, the project would end soon. We recovered 4 or 5 nice gold nuggets on the 6th day, the largest being 1/4-ounce. There was lots of excitement and team-pride at what we had accomplished.

We spent the 7th day processing all the concentrates from the week, and pulling most of the dredging and winching gear off the river. Total recovery for the week weighed in at 2.5 ounces. Half of the weight was in nuggets. Group participants performed all the final clean-up steps, and we split the gold. By unanimous consent, the participants drew chances on the 10 largest nuggets. Everyone was happy with the final result. It was a good week!

Ryck Rowan, from Washington, is focused on the pointers Dave Mack is giving from his years of dredging experience.

Team members closely watch the final clean-up activities of the week’s dredging.

 

 

 

By Dave McCracken

 

We just completed this season’s third special Group Dredging Project along the Klamath River. It took place on the Club’s new Upper Klamath properties, near UK-3. These properties are located near where Highway 96 meets Interstate 5, around 65 miles upriver from Happy Camp. There were 15 participants in all (12 men and 3 women), including several experienced helpers, Craig Colt, Jake Urban, Lily Fuller, Ken Eddy and myself.

Three of the participants were dredging for the first time ever, and several others only had a little previous experience.

One of the primary objectives of these Projects is to help all participants achieve personal confidence while dredging underwater. Lily Fuller, Jake Urban and I take this responsibility very serious. Under our careful guidance, all beginners on this Project were doing very well underwater by mid-way through the week.

Nearly all of us camped in the Club’s long-term Klamathon campground for the duration of the Project. Camp-Klamathon is a large, scenic camping area (free to members) which extends along the Klamath River within about 2 miles of the UK claims. This is a popular camping area for members who are mining in the area. As other members were also camping and mining in the area, we spent some of the after-hours visiting and enjoying our time together during this adventure. Club member, Ernie Kroo, showed up about midway through the week to resume one of his traditional rolls as the Camp Barbeque-Master. The food was great!

The Club has access to well over 60 miles of mining claims to choose from along the Klamath River and its tributaries when organizing these Group Projects. The options are almost unlimited with this much waterway to choose from. Choosing a productive location is one of the most important first steps. This is because once we launch a Group Project into an area, there is not enough time to withdraw and begin the sampling process somewhere else, and still expect to recover very much gold by the end of the week. So we always choose our location very carefully.

However, making the decision where to go on this particular Project was not difficult. Because so many other members have done very well on the new UK properties this season, and because Craig and Ernie already had a 6-inch dredge working in high-grade gold that we discovered during the July Dredging Project on UK-3, we decided it would be wise to do this Project on the UK claims.

There was already an ongoing gold rush taking place on UK-3 when we arrived there last week. So we decided to direct our sampling effort further down river on UK-2. There was only one other member (Mark Johnson) dredging when we arrived at UK-2. He was dredging out near the middle of the river near the top-end of UK-2. Mark was kind enough to show us some of the gold he was accumulating in two separate bottles. The bigger bottle enclosed some very nice nuggets. Wow!! Seeing those nuggets got us really fired up. So we doubled our efforts to get our own dredges into the water and position them on both sides of the river downstream from where Mark was dredging.

Other members were already recovering high-grade gold even before we began this project!

Having some beginner-dredgers on a Group Project requires a place where there are some easily-accessible, slower, shallow-water areas; comfortable places where we can get people started, and there is still hope of finding high-grade gold.

There was a perfect place to set up two 4-inch dredges about a hundred yards down from where Mark was dredging. Because the river narrowed slightly down there, it appeared that we could place our less-experienced participants in slow-moving, shallow water in line with the high-grade path of gold that Mark was following upstream from us. The prospect of this made me really happy. Because picking gold nuggets off the bedrock goes a long way to help beginners get motivated and into the spirit of things!

Finding one or more rich gold deposits is one of the primary objectives that we must accomplish during these week-long Projects. And we must accomplish this relatively early in the week, or chances are that we won’t have very much gold to split off at the end of the week.

Already having a 6-inch dredge in a high-grade deposit up on UK-3 took a lot of pressure off me this time around. Even so, the whole group was eager to find new high-grade deposits during our time on UK-2.

Craig and two of our most-experienced participants operated the 6-inch dredge up in the pre-established pay-streak on UK-3 for the entire week. This started building up our gold reserves from the beginning of the week. It was nice to see the gold building up even on the first day!

Ken and two of our other experienced participants set up a 5-inch dredge just below a small natural riffle in the river on UK-2. Their plan was to push out under some swifter-moving water to see if they could find some high-grade out there – which they immediately found on their first dive. With luck smiling upon us, they established a high-grade deposit right on top of the first layer of hard-packed streambed, about 4-inches from the surface. They were recovering lots of fine gold and some big-sized flakes. The water was fast, but the gold was easy; because it was being recovered right on the surface of the streambed.

We began getting good dredge sample results within the first hour of the Project!

I devoted the first few days working with Jake, Lily and the less-experienced participants on the two 4-inch dredges. That part of the program was going well, with everyone quickly adjusting to being underwater. So well, in fact, that I upgraded one of the 4-inch dredges to “intermediate status” on the second day. They then began sampling further out into the river – where they immediately started recovering high-grade gold and some very nice nuggets. By the end of the second day, this 4-inch dredge looked to be recovering about as much gold as Craig’s 6-inch dredge was getting upriver! There was a lot of excitement over the nuggets being recovered.

With three dredges already into high-grade gold by the end of our second

day, we all knew it was going to be a great week!

By the end of the third day, our remaining three people on the beginner-team were managing the second 4-inch dredge all by themselves, and had launched into sampling. Returning from one of the other dredges, I found the beginner-team repositioning the 4-inch dredge “because there was no hard-pack” in the place they had been operating it, and they were not getting very much gold. It made me proud to discover that they had taken matters into their own hands, and were implementing good solutions. The solution in this case, meaning that they had to ease themselves out into slightly faster, deeper water that was further from the safety of the stream bank. As they eased themselves out there, they found gray hard-pack on their own, and started recovering high-grade gold, along with some nice nuggets. Boy did that make them happy! This situation prompted me to upgrade them all to “intermediate status.” We didn’t have any more beginners on this Project!

As we had several dredges into high-grade gold almost from the beginning, after some group discussion on the matter, we elected to devote a second 5-inch dredge with three of our intermediate participants into dropping back towards the lower end of UK-2. Their mission was to do a sample hole in a location where we have heard rumors that there exists a rich nugget pay-streak in a deeper gravel deposit. As the gravel really was deeper down there, after devoting several days to the effort, and not being able to get a good sample of the underlying hard-pack, we decided to back off and leave that prospect for another day with a larger dredge. So, about mid-week, we pulled the second 5-inch dredge back upriver and put in line, just downstream from where the two 4-inch dredges were already recovering high-grade gold. After just a little sampling around, this dredge also located high-grade, and began recovering some of the largest nuggets we found all week.

By mid-week, most of the dredges involved with the project were recovering nuggets!

Meanwhile, Ken’s team on the other side of the river decided to dredge a hole down through the hard-pack to see if they could find bottom. They found it at a depth of around four feet in the gray-pack. With even more luck on our side, through some trial and error, they discovered that in addition to the surface gold deposit, the gray layer of hard-pack was also paying consistently in fine gold and flakes throughout the material. Then they found the largest nugget of the week on the fourth day. So they devoted the remainder of the week production-dredging to the bottom.

There is clearly an evolution happening in these organized Group Dredging Projects. They are getting better. The nature of the Projects brings the whole group together in a team-building experience. With five dredges working in high-grade gold by about mid-week, we really had some great team-chemistry going. Maybe the best I have ever seen.

Also, it appears to me that we are attracting more experienced miners to the Projects. This increased experience helps focus the Projects in a more productive direction.

During these Group Projects, we all meet at camp every morning to review theory concerning the various tasks that we are performing in the field; subjects like how to move and tie off dredges in different circumstances, how to avoid and cope with plug-ups (when rocks obstruct the flow of material through a dredge system), what to look for in prospecting, how to increase the volume of production, standard operating procedures in teamwork situations; all of the important things people need to know to improve their skills in this field. Mornings are a good time, where we share our experiences, and everyone can get their questions answered.


During the morning sessions, we also discuss the progress we have made and make plans for how we will reach the next objective. Objectives can change on these Projects every day. First, we just want to find some gold. Then we want to find something better. Then we want all the dredges to be producing in gold. Ultimately, we evolve into a production-mode with the purpose of recovering as much gold as we can during the time remaining in the Project. We take it a step at a time, progressing towards where we need to be at the end of the week – which is having plenty of gold to split off.

In all, we recovered nearly 7 1/2 ounces of gold for the week, of which 30.8 pennyweights were nuggets. Each participant received 11 gold nuggets (165 nuggets were recovered).

 

Measuring out 14 equal shares was the highlight of the week!

Two new pay-streaks were located and developed during the Project. Naturally, since we depart the area once the Project is over, other members were already showing up during the last few days, and another small gold rush was started on the UK claims just as we were leaving.

If starting gold rushes were a measurement of how successful a Group Dredging Project is, I’d have to say this was the best Project ever! There were so many members watching us do the final clean-up process on the dredges at the end of the week, that it was difficult to move through the crowd of people!

We came close to breaking a record (we recovered around 8 ounces of gold on one earlier Project) in the amount of gold we recovered; and we would have done it, had we just dredged another hour or so in the river. The problem is in not knowing exactly how much gold we have accumulated until we do a full clean-up on the last day.

We have one more Group Dredging Project this season scheduled for September 10 through 16. There is still room for a few more participants, if anyone might else be interested in joining us. With the right team, I think we can break the all-time gold record. Does anyone want to guess where we will do the Project?

 
 
 

By Dave McCracken

“Our target for the week was to dredge a pound of gold.”

Dave Mack


This project was made up of a smaller group than normal. Four participants arrived on Saturday morning. A fifth person arrived later in the week.

Since it was going to be a smaller group than normal, my two helpers (Craig Colt and Shawn Higbee) and I had made a plan to use one of the Club’s large commercial rafts to get us all into the deep canyon along the Klamath River just downstream from Happy Camp. I have always had a good feeling about this section of the Klamath. As the area is somewhat inaccessible, few people have been down there with dredges. We spent some time sampling down there earlier in the summer during a group prospecting project above the water. While we were sampling the banks down there, I took the opportunity to swim some of the river with mask and snorkel. The area looks good, with lots of exposed, rough and irregular bedrock showing along the river-bottom. There are lots of faster-water areas there where the pay-streaks should not be buried under very much overburden. I’m thinking there will be high-grade gold there that is not too difficult to find.

But a few days before this last project was to begin, while Craig and Shawn were busy getting all the dredging gear and the raft ready, the water-release from the Iron Gate dam (upriver) was increased, raising water levels about a foot, and turning the river a green color. Underwater visibility was down to about two feet at the surface. It would only be about half that on the bottom of the river. This created very poor conditions to be trying to coordinate a group mining program – especially under faster-water conditions. One look at the river prompted me to direct Craig and Shawn to put the raft back into storage. We needed to find another place to go.

From earlier communication with the group (they all flew out together from Chicago to do this project), I knew they preferred to dredge in a river, rather than on a creek. That left me comparing our Scott and Salmon River opportunities. Both were running with crystal clear water. While I was trying to decide where to do the project, Dale Carnagy stopped by the office to show me a whole bunch of very nice gold he and Jason Inks had just dredged together a few days before down on the Salmon River. These are two long-time members of the Club who have spent most of this summer dredging along the Main Stem of the Salmon River. Jason was working a pretty good pay-streak further upstream, while Dale just made a very high-grade strike at the lower end of the claim. Dale’s best day working alone, so far, was about three ounces of nice flakes and nuggets. It was really nice stuff!

Dale told me Jason had gone off to get a winch, because the boulders were really slowing them down. They decided to work this high-grade deposit side-by-side, helping each other with the boulders.

It did not occur to me until after Dale left the office that I should have asked him if they might like to have 5 more partners for about a week, to help them get their high-grade pay-streak opened up. I gathered that they did not have much winching experience, and (I was hoping) the support of an organized project might just be the thing they could use at the moment.

The following day was the day before the group would arrive from Chicago to begin the project. I needed to decide where we would go. Just as I was about to drive down to the Salmon River to make a proposal to Dale and Jason, they both arrived back in my office to show me even more gold they had dredged. It looked really good! Nice nuggets!!

The great thing was that Dale and Jason did not even hesitate to offer up their rich pay-streak to help out the Club in a week-long project. While they would benefit from gaining exposure to a more commercial approach to opening up a hole filled with boulders, I am certain their primary motivation was to do something good for the Club.

This saved us a lot of time, because it meant that we could use the two 5-inch dredges and 8,000-pound electric winch that Dale and Jason had already brought into the lower canyon area.

As soon as the project-group arrived on Saturday morning, we checked out everyone’s personal gear to make sure everyone had what they would need. Then we drove down to have a first-hand look at the project site where Dale and Jason were dredging along the Salmon River. This was down in a pretty deep canyon area. But there was already a trail leading in, so it was not bad access in comparison to how bad it might have been.

I wanted to make sure all the guys were up for making the hike in every day, and that the group was comfortable about our taking control over an existing successful project that was started by other members. We were going to be dredging in someone else’s rich pay-streak. That doesn’t happen very often. It was important, before getting started, to make sure that everyone was alright with that.

After some discussion down on the site, we all agreed together that we would form up a team that would allow me to manage the project for a week. We would evenly split the gold recovered during the week amongst all the participants, and then turn the pay-streak back over to Dale and Jason. We were all pretty jazzed-up!

Dale and Jason had already dredged several sample holes in this section of the Salmon River while trying to establish the size of the pay-streak. The holes were of various depths, some going all the way to bedrock, and some which were blocked by rocks that were too large to roll out of the dredge holes.

There were big rocks in every hole. It was clear to me right from the beginning that an organized winching operation was going to be the primary key to progress and success in this project. So we all spent Saturday afternoon throwing rocks to build-up a small island in the middle of the river downstream of the dredges, and using cables to anchor the electric winch (on the island) to a large boulder further downstream. We pulled the first big rock out of the dredge hole before calling it a day, to make certain that the winch was set up properly. It was.

Sunday morning was devoted to moving our camp down to the mining claim. This was going to save us three hours of driving back and forth to Happy Camp every day. Several of us stayed down there for the remainder of the project. Salmon River country is some of the nicest area on this planet. It is a great place to camp!

Sunday afternoon found us making two journeys down into the canyon, hauling in our personal dive gear, and some special rigging to make the slinging of boulders go more quickly when winching.

We connected 5 HOOKA airlines to the two 5-inch dredges. The plan was to have two people work each dredge, and one person sling boulders and get them out of the hole. We decided to drop back and start a new hole, not far behind where Dale had dredged his 3-ounce day just a few days before.

In normal group dredging projects, as the supervisor, I am challenged with three main objectives:

1) I must help less-experienced participants through the early stages of their underwater learning curve as soon as possible, so they can participate in accomplishment of the other two objectives. Sometimes beginners arrive with some fear of going underwater the first time. But we always get through it.

2) We must find a pay-streak. This normally requires all of the participants to perform the necessary steps to complete a sampling plan in the section of the river that we have chosen. Sometimes the sampling phase takes two or three days. The idea is to try and find something rich enough to get everyone excited, and provide us with enough gold to split up at the end of the week.

3) Once the pay-streak is located, we pull ourselves together as a production-team to recover as much gold as possible in the remaining time allowed to us. This is always the best part.

All of the participants in this project had past HOOKA or SCUBA experience, so the first objective was already accomplished before we even started. Because Dale and Jason had already located this pay-streak, all we had to really focus on from the beginning was organizing ourselves for optimum production under the circumstances. While we were certainly going to work hard, and the boulders were going to require a structured approach, not having to worry about the first two objectives was going to make this project more like a vacation to me. This was a good way to finish my season!

Dale and Jason had already established that the gold was coming off the bedrock and out of a 4-foot-thick, yellow layer of streambed material lying on top of the bedrock. We found the yellow layer shortly after getting started, and the guys immediately started seeing large flakes of gold here and there in the material.

This pay-streak was different than most others I have seen. Usually, high-grade gold accumulates either on the bedrock, or in the contact-zone between two different layers of streambed material. Here, the gold was widely disbursed throughout the yellow streambed material, and did not seem to be any more concentrated at any particular level. I’ve occasionally seen this in some original streambed layers on the Klamath River, too.

There was definitely a greater concentration of gold along the bedrock. Almost all the gold we were finding consisted of large flakes and small nuggets.

It was time to begin winching boulders out of the hole almost immediately after we started dredging. I began the underwater part of that, since getting the big rocks far enough out of the hole was going to be critical to reaching bedrock. There is a system of slinging big rocks out of a beginning dredge hole, which

requires some planning in advance, a good and fast communication system with the winch operator, and a lot of intention to make the boulder go where you want it to. You have to make your winching system bigger and stronger than the boulders. Otherwise they start running around wherever they want to go, increase the danger to people and gear, and eat up a lot of precious time. While having a strong winch is definitely important, the main keys to a smooth winching program are leaving yourself a smooth runway (so you are not trying to pull a boulder past some big obstruction that is directly in the way), and re-slinging the boulders as often as necessary to keep them from slipping free and rolling back down into the dredge hole.

Keene sells a really good cable rock-net for winching. But to get the most out of Keene’s rock net, you must also have a 4-point harness made up so that the net can be attached to the pull-line of your winch. Then, slinging is mostly a matter of draping the net around the back-side of the boulder and giving the pull signal to the winch operator.

Most boulders pull out of the dredge hole without any further difficulty. But some need to be nursed along. I suppose the most important thing for the underwater guy to do is immediately stop the pull and re-sling every time he or she sees that it is probably not going to work. This prevents the rock from slipping free and ending up back in the dredge hole. It also prevents the rock from getting into a place where it is going to be more difficult to get out

We pulled boulders out of the dredge hole non-stop on Sunday afternoon, not touching down on bedrock yet, even though we were about six feet deep into the yellow streambed material. The excavation was getting pretty big. This was necessary, because it was important to not leave any loose boulders resting up on the face of the hole that could roll in on any of the divers. So the deeper we went, the wider we had to make the hole. This is normal.

Between the two dredges, we estimated that we recovered around 1 ounce of nice gold flakes during the first day of work. We figured we would do even better once we established ourselves on bedrock.

We do not do a full and final clean-up of gold at the end of the day on any serious dredging program. It takes too long, and would subtract valuable time from the productive activity in the dredge hole. However, we do clean the high-grade portion of the concentrates out of the dredges each day and make a pretty close estimate of how much gold we recovered. This is important to both planning and morale. By comparing how much gold we are getting to what we are doing, and where, we can focus the following day’s effort towards what seems to be most productive. Seeing the gold also gets everyone pretty excited!

As we do on every day of these group projects, the following morning found us planning our day’s activity over a chalkboard at camp. This is the time to talk about everything we are doing, cover all the reasons why, debate ideas on how we might do it better, and finally decide upon a team-plan for the day. We spent considerable time each morning on this project talking about winching procedures, signals and the need for the underwater person and winch operator to establish communication and an organized system to make the process go quickly, smoothly and safely. There was also a lot of discussion about how to excavate a deeper dredge hole safely, in a way that kept the richest pay-dirt (down along the bedrock) from getting covered up with boulders or cobbles by the time we got down to it.

Since bedrock in this hole was deeper than we anticipated, we decided to initially spread our hole in the direction of the streambank where there was visible bedrock showing along the edge of the river. Establishing some bedrock along the bottom of a dredge hole is the first major objective in getting a production operation underway. We were eager to make that happen.

Finally, towards the end of the day on Monday, we had some bedrock showing on the side of the hole that was closest to the bank. We were seeing some pretty nice gold on the bedrock, too. By now, we had winched around 50 boulders out of the excavation, and it was really getting opened up. But we were getting slowed down by some very big rocks that were going to be too large to winch out of the hole. While we could use the winch to roll them into the hole, we did not want to move them in until we had a chance to get the gold off the bedrock where the huge rocks would eventually end up. This forced us to slow down so we could do things safely. We estimated about another ounce of flakes and small nuggets were recovered by the two dredges on Monday. The hole was opened up to make some pretty good progress on the following day.

The key to the best progress in a streambed that has lots of boulders is to look ahead of yourself and decide where things are going to need to go. My experience has been that it is best to initially winch every possible rock out of the hole. Once some bedrock is established, don’t allow it to immediately get all covered up by new boulders. Winch them out, too. You have to make some room in advance for the really big ones that can only be rolled once.

This is where we found ourselves on Tuesday morning; rolling the really big ones to the rear of the dredge hole, where we had left room for them the day before. Rolling the big ones out of the way opened up our hole nicely, and allowed us to establish bedrock all across our dredge hole.

Some of the rough and irregular bedrock was giving up a lot of gold flakes. We connected up an air-powered chisel and were pulling nice gold out of cracks as deep as we could break them open. By now, the hole was large and safe. We pulled around 3 ounces of nice gold on Tuesday. Now things were beginning to get pretty exciting for everyone. By now, we estimated that we had accumulated around 5 ounces of gold in getting the hole opened up.

During our planning meeting on Wednesday morning, based upon our production from the day before, we made a target to recover 6 ounces of gold for the day. Everyone agreed that this was something we could accomplish; and it would place us well ahead of our weekly target of 12 ounces.

But then we had a turn of bad luck on Wednesday morning, when our dredge hole pushed right up into an old dredge hole that someone else had worked years before. Here, the hard-packed yellow streambed material turned to loose cobbles, boulders and sand. This was a pretty heavy blow to our morale, and completely undermined our gold-target for the day (and the week). We found ourselves in a meeting up on the stream bank trying to figure out what to do next. While it was a great learning-experience for all of the participants to see what previously-dredged material looks like at the bottom of the river, all of us were feeling the weight of how much effort it was going to take to begin another dredge hole from the beginning in all those big rocks. But it was really the only thing we could do.

After cleaning up the small portions of yellow-pack to recover the last of the gold that remained in our original hole along the bedrock, we moved the dredges forward and repositioned the winch to open up an entirely new dredge hole. We decided as a group that even if we could not finish the new hole, we could at least add more gold to what we would split off, and leave Dale and Jason with an excavation in the yellow-pack that they could develop into a production program for themselves after we left. The new excavation was pretty-much a repeat of the first. By Thursday afternoon, we had winched another 40 or more boulders, and had touched down on bedrock again in several places. We recovered another ounce or so of nice gold. And we left Dale and Jason with a production-hole that they could further develop on their own into something very valuable.

The group from Chicago needed to fly their airplane back home on Saturday. So we all decided that Friday should be spent on getting personal gear back out of the canyon, and performing all of the final clean-up steps on the gold we had recovered for the week and split it all up. This took all day.

For the week, we ended up with just short of 7 ounces of gold, which included 3 ounces of nice nuggets. This amounted to about an ounce for each of the 7 participants. Everyone was happy.

Although it is very important, we learned early on that the amount of gold we recover on these projects is not the only measurement of success. Participants gain valuable experience, giving them an improved ability to find more gold on their own afterwards. There is the excitement and adventure of the project. And each successful project improves our perception of where more valuable high-grade gold deposits lie waiting.

There are fantastic feelings of excitement that come from locating a high-grade golden pay-streak of Mother Nature’s treasure! Had we not run smack up into some earlier dredge hole, I’m certain we would have surpassed our target of recovering a pound of gold on this project. But that’s the way it goes. We’ll shoot again for the 1-pound target in next year’s group projects. As it was, we all were feeling pretty happy about the way the week turned out.

We also have a much better idea of what we are looking for to find the underwater high-grade gold deposits on the Salmon River!

It is members like Dale and Jason that make The New 49′ers a truly great group to be associated with. Once again, I find myself counting my blessings.

 

 

By Dave McCracken

Week-long Group Dredging participants
Week-long Group Dredging participants join together for a group
picture at the Brown Bear Claim (K-6) after their final clean-up.

This Group Project took place on the Brown Bear claim along the Klamath River at K-6, around two miles upstream from Horse Creek, about 50 miles upriver from Happy Camp. There were thirteen participants (11 men and 2 woman), including myself and two helpers. Two of the participants were dredging for the first time ever, one who was uncomfortable going under water when we began the week.

Most of us put up in the campground at Brown Bear for the week. There is a USFS river access there, where non-fee camping areas have been developed. This made it nice and convenient after the long workdays during the project.

We chose Brown Bear for this project because it is a rather long claim that includes a lot of river diversity; slow, shallow areas, rapids, directional changes in the river, etc. New 49er members made a strike on this claim in the mid-90′s, so we already knew high-grade gold was traveling through this section of river. Having both new and advanced dredgers on a project allows us a lot of sampling options. I hoped that if we hit the area hard with enough sampling, we would find some rich new deposits.

As we already knew where an earlier deposit had been located below a set of rapids, I directed our more experienced participants to position a 5-inch dredge out in the middle of the rapids and do a sample there. I know this sounds difficult, but there were big boulders out there blocking the river’s flow, creating big pools behind, where the dredge and divers were protected. The Klamath had dropped down to summer-low flow levels, so it was not that difficult. They dredged the hole down through about 4 feet of original grey Klamath River hard-pack (never been mined before by anyone) on the first day, and were recovering some nice sized flakes of gold.

Nuggets found at Brown Bear
Everyone was really happy about the assortment of nuggets that were found.

Although it was nothing to get excited about yet, the big flakes were an encouraging sign that we were on the right track.

Sampling at Brown Bear
Sampling on the top of the Brown Bear claim in about two feet of water.

We used two 4-inch dredges during the first two days of the project to complete two other sample holes to bedrock on the far side of the river (away from the highway) across from our campground. These holes needed to be dredged, as we were looking for the common path that the high-grade gold is following in that section of the river. The pay-streak located downstream from there in the mid-90′s was also on the far side of the river. So it seemed like a reasonable bet that we might find some high-grade where we were sampling further upstream. Because the water was slow and shallow there, this was a good place to help our less-experienced and beginning participants get more comfortable underwater and guide them in the basics about how to operate a dredge, how to do things underwater and what to look for when prospecting. We were finding some beautiful hard-pack over there, and the bedrock had plenty of irregularities to trap gold. But by the end of the second day, we had determined the general path of high-grade gold was not traveling along the far side of the river.

The more-experienced guys had reached bedrock out in the middle of the river on the second day, and established that was where the high-grade is traveling through that section of river. They were recovering lots of nice flakes and some nuggets out there in about 4 1/2 feet of hard-packed grey material with some pretty large boulders. We were getting pretty excited about that.

We all worked as a team on the third day to clear a platform on the near bank, just under our campground, and set up the 12-ton winch. That took about half the day. The second half of the third day was invested into grooving-in participants how to operate the winch and coordinate as a team to pull big rocks out of the dredge hole. After a bit of trial and error, we had it down pretty well.

I always start feeling real proud when I can stand back and watch participants pull together to get the important work done which results in high-grade gold and nuggets being recovered from the river. In short order, they pulled enough boulders out of the hole to get a work area opened up.

Into the fourth day, over half the participants were venturing out to take shifts on the 5-inch dredge in the middle of the river. We were tightening up the winch cable from the bank to create a handhold so they could walk out there. It was working out pretty well, and the gold was adding up.

Flakes of Gold
Large and small flakes of gold started showing up in the 4-inch sluice boxes right away!

However, that was only one dredge producing gold for us. Not good enough! And, even though they were getting better at dredging, a number of the participants were still not comfortable going out into the middle of the Klamath River to dredge in a set of rapids.

Since the high-grade gold path is in the middle of the river in that section of the Klamath, we decided to move the two 4-inch dredges to the upper end of the claim where several directional changes (bends in the river) were likely

to place the gold deposits on one side or the other of the river. This was all taking place while a small team continued the dredging and winching program downriver, so the gold would be building up in our bucket.

Peggy Derrick
Peggy Derrick smiles after coming up from a dive.

By the end of the fourth day, we were sampling upriver using the two 4-inch dredges. Two of our more experienced teammates sampled the highway-side of the river, just downstream on the inside bend under a set of rapids. This was a textbook location to find a rich pay-streak, but they were finding loose streambed material that had apparently washed in there from winter storms. At the end of the day, they finally had to give up that sample hole, because the loose material was too much for the 4-inch dredge to make any meaningful headway through.

While those guys were doing that, my primary focus was in helping our two least-experienced participants to do their first sample hole on their own, from start to finish. We were on the opposite side of the river where the water was shallow and slow, with bedrock sticking out of the water in places. Frankly, because the area was so easy to dredge, I did not expect to find much gold there, believing that other members must have dredged this place during the past.

When it was time to start this test hole, with just a little help, one of the new-dredgers went right under and started to get some work done. The other still had some anxiety to overcome about going out in the river underwater. This is not unusual. It is common to have a few people in each project that need a little extra help to get though the underwater basics. This person had been dredging in the days before, but was still pretty nervous about going underwater. I always use some gentle encouragement and spend the necessary time as a personal lifeguard to help first timers get through the stressful early stages. It seldom takes very long. Once a beginner gets busy underwater (especially when gold is being recovered), he or she usually overcomes the trepidation in a matter of hours. Getting all the participants through this stage is one of the several things I must accomplish in every one of these projects. This, so that we can get them productive as soon as possible.

Finding enough gold to split off at the end of the week, with the participants actually doing most of the work, is another one of my missions!

After about an hour of dredging, our two beginners came up for a rest, pretty excited that they were seeing flakes of gold on the bedrock. There was no longer any fear. That part was already long-forgotten. We looked in the sluice box, and it was speckled with small and large flakes of gold. This was the first time in all our projects that beginning-dredgers actually went out and located a pay-streak on their own. I’ll never forget the feelings of enthusiastic accomplishment.

It is also the first time we have located two high-grade pay-streaks in a single project! Everyone was feeling pretty good around camp that night!

The fifth and sixth days of the project are now just a blur to me. In fact, I probably could have taken those days off and it would not have mattered much to the final outcome. All of the participants worked together to pull themselves into a production team. Everyone had already graduated from the basics. The 5-inch dredge no longer required any winching, because the hole had been opened up enough to allow bigger rocks to be rolled back as progress was made. All but just a few of the team members invested a shift or two on that dredge, mainly to get a first-hand look at what the original (virgin) Klamath River streambed material looks like.

Sluice full of Gold
The top of the finishing-sluice was filled with gold during final clean-up on the last day.

And everyone also spent some time working the 4-inch dredges in the pay-streak upriver. That deposit consists of a foot of hard-packed streambed on top of shallow bedrock in one-to-six feet of water. The dredging in this pay-streak is so easy, I almost felt guilty putting in my own shifts. However, the overwhelming amount of enthusiasm from all the other team-mates helped me get though my guilt. Miners helping miners! We spent the seventh day floating gear out, doing the final clean-up and splitting off the gold. In all, we recovered around 2 ¼ ounces of gold, mostly nice flakes. About a third consisted of nice nuggets, the largest which was 4 pennyweights (almost ¼-ounce).

 Everyone got a shareSharing the Gold

My best guess is that there should be a strong high-grade line of gold going right down the middle of the river on K-6 from just below the USFS river-access to well below the rapids.

Just as our project was coming to an end, several members were already converging upon the upper pay-streak we had located; the easy one. Smart move!!

I floated a dredge though about ¼-mile of river down to the USFS river access from the upper pay-streak when the project was over. There is lots of bedrock showing in that area, too. And it is located between the two pay-streaks we located last week. It is silly to think there is not some high-grade to also be recovered out of that stretch. Check it out!

 

By Dave McCracken

Nearly 3 ounces of gold  Lilly Fuller
Pictured are the nearly 3 ounces of gold for the week, of which 11.8 pennyweights
were nuggets. Lilly Fuller smiles as she cleans up the final concentrates for the week.

 
This Group Project took place on the Schutts Gulch claim along the Klamath River at K-11, several miles upstream from Seiad Valley, about 20 miles upriver from Happy Camp. There were 14 participants (11 men and 3 woman), including myself and my 3 experienced helpers, Craig Colt, Ernie Kroo and Dale Carnagy. Several of the participants were dredging for the first time ever, two who were pretty nervous about going underwater water when we began the week.

Most of us camped in the USFS campground at O’Neil Creek for duration of the project. That is a nice, shaded, developed area with toilet facilities and picnic tables, located only a half-mile from where we were doing the project. We decided on the first day to stay in the central group-site together as a community. This made it convenient after the long workdays during the project. Plus it allowed all of us to visit and enjoy the after-hours together.

We chose the Schutts Gulch claim for this project because it is a very long claim that includes a lot of river diversity; slow, shallow areas, rapids, and directional changes in the river. New 49′er members have been making rich gold-strikes along this claim both in and out of the water since the early-90′s. I also made a very high-grade strike (6 ounces of gold out of a single pocket) in the mid-90′s, so I already knew high-grade gold was traveling through this section of river.

Having some less-experienced dredgers on a project requires a place where there is some easily-accessible, slower, shallow-water areas and there is still hope of finding high-grade gold. K-11 has many such locations on both sides of the river.

4-inch sample team
Four-inch sample team pauses to consider the next move,
as six-inch team is recovering gold just downriver.

K-11 also has some deeper, faster areas where potential for high-grade is really good. From past experience in this area, I felt pretty comfortable that if we hit the area hard with enough sampling, we would find some good gold deposits waiting for us.

As K-11 is such a long claim, We broke it down into three separate sampling areas: the top third of the claim; the center section; and the lower third of the claim. For practical purposes during these projects, I like to try and keep the several dredges we use within a reasonable distance of each other. Because once things really get going, I spend long days running up and down the bank, or swimming back and forth, going from dredge to dredge, while directing the sampling effort and coordinating the participants.

If we did not find what we were looking for in the upper section of the claim, my plan was to float all the gear down to the lower sections and continue the sampling effort there. I feel the potential for high-grade gold is just as good in the lower sections as it is in the top. As it was, we remained in the top section for the entire project, and several participants are still dredging high-grade in there as I write this newsletter.

Some members have been working good gold deposits on the far side of the river during earlier seasons. The problem is in transporting the people and gear from a Group Project over there from the road-side. There is a Forest Service road that goes around to the other side, but I did not want to lose the time driving all the way around every day. Another option was to use a boat at the USFS Rocky Point river access which is located about half-way down the claim. But we finally decided to start our project on the road-side. We needed to sample there anyway.

We spent the first day of the project doing orientation, moving several dredges with support gear down the hill, and getting all participants into the water for their first dives. We were using two 4-inch dredges to sample the slow, shallow areas nearer to the edge of the river. These dredges are set up for two divers each. While more experienced participants were getting a little sampling-work done further out in the river, I spent some quality time working with the less-experienced dredgers nearer to the shore.

From long experience at this, I find that beginners make very fast progress, even those who have a healthy fear of the water, as long as we begin their experience from a place where they are comfortable. Sometimes this means having the person hang out along the river’s edge for a while just looking underwater with a face mask. Once comfortable with that, I get the person looking from the edge using the mask, but breathing with the HOOKA regulator. Then I get the person to swim around the edge of the river on their own with mask and regulator, sticking his or her head down and getting used to the idea of breathing underwater. This usually progresses along just fine if the person is given some time on his or her own to work through the initial discomforts.

Herb Miller and Doti BuruursemaHerb Miller and Doti Buruursema prepare to start a sample hole on the far side of the river.

Before long, I am usually pressing down comfortably to hold the person just under the water’s surface while he or she is breathing through the regulator and looking around. It is a safe process, because I am right there being sensitive to how the person is doing. The key is to not push it too fast. The next step is to strap on the weights so the person can spend some time on the bottom in water shallow enough to get his or her head out of the water if he or she feels the need. From that point, it is seldom very long before the person is out helping on the designated beginner-dredge; the one that is operating in a very safe area.

One of my primary objectives in every project is to get all the less-experienced dredgers through these early stages and to the point where they feel comfortable working out in the river. All of the beginners in this project were competent dredgers by the time the project was over.

Years ago, I located a high-grade pay-streak out in the middle of the deeper, faster part of the river along the upper-portion of K-11. It was so long ago, I cannot even remember why we stopped dredging there, although I am sure it was not because the gold played out. The streambed is rather shallow out there; average maybe 2 feet to bedrock. The bedrock pays in the cracks and pockets when they are right. Sometimes the pay is very rich. So on the first day of the project, I directed Ernie Kroo and one of our more-experienced participants to do a sample right out in the middle, directly in line with where I had established high-grade gold in the past. They were operating a 6-inch dredge. And while they immediately started getting into some gold, it turned out that even our most experienced participant was not able to deal with the fast-water conditions out there.

Dave with Sandy CrawfordSandy Crawford always ready to light up the day with a big smile.

Meanwhile, Craig Colt and Dale Carnagy had drifted further downriver to do another sample in the middle using a 5-inch dredge. They were running into deep streambed material there. By the end of the second day, we decided to withdraw from the 5-inch sample hole in the middle of the river, because it was going to require a winch to be set up to move the boulders, the hole was going too deep to do on a 7-day project, and we knew there were other good gold prospects to sample on the far side of the river.

By the end of the second day, all participants, were out in the river pursuing the sampling effort using the two 4-inch dredges. Surprisingly, they located a pretty rich gold deposit in a hard-packed gray layer on the road-side of the river. We were already accumulating an interesting amount of gold from those two dredges. The excitement level was starting to build, and all participants wanted to spend more time in the water.

Because no-one was up to going out in the middle of the river with Ernie on the 6-inch dredge (where the rich pockets of gold are located), we decided to organize a production team to work with Ernie on the 6-inch dredge where the two 4-inch dredges had located a gold deposit closer to the edge of the river. On the third day, the two 4-inch dredges were moved further upriver on the road-side to continue the sampling process, while the 6-inch dredge was accumulating gold for the group project.

We also swung the 5-inch dredge across to the other side of the river to do a new sample. A long-time member from Sweden named Morgan had already been dredging on the other side for about a week, and he was

showing us a lot of beautiful gold, along with some nice nuggets that he was finding over there. The 5-inch dredge was put in line with Morgan several hundred feet downstream. Craig and Dale immediately got into some really nice gold over there, but there were big rocks that were going to require a winch. So they drifted back further downstream on the morning of the 4th day to begin another test hole.

While Ernie and his crew were in production with the 6-inch dredge, building up our accumulation of gold for the week, other crew members were performing sampling operations further upstream though the 4th day. They were finding gold up there in some shallow hard-pack, but it was not the high-grade deposits I was hoping to find. So we made a tactical decision to swing one 4-inch dredge across to the far side of the river to do some sampling upstream and in line with where Morgan was getting all his gold.

There is a system to getting a dredge safely across fast water. If you do it wrong, you are almost certain to dump the dredge over and lose a bunch of gear. If you do it right, it all happens so easily that everyone is left wondering what all the worry was about. That’s the way we always do it (the easy way!). So this was all good experience for those who had not seen it done before.

We asked for volunteers; and those who were the strongest swimmers were assigned to perform the samples on the other side of the river. There is also a proven-method for safely crossing a fast-moving river. Participants were getting a lot of exposure on this project in how to deal with more challenging conditions.

Once on the other side, participants used the 4-inch dredge to perform three good samples on the 5th day. Without any assistance from me, they discovered a rich gold deposit on their 3rd hole. I was so proud! This deposit is in the top layer of hard-pack. As the gold is fine in size, and they could not see it in the gravel, they did some small production-runs at different depths to discover where the gold was coming from. Right out of the text book! At the end of the day, the concentrates from their sluice box were so saturated with fine gold, that even I could not pan them out. The excitement-level was really building!

Dave with two students  Nuggets

Enough nuggets were recovered that each participant got to choose 3 pieces as a part-share.

Further downstream, Craig and Dale located a rich gold deposit in about 4 feet of old original streambed on top of bedrock. They were getting lots of fine and flake-gold out of a gray layer, and also picking up some nuggets off the bedrock. Those guys were really excited!

The second 4-inch dredge was dropped down to spend most of the 5th day production-dredging along-side the 6-inch dredge. Between those 2 dredges, we were accumulating some nice gold. They were also getting some nuggets off the bedrock. Imagine; gold nuggets being recovered from both sides of the river! Interestingly, the 4-inch dredge was recovering more gold than the 6-inch dredge. We speculated this was because the gold line was stronger as they dredged closer to the edge of the river.

So we began the 6th day with 4 separate high-grade gold deposits being mined on the upper end of K-11. Morgan was mining one, and we had located three more. Because Craig and Dale had found so much gold the day before, we made the decision to swing the 6-inch dredge across and move it downriver to work alongside the 5-inch dredge. By now, we had been through this drill enough times that our crew probably could have done it without me around. But to be on the safe side, I always keep a personal hand in the most challenging exercises during any project. Getting the dredge across and set up in the new hole was done in very short order.

Because not everyone on the project was comfortable swimming the river, we launched a boat in the morning and used it to get people, gear and supplies over to the other side. All these logistics caused us to get somewhat of a late start under the water. We made up for that by working later. In fact, I was still trying to get everyone to shut down the dredges at 7 PM at the end of the 6th day. I wrote that off to gold fever. The deposits were pretty rich. Everyone was excited.

Managing these week-long projects is a personal challenge for me in many ways. Every project is entirely different, depending upon who the participants are, and where we choose to go on the river. I always balance the need to do things safely (primary concern), while providing participants exposure to the real thing; the way high-grade gold deposits are found and developed in the river. We always find some gold. But when the participants are the ones who discover high-grade, and pull themselves into a dedicated team-effort to recover as much gold as possible in the remaining time, I am certain the adventure-experience for them is something they will never forget. This is not television or a theme park. It is the real thing!

And I am personally rewarded with very meaningful experiences on every project. Watching a person struggle early in the week with deep-seated fears of the water and having to overcome them by reaching down inside to find the powerful substance of their most inner strength is a demonstration of true bravery. I get to be part of that each time we do a project. While I cannot put it into words, being alongside a person who is overcoming personal limits is a very meaningful and honorable experience. I feel very close to my crew members in this way.

Listening to the prospecting-chatter of participants at camp during the evening is a another special bonus to me; talking about the color and hardness of the different hard-packed streambed-material they had encountered during the day’s activities, and projecting hope for how those clues might lead us into the next pay-streak… This is a whole reality that is only understood by prospectors who have actually done it. Listening to the discussions and hope for the next discovery creates an inner reward for me, allowing me to believe that I am doing something meaningful by managing these Group Projects.

Dave with two students  Dredges

I suppose the highlight of this particular project for me was on the 7th day when we decided to connect 3 suction dredges together and float them down through a long stretch of fast water like a train. This equipment needed to be extracted off the river and stored away safely for the next project. The average person anywhere would be fully challenged to just float a single dredge downstream in fast water and across the Klamath River. But we hooked three of them up like a convoy of fully-loaded tractor-trailers! Everyone involved with this exercise did their part like we had been working years together as a mining-team.

Naturally, I took the most upstream position on the rope to guide the chain of dredges, so I could keep a close eye on the whole operation. And I cannot remember ever feeling so proud, watching the teamwork and listening to the enthusiastic coordination of my partners in this adventure. For me, this feeling always seems to go along with the sad realization that the team will soon break up, with most everyone needing to go back to their normal lives.

We spent the 7th day pulling the dredging gear out of the river and cleaning all the concentrates we accumulated for the week. Doing a final clean-up is too time consuming to do every day on one of these projects. So we save it all up for the last day. Cleaning up a substantial accumulation of concentrates that contain a lot of fine gold, and accomplishing a full separation so that the gold can be split off evenly amongst the participants, is a fair amount of work. We never use mercury or any chemicals in the process. It is important for every prospector to know how to do the final gold separation. On our projects, under my careful guidance, the participants do almost all of the work. But I always get the personal pleasure of weighing out all the final shares.

In all, we recovered nearly 3 ounces of gold for the week, of which 11.8 pennyweights (a little more than half-ounce) were nuggets. Two pretty important pay-streaks were located; both which are being worked by numerous members as I write this newsletter. The richest part of the upper claim remains relatively untapped, because it lies under a section of deeper, faster water which we could not access using the team involved with this project.

 

By Dave McCracken

This Group Dredging Project took place in the lower portion of the Mega-Hole (K-15A) and the upper portion of the Glory-Hole (K-15) along the Klamath River. These long claims adjoin each other at Hwy 96 mile marker 54.17, which is around 11 miles upstream from Happy Camp. There were 15 participants (13 men and 2 woman), not including myself and my 2 experienced helpers, Craig Colt and Ernie Kroo.

Longtime active member and Club supporter, Marge Strutt, also volunteered to help the project’s less-experienced participants get through their basics during the first 3 days of the project. Several of the participants were dredging for the first time ever, and several others had little previous experience. One of the primary objectives of these projects is to help all participants achieve personal confidence while dredging underwater. This is a necessary part of making the most productive use of all our helpers during the project. We take this responsibility very serious. It helps a lot when I have an experienced dredger on the project to help with this part. That frees me up to direct the sampling activity early on in the project to locate high-grade gold deposits.

Most of us camped in the New 49′er long-term campground at Savage Rapids (K-15A) for duration of the project. That is a large camping area which extends along both sides of Highway 96, and includes a sizeable pull-off area overlooking the river which is a popular camping area for some members. The nice thing is that this camping area was very close to the places we were working along the river. As other members were also camping and mining in the area, we had an opportunity to spend some of our after-hours visiting and enjoying our time together during this venture.

The New 49′ers has access to over 60 miles of mining claims to choose from along the Klamath River and its tributaries during these Group Projects. The options are almost unlimited with this much waterway to choose from. But picking a productive location is the important first step. Because once we launch a Group Project into an area, there is not enough time to withdraw, begin the sampling process somewhere else, and still expect to recover very much gold by the end of the week. So we must choose our location carefully.

To help with this, The New 49′ers implemented a cooperative sampling program along the river which started a few weeks before this project. I have spoken about this ongoing sampling program idea in the past few newsletters, and it is really starting to produce some valuable results. Through the ongoing sampling program, we are trying to locate prime areas to launch the Group Mining Projects. This increases the chances of the Group Projects recovering more gold. A side benefit is that we locate some high-grade mining areas along the way – that other members are able to jump right into on their own.

In this case, during the few weeks before this latest Group Dredging Project, our common sampling program was joined by members, Ernie Kroo, Jacob Urban, Lilly Fuller, Craig Colt, Gerald & Judy Shirey, Hariof Rothenberger and Kent Gibson. We found several very interesting gold deposits as we worked our way down through the Mega-Hole and into the top end of the Glory Hole. Several of the gold deposits were good; but because of deep or fast water, we ruled them out as areas to pursue a Group Dredging Project. We left those areas behind for other members to work.

I have to say something about this: As time goes forward, I am increasingly reminded how lucky we are to have so many members that are interested in participating in cooperative projects that greatly benefit the whole membership. It is remarkable to participate in a sampling activity where we locate high-grade gold deposits and freely turn them over to other members that just happen to be present and are looking for a good place to mine. There is an enormous amount of goodwill in this! In our 20 years as an organized mining group, I do not recall that there was ever a time when morale and goodwill amongst the membership has been at a higher point than it is right now.

Having some less-experienced-dredgers on a Group Project requires a place where there is some easily-accessible, slower, shallow-water areas so we can get them started, and there is still hope of finding high-grade gold. Our community sampling project located a good gold deposit towards the lower end of the Mega-Hole that is perfect for beginners. I was really pleased about that.

Just a little further downriver in the Mega-Hole, we located a second gold deposit out in the middle of the river where the water is only about three feet deep – but moving a little swiftly. So our plan going into this Group Project was to split the group into two separate teams: One to develop the gold deposit in slow, shallow water, and the other to develop the pay-streak in deeper, moving water.

Finding a rich gold deposit(s) is one of the few primary objectives that we must accomplish, or we won’t have very much gold to split off at the end of the week. Therefore, doing some advanced sampling takes a lot of pressure off me during these projects. Once the deposit(s) are located, and the less-experienced participants are through their basics and comfortable in the water, the last remaining major objective is to recover as much gold as we can for the week.

This all sounds pretty straightforward. But quite often, the best-laid plans fall apart in gold mining about as soon as you start implementing them. So you always have to be flexible.

I spent the first few days working with Marge and all the less-experienced helpers on the first team. That part of the program was going pretty well. We clearly established the boundaries of the pay-streak on the first day, even while we were still helping beginners figure out how to breath from a regulator underwater. This was a very easy pay-streak, located on bedrock under about one foot of a gray hard-pack layer of streambed in two feet of water alongside the edge of the river. It does not get much easier than that! This group quickly named itself the “A-Team.” Into the second day of the project, they were already organizing themselves into a production program, taking shifts and doing trial & error routines to push gold production as high as possible.

Meanwhile, the more experienced “B-Team” was working very hard to open up the pay-streak we had located further downriver. They were using 5-inch and 6-inch dredges that were tied off next to each other, and running three divers down on each dredge to deal with the deeper streambed material in that location. This operation was faced with more serious obstacles to overcome in the river.

Initially, we were very excited about the B-Team location, because we had located gold on top of, and inside of, original (virgin), gray hard-packed streambed material in the middle of the river, just upstream from where hundreds of ounces of gold were recovered from the Glory Hole several years ago. The potential for extraordinary success is really good in that location! The problem was that by the end of the second day, B-Team still could not find bedrock, and they had excavated a hole through 10 feet of streambed material and boulders! While they were getting some pretty good gold, the deepness of the hole was making it somewhat ineffective to pursue the location using 5-inch and 6-inch dredges.

What to do? This is always the question! After a group discussion on the morning of the third day, we unanimously agreed that the best course of action was to split the two dredges from B-Team into a new sampling effort. This was a risky decision. Because if we remained in the original location, we were sure to recover enough gold by the end of the week so that there would be plenty of gold to split off. There was no guarantee that we would locate new, higher-grade gold deposits in the short time allowed to us in the project. These are the same risky, difficult decisions every prospector has to face on his or her own. Do you stay with the sure-thing of a lower-grade deposit? Or do you take a chance of recovering even less gold by sampling around for something better?

Ultimately, B-Team opted to sample for something better, while A-Team committed themselves to double their efforts at recovering gold from the pay-streak they were mining further upstream. The gold from the A-Team program was adding up pretty good in our bucket of concentrates going into the third day. I was very proud to watch the less-experienced team carry the responsibility of gold production, while the more experienced participants devoted themselves to the challenge of finding a richer gold deposit.

I’m finding it very interesting that there is clearly an evolution happening in these organized Group Dredging Projects. They are getting better. Because this is the second year we have been doing these Group Projects, we are getting more and more repeat-participants; members who have been involved with earlier projects and already understand what the objectives are and how to reach them. The nature of the projects brings the whole group together in a team-building experience. But usually the team does not really come together until about the 4th or 5th day – after we have surmounted the major challenges associated with sampling to locate high-grade gold. This project was different. Of the 19 people involved, only 7 had not already been on one of these Group Projects. The rest of us started the week knowing where we needed to be as a cohesive team. It was easy for the others to slip right into the team-chemistry.

We were in the full team-mode going into the third day when A-team committed themselves to gold production while B-Team dedicated themselves to the pursuit of higher-grade gold deposits. Good team chemistry like this, managed right, in a good gold-bearing area, is near certain to make something good happen.

We have found from long experience that the key to finding high-grade gold in a good section of river is to bracket the area with numerous, well-done sample holes in the middle and along both sides of the river. So B-team got busy doing that on day-3. The 5-inch dredge was moved to one side of the river and dropped down to just above the rapids that drop into the Glory-Hole. They were struggling with some pretty fast water there, but were making headway. The 6-inch dredge was moved to the other side of the river, upstream where faster water was coming through two bedrock islands out in the middle of the river. They were investing a lot of effort to get a hole started, too.

The hardest part about dredging in fast water is in getting a hole started along the bottom of the river. Once you have even the beginning of a hole, you get a reprieve from the fast water. They were doing it, while I pretty-much stood back and watched. It is best on these Group Projects if the participants work together to overcome the difficulties, rather than stand back and watch me or another supervisor do the hard work. I usually only jump in when my participation is needed to get something accomplished, or when a new important gold strike is made (I can’t resist being in on the discovery of all that gold!).

One of the most interesting things we discovered in the lower Mega-Hole is that most of it appears to never have been dredged before. In all our sampling down there during the past several weeks, we have yet to find very much ground where earlier dredgers left tell-tale lose cobbles behind. There seems to be a lot of opportunity remaining there!

Ray Phillips gives the thumbs-up signal just after a hot new paystreak was located.

Mid-way through the third day, the 6-inch dredge located high-grade pockets of gold on the bedrock under 3 to 5 feet of streambed material that had never been dredged before. Those guys were really feeling good about that! As soon as they were waving to us with the thumbs-up signal that they had struck gold, I went up to take a quick dive to see for myself. Sure enough, we cracked open some bedrock and watched 30 or 40 nice colors go up the suction nozzle. What a great feeling!

The 5-inch dredge was not yet on bedrock further downriver, and was uncovering rocks too large to move without a winch; so we decided to withdraw from that sample (until another day) and move the 5-inch dredge up to work alongside the 6-inch dredge. At the end of the third day, both teams were working some pretty good pay-streaks. The gold in our concentrate bucket was looking very impressive. We had made a lot of progress on the third day, and everyone was feeling pretty good about it.

During these Group Projects, we all meet at camp every morning to discusswhat we are struggling with in the field; subjects like how to move and tie off dredges in different circumstances, how to avoid and cope with plug-ups (when rocks obstruct the flow of material through a dredge system), what to look for in prospecting, how to increase the volume of production, standard operating procedures in teamwork situations; all of the important things people need to know to improve their skills in this field. Mornings are a good time, where we share our experiences, and everyone can get their questions answered.

During the morning sessions, we also discuss the progress we have made and make plans for how we will reach the next objective. Objectives change on these projects every day. First, we just want to find some gold. Then we want to find something better. Then we want all the dredges to be producing in gold. Then we are looking for a higher-grade deposit. I’m sure you get the idea. We take it a step at a time, progressing towards where we need to be at the end of the week – which is having plenty of gold to split off.

The nice thing about a Group Project, is that we have the resources to send out a sampling team to look for something even better, even while all the rest of the group is working feverously to build up the gold in our concentrate bucket.

On the morning of the forth day, we found ourselves with all of the dredges working flat-out in high-grade gold – and not much for me to do but stand around and watch. All the beginners were through all the basics and doing their share of the work on the dredges. Everyone was comfortable doing what they were doing. What was I to do? This was a first for me in these projects. Usually I don’t find myself “standing around” until the 6th day.

After some discussion about this, we made a plan for myself and two of our most experienced participants from B-Team, Mike & Jaosn Phillips, to launch a 4-inch dredge into the Glory-Hole and sample some of the deeper, faster-water areas down there – looking for something very special. While launching the 4-inch dredge, we happened across Gerald & Judy Shirey, who had just started sampling in the Glory-Hole themselves. We had no sooner put the 4-inch dredge in the water, and Gerald called us over to show us the gold he was already finding on the other side of the river. For the little bit of bedrock he had uncovered, he was already finding more gold than any of the dredges we were using in the project upstream! But while moving a rock, Gerald pinched one of his fingers bad enough to decide he ought to take a few days off to let it mend. So he offered us the use of his boat, dredge and pay-streak in our Project. How much more generous can you get?

It is well known within our industry that the membership of The New 49′ers is made up of kind-hearted, well-meaning people that always seem willing to extend a helping hand to others. The chemistry within our group is something truly wonderful to be part of. Maybe its me that has changed these past few years. I am certainly taking a much more active roll out along the river, working more closely with members, than during past years. Or maybe I just missed it before. But I have never before had so many members jumping in to volunteer their active participation to make the group programs work like what is happening these days – to the point of offering up high-grade pay streaks that have just been found! This is unheard of!

Gerald’s pay-streak was on bedrock under about 18 inches of hard-packed streambed along the far edge of the river in the Glory-Hole; an easy place for our A-Team to work if the gold proved out better than where they were mining upstream. To make sure the pay-streak was large enough to justify moving the A-Team and their gear, Mike, Ray & I spent the remainder of the 4th day bracketing the area around Gerald’s hole with more samples using Gerald’s dredge. By the end of the day, we had made 4 or 5 sample holes around the area; and while we were finding gold in every hole, it was not high-grade enough to justify any big movements by the rest of our team. It seemed like Gerald’s discovery was a rich pocket that did not extend out very far. It is good that we found this out before moving a whole team down there!

The morning of our 5th day found everyone in great spirits. The gold was building up nicely in our concentrate bucket, because both the A & B-Teams had a productive previous day. The whole group agreed that it was best to stay on track mining the two gold deposits, while Mike, Ray & I continued to sample in the Glory Hole.

The thing about the Glory Hole is that it is so rich, if you dredge in high-grade gold where no-one has dredged before, even with a 4-inch dredge, you can sometimes recover as much as an ounce per hour of dredging – or even more.

So far, in all the holes we dredged around Gerald’s gold deposit, we had not found a single place that had been dredged before. So it was just a matter of finding the strong gold path in the river. We still felt we could do that. From the previous history in that area, my feeling was that the highest-grade gold line is on the opposite side of the river to where Gerald was dredging. So on the 5th morning, Mike and Ray got an early start using our 4-inch dredge to sample over there.

After overseeing the startup of all the other activity, when I arrived in the Glory Hole, Mike was already yelling at me to hurry down and see the nugget they had just found. I thought he was pulling my leg, because they had not been down there very long. But sure enough, they had already found the high-grade gold line on bedrock under 18 inches of hard-packed streambed. Mike pulled the nice nugget right out of a crack in the bedrock. I took a short dive with Mike to have a look for myself, and we almost immediately uncovered a pocket of gold that was full of rice-size pieces of jewelry gold. There was so much gold in the pocket that it took us quite a while to get it all out. After that dive, I approved their request to be named the “Double-G-Team” (“G” for gold). They found the high-grade prize we all are looking for when we go out prospecting.

I am truly amazed at how much of the Glory and Mega-Hole areas have yet to be dredged. These are long claims. I suppose, during those early years of the Club, members must have just lost track of who dredged which areas. After a while, everybody just assumed it was all dredged out. At the end of the fifth day, it looked to me like the GG-Team had recovered more gold on the 4-inch dredge in the Glory-Hole, than all the gold that day from A & B-Teams combined! And GG-Team gold was mostly made up of small nuggets and jewelry-pieces. Everyone was getting really excited! It sure seemed like the good old “Glory Days” were back…

On the morning of the 6th day, we woke up to find that the Klamath River had risen at least a foot overnight and turned green. And it was continuing to rise. Underwater visibility was reduced to about a foot at best. This placed a dark shadow over our production-hopes for the day. Apparently, the Iron Gate Dam upstream increased the water discharge to help signal the Salmon holding offshore that it is time to begin their migration upriver. The result was that the Klamath was running quite a bit faster than the day before, with almost no working visibility along the bottom. Too bad!

During our morning planning session, each of the dredge teams agreed that they would attempt to get some production accomplished; but if it was not possible or two dangerous, they would float the equipment out to our planned extraction point. Normally the 7th day of a project is devoted to pulling equipment off the river and final clean up, separation and split of all the gold recovered during the week.

After giving it a try, both the A & B -Teams decided it was too dangerous in the places where they were dredging, so they struggled hard with the increased flow of the river to get all their gear safely to the extraction point. Further downstream, the GG-Team decided they could still be productive, because the streambed material was shallow in their location, and the river was not much faster where they were dredging. Although the production was slower, they were coping with the lowered visibility and recovering some nice gold. That prompted us to float Gerald’s dredge across the river and expand the GG-Team by adding two more people that wanted to dive. This was a very committed group!

At the end of the 6th day, the GG-Team had a respectable amount of jewelry-gold to add to the bucket. It was enough that they decided to meet at 7 AM on Friday morning (7th day) to put in one last dive before the project ended.

In all, we recovered nearly 5 ounces of gold for the week, of which 18.2 pennyweights (just under an ounce) were nuggets. Three pay-streaks were located and developed; none of which are being worked by members as I write this newsletter. The pay-streak between the two bedrock islands in the lower Mega-Hole deserves some serious work. The richest place we found down in the Glory-Hole remains relatively untapped.

 

 

By Dave McCracken General Manager

“This was one of those few times in life where the accomplishment in itself, along with the shared experiences, were worth as much as the gold.”

Dave Mack

  

There were 18 participants in this gold dredging Project, including myself. We decided to do it on the Club’s K-13 property. Other New 49′er members had discovered high-grade gold on both sides and in the middle of the river in that area over the years. Since K-13 is such a long mining claim, we figured the earlier mining activity could barely have scratched the surface of the larger gold deposits which pretty-much extend continuously down the full length of the Klamath River.

We have been finding consistently during these Group Mining Projects that if we just launch an aggressive sampling program into an area where other members have already found gold on New 49′er properties, we always seem to be able to discover that some meaningful part of the high-grade gold remains in place – sometimes even the best part of the pay-streak!

People wonder why we always seem to be able to get into high-grade when we do these Group Projects. Really, there is no secret to it. The first thing we do is choose a place along the river where we are nearly certain that high-grade gold deposits exist within reach of the mining equipment that we will use. This is nearly always the result of other New 49′er members having already discovered high-grade in the same area at some time during the past. Then we perform an aggressive, coordinated sampling program into that immediate area.

We were using 4 dredges on this project, because we had a pretty large team. Using four dredges provided us with a sampling-advantage, in that we were able to carefully coordinate the sample holes while paying very careful attention to where the gold traces are being found. In a step-by-step process, we are able to walk our way right up into the high-grade gold deposits.

We initially arranged to have 2 chemical toilets delivered to a large gravel bar and river access area (named “Sluice Box”) located towards the upper-end of K-13. There was plenty of room there to organize a group camp. But, early on Saturday morning, our shore boss, Otto Gaither, suggested we set up our camp a little further downriver on K-15A. Several other members had just vacated that area, which left plenty of room for a group camp with more natural shade. So we sent a small crew over on early Saturday morning with a flat bed trailer to move the toilets down to K-15A.

The first day on these Projects (Saturday) is always planned for setting up our group camp in the vicinity of where we will spend the week on the river – and to get all the mining equipment moved to the river and set up. Depending upon the circumstances, sometimes we even have time to get the sampling program started on Saturday afternoon.

This time, though, we used up all of the first day launching gear and positioning it on the river. This was the first time we had ever used an 8-inch dredge on one of these Group Projects. Launching the larger dredge into this particular section of the Klamath River required us to disconnect the flat bed trailer from my truck and use a winch to lower it down a sandy access trail to the river. All of this took some very coordinated teamwork and a lot of effort. But we finally got the big dredge into the river. Otto captured the following video sequence as we wrestled that big dredge into the water:

We were also using two 5-inch dredges on this Project, along with a great 6-inch dredge that Richard Dahlke had brought along. Those dredges all went into the water quite easily after what we went through to launch the 8-incher. We were using a small motor boat to help position dredges on both sides of the river, and to move people, gear and supplies up and down the river all week long.

My trusty assistants, Craig Colt, Andrew Inks and Jake Urban were all present on this Project to give a hand. Our shore boss, Otto, was also present to help organize all of our ongoing support needs, capture some video, do the photography, make sure there was a pot of coffee ready every morning, and generally help with everything else that needed doing. We call Otto “Mr. Mom.” In turn, once in a while, if we start crying or complaining too much, he starts calling us names, like “Sally” and “Betty.” Otto keeps everyone reminded that life is too short to not enjoy yourself at least a little bit every day. He adds a friendly, human side to these Projects. We are lucky to have him!

Andrew and Craig agreed to manage the 8-inch dredge. Jake agreed to supervise one of the 5-inch dredges; the one where we would help beginners get through the early stages of underwater mining. Richard Dahlke agreed to supervise a team using his 6-inch dredge as the primary sampling rig on this Project.

Matt Johnson agreed to supervise the second 5-inch dredge. Matt had participated on an earlier dredging Project and had already proven himself to be a dependable and experienced dredger and team-leader. Also, from several days of dredging before the Project started, Matt and his wife, Jennifer, had already located some kind of gold deposit using their 4-inch dredge on K-13. So the immediate mission for Matt’s team was to open up that area using a 5-inch dredge and establish where (what layer in the streambed) the gold was coming from.

We all split off into separate teams early on Sunday morning, with each of the 4 dredges having their own assigned targets to complete. These individual dredge targets are part of a bigger sampling plan where we attempt to: (1) establish where the strongest path(s) of gold is traveling down the river; (2) establish which layer(s) within the streambed where the richest gold is located, and; (3) then locate the high-grade gold deposits within those zones.

The following video sequence captured a typical morning on one of these Projects. Our entire team meets every morning to review how progress is being made on the larger sampling program, to better-coordinate our efforts and to set new targets for the upcoming day:

Since Craig’s was the most experienced team, using the 8-inch dredge, their mission was to push a sample hole out towards the middle of the river. Not surprisingly, they immediately started turning up lots of fine-sized flake-gold over towards the edge of the river. The reason we were not surprised, was because other members had already long-established a continuous line of fine gold in the hard-packed gravels along the Highway-96-side of the river throughout the entire length of K-13. But others had found higher-grade deposits out in the center of the river in the vicinity of where we were sampling. That’s what I was hoping we would find! But after several days of hard work, we pretty-much discovered that those earlier members dredged out the middle in that area. Too bad! So Craig’s team ultimately decided to devote the remainder of the week to working the fine gold deposit closer to the edge of the river.

  

While I do oversee the bigger sampling program during these Projects, early in the week, I am mainly concerned with helping beginners work through the early steps necessary to get them underwater. This is so they can become a meaningful part of the forward momentum that is necessary to recover exciting amounts of gold from the bottom of a river. Gold mining is a volume-sensitive activity. The more work you get accomplished (in the right places), the more gold you end up with. So, early in the week, I am eager to help all participants get off to a good start. The following video sequence captured a typical setting during these Projects when we are helping some beginners to get started:

It is normal for some participants to arrive with a healthy fear of the water. Actually, everyone has a healthy fear of the water. That fear just happens to be energized more-easily in some, than others. People who arrive afraid need some special help during the beginning stages. We always start them in shallow-enough water that there is zero chance of drowning, and nearly zero chance of encountering any traumatic experience. Under very controlled conditions, we assist beginners to overcome the initial fear, simply by starting them doing things which they are comfortable with. This might begin with just floating around along the edge of the river while getting used to looking through a face mask or breathing through a hookah regulator. In a step-by-step process, it seldom takes long to be out there holding beginners just underwater so they can get used to breathing down there. Having helped hundreds of members through these early stages, I have found that most people are able to overcome the initial fear on the first or second day. By the end of the week on these Projects, most beginners have worked their way onto an important part of the underwater-production aspect of the program. Once in a while, it is a beginner that makes the highest-grade discovery of the week!

Jake’s 5-inch dredge remained in the same place all week long. This was because the dredge was recovering a handsome showing of fine gold alongside the highway-side of the river. Several beginners graduated up to Matt’s dredge that was working the very same fine-gold deposit further upstream, only in deeper water. The remainder of the beginner-team utilized the rest of the week to develop a production dredging program so they could recover as much gold as possible.

We established on the first day that the gold was being recovered out of a tan-colored hard-packed streambed layer which was resting on top of an older grey-colored layer. The key to production was to dredge up as much of the tan material as possible.

One of the really nice things about these Projects is how much help and support that team members give to each other – especially when getting into and out of the water with dredging gear strapped on. Otto captured this following sequence showing a beginner get into the water, just as he was starting to feel some personal confidence underwater:

As Matt and Jennifer had already located some kind of pay-streak further upriver the week before, we decided that would be a great place for them to operate the 5-inch dredge during the first day or two of this Project. But when we towed the 5-inch dredge up there using the boat, we discovered that someone else had already moved in on the location. This turned out to be an old grizzly-looking gold miner who materialized there from 150 years ago. When we pulled up in the boat, he gave us a very friendly welcome and showed us all the gold that he was recovering from just digging gravel from the bottom of the river (using a shovel!) in about 5 feet of water. He had a lot of gold to show for his effort!

As we had already targeted that same area for some dredge sampling, but the other guy was in there ahead of us, we were initially concerned about not stepping on his right to mine the immediate location. But he told us that he didn’t mind, because he did not have the equipment to get further out into the river where we wanted to go. There was plenty of room for everyone. Otto captured the following video sequence showing us working side-by-side. It’s only one of the few times I have ever watched a prospector recovering an impressive amount of gold from underwater with the use of a normal hand-shovel!

That’s one of the great things about The New 49′ers. You are always meeting such nice and helpful people!

Matt’s team opened up a test hole not far upstream from where the member was shoveling gold off the bottom of the river; and it only took a few hours before Matt was showing us some incredible initial sample results. Here follows a video sequence that was captured just as Matt and Jennifer were showing off the first good sample result from their dredge:

Several participants from the beginner dredge then moved up to help Matt and Jennifer; and I have to say, that was the highest-morale I have seen in a dredge team for as far back as I can remember. They sure were having a great time!

Bob Dahlke (Richard’s Dad) had specially-built a 6-inch dredge for us to use on this Group Project. What a great machine! We had to keep reminding Richard to turn the motor down so the dredge wouldn’t suck someone’s arm off! Those guys really know how to build a dredge!

Once the beginners were all doing well in the water, I spent most of the remainder of the week working close with the Dahlke team in search of high-grade gold. We were looking for nuggets, baby! I knew there was a strong line of beautiful gold nuggets extending down the far side of the river (the side opposite Highway 96), because we had a member devote an entire winter several years ago, dredging up nice nuggets off the far side. I saw the gold. Other members have also occasionally tapped into that same line of beautiful nuggets. As K-13 is such a very long claim, I personally believe that most of the nugget deposits on the far side have yet to be discovered.

So it was with this in mind that we started Richard’s team early in the week, sampling the far side of the river. The problem was that they were finding a lot of sand over there. The thing about sand is that you never know how deep it’s going to go without at least trying to dredge a hole down through it. So you can eat up days and days just trying to reach down to find bottom!

Richard’s dredge touched down on bedrock several times in the first few days. Each time, he recovered a nice showing of gold; mostly which consisted of bigger pieces than what we were finding on the Highway-96-side of the river. We were encouraged, but mainly overwhelmed by an endless flow of sand sliding into the sample excavations.

When I finally had more time to spend with Richard’s team, we began a sampling process of swimming around with mask and snorkel, free-diving (without hookah) down to survey the bottom of the river. We were looking for places that the boulders and hard-packed streambed were not buried in sand. This is accomplished easier without the added floatation of a wet-suit. Sometimes, in deeper water, we will do bottom surveys similar to this by operating the dredge at idle-speed to provide air for the divers, and just allow them to pull the dredge around by the suction nozzle until they find a location that looks like a good place to do a sample. In this case, a shore team usually has to work the side and rear tie-off lines from the dredge along the riverbank. The following two video sequences captured this important underwater prospecting activity as it all played out:

With some help from me, Richard’s team surveyed the bottom of the far side of the river for the longest way; perhaps a quarter-mile or so. We were looking for places along the river bottom where we could get some samples without having to move a lot of sand out of our way. As we started moving upstream, we found that the sand deposits were no longer present once we got to where the water was moving along in a steady flow.

With only a few days remaining in the Project, I was very motivated to try and tap some of those nuggets! The problem was that once we got upstream of the sand deposits, nearly the entire flow of the Klamath River was directly alongside the bank in about 20 feet of water on the far side. This created near-impossible (fast water) dredging conditions! Still, just to get an idea, Ray Derrick and I went down to give it a try. The water was so fast in that place, we were mostly down there holding onto upcroppings of bedrock, flapping like flags in a strong wind! But we kept at it hard enough to get a pretty good sample; and sure enough, there were a few bigger pieces of gold in the sample result.

The problem, though, was that we could not gain access to the high-grade gold deposit from the far side of the river. The water was just too fast over there. So we found ourselves having an important discussion on the bank of the river; the same discussion I have found myself having countless times before. We knew where the high-grade gold was. How could we get it off the bottom of the river?

Basically, we had two options: One was to drop further down river to where the water slowed enough to allow us to do some work. The other was to swing the dredge across the river and try and gain access to the deposit which we had already located from over there. This second option would require us to put divers in the river on one side of the river. Then, once the dredge was running, the divers would need to walk the suction hose nearly all the way across the river to do the dredging. Operationally, this was much more difficult than the first option. But with only a few days remaining in the Project, I felt more comfortable going after the sure thing in the second option. After all, we had just found some rice-sized pieces of gold in that sample!

Rigging-up for this exercise meant that we would need to keep a dredge tender on the dredge platform at all times, so he or she could knock plug-ups out for us without our having to pull the dredge all the way back across the river. We rigged the dredge with two ropes; one from upstream to keep the dredge from getting swept downriver by the current; and the other from the rear, to prevent the dredge from motor-boating beyond where we wanted it to position on the river. Otto captured the following video sequence as we completed the first encouraging sample out beyond the middle of the river:

One person was placed on each of the ropes with instructions to allow the dredge to follow us out beyond the middle of the river where we wanted to dredge. This is not hard to do, because you can get a pretty good idea where the divers are by where their bubbles are surfacing. The dredge had a 25-foot suction hose which was clamped tightly to the power jet. So, as long as they allowed a little slack in the lines, they would allow us to drag the dredge out to where we wanted to go. We worked it out after a little trial and error; and soon we were back out within a few yards of where Ray and I had taken a sample off the far side about an hour or so earlier. The following video sequence captured how we were able to dredge high-grade on the far side of the river. Check out the nice nuggets we were finding out there!

But this time, since we were dredging from the slack-water side of the river, we had almost no fast current to contend with. We were making progress!

Without the fast current to slow us down, we were able to get a good sample finished in about an hour. Sure enough, when we checked the sluice box, there were some nice pieces of gold there to pay for all the effort! We were getting gold nuggets!

But now we had a new problem: The slack-side of the river we were launching from was actually a great big, slow-moving back eddy; and the silty water from our tailings was washing back around to completely eliminate underwater visibility throughout the entire distance between the bank where we were launching from, and the fast water on the far side of the river. So, getting back to the bank from the place we were dredging meant having to traverse almost all the way across the river in zero visibility. The water was deep and pitch dark (on the bottom) out there!

Traversing back out from the bank to the underwater work area through zero visibility was even harder, because it meant that we had to find the dredge excavation. This was not going to be easy!

After coming up with the first good sample result, the second underwater crew completely failed in their attempt to find the underwater work site. We all watched in amazement as their bubbles showed that they were all over the place down there; just about everywhere but where the work site was. Ultimately, both divers decided that they were not up to the task.

As the work site was actually out in the river’s current, that area was not being clouded-out by the tailings water. It was only the large slack-water area in-between the bank and the current (nearly all the way across the river) where we could not see a thing (near total darkness). It was a long way to go in the dark!

Crawling around along the bottom of a river in the pitch black can draw some serious, primal fear out of you. Do you remember those really nasty nightmares you had when you were just a little kid? That sort of thing! I suspect this has to do with deep, hidden genetic memories, perhaps from times long ago when human beings were not at the top of the food chainâ?¦

I have experienced a lot of deep, dark-water adventures in my time. It always scares the heck out of me! It is definitely not something the average participant in these Dredging Projects signs on to do!

So after our second team failed to get out to the site where we were finding the gold nuggets, we found nearly all of our project crew in a serious discussion about what to do. Several participants felt like they were up to the task. Mario Marroqim volunteered to give it a try, even though up until just a few days before, he had never even breathed from a hookah system before. Ultimately, Mario got out there without any problem.

After seeing the gold from that sample, quitting was not an option that was even considered by the team. It was just a matter of working out who and how we were going to do it. These more difficult conditions required us to pause and catch our breath.

Thursday found us with several teams of divers ready to take shifts on the Dahlke dredge, along with a more-experienced shore crew that had already learned to play out the dredge lines to allow the dredge to follow the divers nearly all the way across the dark river. Since the divers could not see anything underwater in the slack-water area, we worked out a system whereby they would hold onto the suction nozzle together and just crawl out towards the far side as fast and straight as they could go, until they felt the river’s current. As the current was flowing clean water, visibility would return just as soon as they got out there. Then it was just a matter of following the current up or downstream until the excavation was located.

Pretty soon, we were spending more time dredging, than planning – and the gold nuggets started adding up. Here follow 2 video sequences that were captured as we were cleaning up some beautiful gold nuggets from several different dives:

Morale was very high on Thursday afternoon when it was time to dump-off the dredge-sluice from the day’s run. Besides recovering some really nice gold, we all felt a strong sense of team-camaraderie, knowing that we had overcome something difficult together; something that required courage and teamwork. It was a good feeling of accomplishment.

It subtracts too much time to do a final clean-up of gold production every day. So we allow all of our concentrates to accumulate in a bucket, and we deal with all of it on the final day. Friday’s clean-up on this Project was particularly challenging, because most of the week’s gold production was in fine gold.

All participants always participate in the final clean-up steps. This is because there is a lot of work involved with separating all of the gold from all of the black (iron) sands. When we had all of the week’s gold concentrated down into a single gold pan, I would have bet anyone that we had accumulated at least a pound. It really looked like a lot!

The following video sequence captured the steps that we usually follow during a final clean-up. Check out how much gold looks to be in that gold pan!

Ultimately, though, by the time we removed all the black sand from the week’s production, we ended up with a total of 4.92 ounces. There were 1.4 ounces of nuggets. The largest nugget weighed 2 pennyweights.

While we have recovered more gold in other Projects, I don’t ever recall another time when the participants needed to overcome more difficult circumstances to win the prize. This was one of those few times in life where the accomplishment in itself, along with the shared experiences, were worth as much as the gold.