Waving  Final gold

There were 28 members who participated in this group outing. We also had two journalists along for the adventure. One of the journalists, Steve Werblow, is a freelance writer for Homestead Magazine which is an affiliate of the John Deere Magazine. He was writing about the “New Gold Rush” and the people who it has brought out prospecting. We also had a journalist all the way from France named Camille Le Pomellec. Camille was producing a documentary on the The New Gold Rush for a television station in France which is much like our HBO. They, and all of us, were in for a treat when Dave Mack decided to demonstrate the technique of “booming” on this group mining adventure.

As usual, we met at the New 49″er office in Happy Camp on Saturday morning so that all participants had an opportunity to register for the project and pick up any necessary supplies or equipment at the Pro-Mack store. Then we headed over to the Lions Club for Dave”s talk. For those who have never had the opportunity to attend one of these talks, or an outing, I would strongly urge you to fit it into your schedule. The valuable information and hands-on experience you receive will help you immensely in all your pursuits of gold. I”m not just saying this. Having attended all or most of the outings during the past two years, I believe that everyone who participates would agree that the experience is very valuable. Dave schedules five or six of these weekend projects every season. They are free to all New 49″er members. Each person who participates receives an equal share of the gold that is recovered.

Dave”s talk (about how to locate and sample for high-grade gold) ended at around noon on Saturday. The group broke for lunch and then proceeded out to K-15A to do an afternoon of sampling. This consists of panning materials and comparing the results from numerous places along a gravel bar to figure out where the strongest line of gold is ” and at what layer within the gravel the gold is located. By following this simple process, anyone can track down a good location where you can focus productive activity and recover more gold for your effort. Whether you are panning, sluicing, high-banking or suction dredging, a simple sampling program is the key to locating the higher-grade gold deposits.

K-15A has been one of our more popular mining properties this season. I believe this is mainly because Dave has directed multiple group outings along the upper-part of the property, each time with the participants recovering substantial amounts of gold. Members can then go out on their own after the organized project is finished.

A lot of members had been out there since our last project, so we were having trouble making a strike during the first hour or so on Saturday afternoon. While everyone was recovering some amount of gold, we were not getting the results that are needed to make the gold really add up in a high-banker on the following day.

Hard-pack“ is one of the most important things Dave demonstrates during these group outings. This is compacted streambed which has been deposited by a major flood storm. Since large volumes of gold only move in a waterway during major flood storms, Dave explains that high-grade gold deposits are nearly always located either on top or at the bottom of a hard-packed layer of streambed, or in the contact zone between different layers when more than one is present. This is one of the most important points that Dave stresses during these outings. He is always saying, “You are not even in the game unless you have found some hard-pack!” It”s one thing to read about this in a book. But it is incredibly valuable when you are just getting started to actually be able to see and dig in the right kind of streambed material! Luckily, I had the video camera handy while Dave was showing newcomers this important point:

Because gold is very heavy, it tends to travel down river along concentrated paths during large flood storms. Finding one of these paths is the first step in a sampling program. Since other members had pretty-much mined-out the rich gold deposit which we located during the previous outing, it was time to establish a new one. So Dave called team-leaders, Bruce Waldie, Terry McClure and Richard Krimm together and asked if they knew of any other gold lines along the gravel bar that had previously been established through sampling.

Both Richard and Bruce suggested that we move the sampling-effort down a bit closer to the river, in line with an area where we had done very well last season. Bruce had done some sampling down there earlier this year, and he was saying that the results were pretty good. As Dave explained during his lecture earlier in the day, getting hot tips like this from other members is one of the fastest and easiest ways to locate new high-grade gold deposits. So we gathered up the participants and redirected our sampling efforts to the new area.

Teaching gold panningThere is another very important thing that Dave demonstrates during these outings. He keeps saying, “Proper sampling is a very exact process.” Since most high-grade gold deposits are located either on top or at the bottom of a compacted flood layer, it is important to be very careful to first clear any sand, loose gravel or other low-grade material from the surface that you want to test. Then, you pass the exact material that you want to test through the proper size of classification screen. This way, you end up with the most concentrated sample that you can fit in your gold pan ” the stuff that is most likely to contain gold if it is present. As Dave explained to the group on this day, preparation of a pan sample in the first place is very likely to make the difference of finding or missing a pay-streak if it is present. Here follows a video sequence showing Dave and some helpers prepare a pan-sample off the top of a layer of some hard-pack:

Several experienced prospectors were out there helping newcomers dial-in their panning technique, and the very first pans in the new location started showing some really good results. Richard Krimm came up with a pan which was actually the best Dave had seen all season. That”s when I picked up the video camera and started capturing all the excitement. Here follows a video sequence with Dave explaining what was going on:

One of the reasons Dave was so excited is because the terrain within this new location was going to allow us to feed the high-bankers using suction nozzles. This is similar to suction dredging out of the water. But Dave was quick to explain that there is a big difference between dredging and booming. The term “booming” refers to how you use the suction nozzle attachment of the high-banker up on dry land. It actually has nothing

to do with an active waterway. .

BoomingThe truth is that it takes quite a lot of effort if you just pick up the suction nozzle outside of a waterway and start sucking material with it. This is because you have to lift the full weight of the nozzle, pressure hose and suction hose ” which are all filled with water. That”s a lot of weight to manipulate around if you want to operate the suction nozzle as we would normally do when dredging under the water.

In booming, you position your high-banker in such a way that the water which is flowing off the end of your sluice box can be utilized to wash your pay-dirt to your suction nozzle. The nozzle is set in the water (that runs down from your sluice box), while all the pay-dirt is pushed or raked into the flow and is then sucked up by the nozzle and directed to the high-banker”s recovery system. For the most part in booming, the nozzle remains stationary and your effort, along with the water-flow, is used to move the right kind of material to the nozzle.

In essence, you are re-circulating the water which comes off the sluice box. As in normal high-banking, the gold is separated and drops into the various types of matting inside your sluice box. This technique, when done correctly, allows you to process more pay-dirt than you would normally be able to accomplish with a pick, shovel and some buckets. It is wet, dirty, hard work, but sooooo much fun!

bucket brigade  Feeding high-banker

Everyone was anxious to get started on Sunday morning, so the day began at around 7:30 AM. Rich Krimm, one of the team leaders on this outing, had his high-banker in motion and the buckets were already moving steadily when I arrived. Other able bodies were put to work rolling aside rocks from the areas where the booming would occur. If you can remove as many big rocks as possible from your path, it will help you to process much quicker once you begin. Bruce Waldie, Terry McClure, and Ron Beondik assembled the other two high-bankers with their suction nozzles and prepared to begin booming.

Once the areas were cleared, Dave gave everyone direction on exactly what they would be doing, how they were to do it, and where they should start. Since we had established on the previous day that the high-grade pay-dirt consisted mainly of the top one-foot of material, Dave”s main direction to everyone was to not direct material into the high-banker from more than about one foot deep. The high-bankers can only process so much material in several hours, so we want to feed it only with the best material. This would mean that our personal gold-shares would be more valuable at the end of the day. Everybody liked the sound of that!

Soon, the water was flowing, mud was flying, and people were getting down and dirty! I have never seen people working so hard and having so much fun. They could have cared less about getting wet and dirty. It was all about moving as much material as they could towards the nozzle, allowing the water to accomplish a lot of the work. There was a continuous need to move rocks out of the way as they were uncovered; those that were too big to be sucked up the nozzle. Everyone was truly enjoying the day and each other.

Here follows a video sequence with Dave demonstrating what was going on, how a high-banker works, and how to do booming:

Le Trap sluiceAt lunch time, even after over three hours of mud, sweat, lots of water and moving rocks, I could not get anyone to break for lunch. No really; they did not want to get out of the water! Finally, they decided to break in shifts so they could keep the nozzles working. Stops only occurred when the engines ran out of gas, and once when we lost a hose clamp. What a dedicated group of people (or was it just gold fever?).
When Dave gave the signal to stop you could hear, “Ah please, just 5 minutes more”, “Not yet, we just cleared this area”, “It can”t be time already”, and so on. So Dave gave them their requested 5 minutes and then the motors were shut down. The clean-up from all three of the high-bankers looked really nice as it ran through the Le Trap concentrator. We were seeing some chunky gold and several nuggets.

Gold on white paperOne of the most important things I have learned from these projects is that successful gold mining is not just about hard work. To recover a lot of gold, you have to work hard at locating and processing the right kind of streambed material. Once you locate good pay-dirt through sampling, then you have to focus your work on processing just the high-grade material. Here follows a video sequence with Dave demonstrating this most important point:

Everyone pitched in to get all the equipment put away, clean up the area and fill in the holes that we had dug. There were a couple of working faces left open for those who would be returning to continue mining on their own. By “working face,” I mean the part of an excavation which meets up with pay-dirt that has not been worked, yet. Several participants were saying that they planned to return on Monday and pick up where we left off.

Team leadersAbout 30 minutes later, we found ourselves back at the Lions Club in Happy Camp where we were able to complete the final clean-up using a Gold Extractor. This is a specially-designed final clean-up device which eliminates most of the remaining black sand from your gold.

Then, as we were pouring the clean and dried gold through the final clean-up screens, we found that 9 beautiful pieces would not go through the 10-mesh screen. Those folks, are gold nuggets! That was a record for this year and brought on several hoops and hollers, not to mention lots of smiles. All in all, our total gold added up to ¾ of an ounce. Split up amongst 28 participants, everyone received a real nice share of gold for the work we had accomplished together.

“Terry McClure and Bruce Waldie enjoying the moment”

Gold nuggetsThis was my forth outing of this season, and I am so glad that I was able to be a part of it. I have met the greatest people, had a wonderful time, and I am a little sad each time an outing participant says goodbye for awhile. I can only tell you from my experience that if you find yourself with time, please come on out and visit with us, join us on an outing, enjoy the beautiful area around us and take home some fantastic memories. You won”t be sorry you came, and you will leave with more than you came with, in more ways than one. Please contact us to make reservations in advance!

Until the next outing, happy hunting.

 

 
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 Sandy Waldie

Taking a break Feeding Le Trap

We had 54 New 49’er members participating on this particular group gold mining project. While this was not as many people as we had on the previous weekend project , they were every bit as enthusiastic and excited as those in the earlier group.

Saturday morning started out at the Lions Club facility in Happy Camp to hear Dave Mack talk about gold, how to find it, where to look for it, its properties, and mostly about how to follow a simple sampling plan in search of rich gold deposits. Since the majority of those who attended were new to the whole mining experience, this led to many questions during the talk. As always, Dave’s presentation held everyone captivated until it was time to break for lunch.

After lunch, we all headed out to K-15A. This is one of the Club’s (many) productive mining properties. We had already done really well out there few weeks ago on a project with over 100 people. So it seemed wise to return to the same location.

Working in the shadeOnce we arrived there, Dave and his experienced helpers divided everyone into four separate groups, each with their own team leader setting the pace. Then we all launched into a carefully-coordinated sampling program.

Dave really stresses that knowing how to gold pan well is essential to an accurate sampling program. Therefore, several experienced helpers were positioned by the river exclusively to teach and critique anyone who needed help with their panning technique. When the helpers felt comfortable that everyone had a good basic understanding and sufficient practice in panning, those people were plugged into the ongoing sampling program. Pretty soon, everyone was helping to move the sampling program along. With so many people helping, there was an overwhelming sense that we were going to find something really good.

Sample panBy sampling, I mean that the team leaders were comparing the results of pan tests that were being made in numerous small holes up and down the (very large) gravel bar. Seeing where the better results were coming from, they would then ask others to do more testing in those areas; and step-by-step, they were able to follow the traces of gold into high-grade gold deposits. This is a process which is very valuable to watch play out; because it gives you first-hand knowledge and increases your confidence that you can then go out and find high-grade gold deposits on your own.

Dave Mack and the New 49’ers are very lucky to have so many experienced members that are willing to participate in these weekend outings and show others how to prospect. There must have been at least a dozen helpers out there guiding the sample program along.

Because we had already done so well here, we started sampling in the same general areas that had been worked on the previous project. Once again, long-time member and experienced prospector, Craig Colt (known around the Club as “The Nose, because some say he can smell gold) almost immediately started bringing up good results out of one area. That particular location was also an excellent place to demonstrate for beginners what hard-pack streambed is, and how to see the difference between storm layers, loose material, sand and the tailings from earlier mining activity. As Dave Mack stressed during his talk, the main key in sampling for high-grade deposits is in knowing that most gold concentrates either on the top or the bottom of hard-packed layers of streambed. Here follows an explanation on video which was given out there by very experienced prospector, Dave Beatson, from New Zealand:

Feeding the high-bankerSeveral other areas were being sampled by the other team leaders and their crews also turned up good results. By late afternoon on Saturday, we were already setting up the high-bankers so they would be ready to go on Sunday morning. We like to end off out there by around 4 pm on Saturday afternoon. This allows everyone some time to clean up and pull something together for potluck on Saturday evening. Most of us walked away at the end of the first day with smiles, with some gold in our sniffer bottles from pan-testing, and plenty of excitement about what the next day would yield from the gold deposits we had found. Some people stayed behind to keep panning, perhaps until dark!

As always, our potluck gathering at the Lions Hall on Saturday evening was lots of fun for everyone, and there was plenty of great food.

Moving rocksSunday morning, I arrived out on K-15A at 8:15 am,

early I thought, only to find over half the group already there and working hard. Almost all of 100+ buckets were already full of pay-dirt and waiting to be loaded into the high-bankers – which were already running. Boy, were things in high gear!

Long time members, Rich & Connie Krimm, were supervising one team. Also, very experienced and long time member, Lee Kracher had a second team in full production. They were working a deposit of gold side-by-side. Their groups had actually started at 7:15 am on Sunday morning. WOW, talk about enthusiasm!!

Another long time member and very experienced miner, Ray Derrick’s team was also busy working the high-grade deposit which Craig and Dave Beatson had confirmed on Saturday. Here follows a video segment with Ray’s explanation of what they were doing:

Richard's high-banker

Otto Gaither’s team was also working the same gold deposit. Here is what Otto had to say:

Between all the discussion, laughter and some moans and groans, the buckets were filled (only half full to keep the weight down), carried and loaded into the high-bankers, and then carried back empty to be filled over and over again. The weather even co-operated by being a bit hazy and keeping the sun from parboiling us.

Luckily, one of the high-grade pay-streaks we were working was under the shade of a big tree. So that’s where nearly everyone congregated when it was time to sit down for a break.

When we stopped for lunch, we all had our first look at what all the morning’s effort had produced. Clean-up was only done on one of the high-banker scalpers. Wow, we were doing pretty good! Here follows a video sequence of team leader, Richard Krimm, cleaning out the scalper-section of his high-banker:

Guys with a high-banker

Seeing all that gold in the black gold pan was more than enough to overcome our aches and pains. Some people were already up and filling buckets again even before I finished my sandwich!

We like to end off out in the field at about 2:30 pm on Sunday afternoon. This allows us plenty of time to back-fill our excavations, put up the gear and get back into town where we can do a final clean-up of the gold and split the gold evenly amongst all the participants.

After the concentrates were removed from the high-bankers, they were carefully fed through a green “Le Trap” gold sluice to remove a large portion of the black iron sands.Oohs and Aahs could be heard throughout the group that was observing the process. The gold was looking really good, and anticipation was high for the final clean-up when we returned to town.

Craig Colt cleaning up the gold extractorOnce all the holes from the digs were filled in and the debris picked up and packed out, we headed back to Happy Camp where we would complete the final clean up and split. A “Gold Extractor” was set up in the shade at the Lions Club. The purpose of this device is to separate even more of the black iron sand from the gold. Afterwards, the final concentrates were dried, and the mixture of black sand and gold was poured into some clean-up screens. These screens separated the gold into 10, 12, 20, 30 & 40-mesh sizes, which then enabled the black sand to be blown away rather easily — leaving only the gold.

We ended up with a total weight of about one ounce, along with two very nice nuggets. This was then split up between the 54 people who had participated on Sunday’s dig. There were a lot of smiles and looks of satisfaction. A lot of these people had never even mined before. Now they were receiving their first golden reward. By the looks on their faces, it would not be their last.

Final gold separation Gold on white paper

Here follows a video sequence which captured the spirit of all the fun and excitement we share together on these weekend projects:

After hugs, exchanges of phone numbers, and promises to keep in touch, everyone headed on their way. Many people were talking about how much fun they had and how much they had learned over the weekend. There were several who said they would be back for the next weekend group mining project, as well.

Final clean-up gold

Note: These events are free to all New 49’er members. Please register in advance by contacting our office.


 

 

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.

 

 
 

Happy Camp is really the small-scale gold prospecting capital of America. It is a great place to be during the summer months. The area is rich with gold mining potential. Local communities are very friendly to gold prospectors. The weather is fantastic.

There were ten of us participating on this surface mining project, which included my two long-time, trusty assistants, Craig Colt and Dick Bendtzen. By surface mining, I mean prospecting for and developing gold deposits that are located outside of the active waterway. We do six 2-day (weekend) surface mining group projects and one week-long surface group mining project each season. We also do several week-long dredging projects. Everyone who participates is rewarded with an equal share of all the gold that is recovered during a project. It does not come free, though. We work hard for all the gold we recover!

Actually, how much gold we recover during the Group Mining Projects almost always comes back to how well we are able to organize ourselves into a cohesive team. All the participants on this Project showed up eager to go. Because Mary Taylor was along, I knew from the beginning that we were going to get a lot of gold! Mary is one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated gold prospectors I have ever met.

Having well over 60 miles of mining property to choose from in the Happy Camp vicinity (actually 120 miles when you count both sides of the river), we have plenty of choices where to do our surface mining projects. This time, though, we decided even before the Project that we were going to check out the far side of the river on the Club’s Wingate claim. This is located around 15 miles downstream from Happy Camp along the Klamath River. Very little has been done by members on this extensive claim over the years, mainly because a rather steep canyon separates the working-part of the claim from Highway 96. Even so, longtime members and very experienced prospectors, Rex & Earlene Kerr, had been telling us that they found a very rich gold deposit on the far side of the Wingate claim several years ago. They have since taken up dredging, so they never went back to finish cleaning up the gold. They said they were using a boat to get across the river towards the lower end of the claim.

The lesson I always try to put across to members, is that if you want to increase your chances of finding high-grade gold, do your prospecting in areas where other members have already been experiencing some success. As I know Rex & Earlene very well, when they reported finding a rich gold deposit at Wingate, I knew they were not kidding around. This is just one of the wonderful things about being associated with The New 49’ers; so many active prospectors are willing to share their success with others!

Craig Colt had the foresight to find Rex Kerr a few days before this Project and get him to go down to Wingate and show Craig exactly where he and Earlene were doing so well. So on the Saturday morning starting this Group Project, everybody was excited to go down there and get started!

Wingate is a huge claim, with most of the workable part on the far side of the river. The first big challenge in this Project was in figuring out how we were going to get ourselves and our gear over to the other side. It didn’t take us long to figure out that a small boat can be launched at both ends of the claim. We decided to start at the top. Through some energetic teamwork, we had the boat in the water, and everybody across with sampling gear, within just a few hours.

Once on the other side with lunch behind us, while Craig and a small team hiked down to see if they could find Rex & Earlene’s old workings, several others started digging out the bedrock cracks near where we landed the boat. Just within a few minutes, Mary was already whooping it up about finding some rich gold. Leave it to Mary to make the first strike! I was amazed how big the golden flakes were! Even though Craig and a few others had already headed down that way, Mary’s strike was enough to change our plans to immediately begin trying to develop something good right near the boat landing!

Expanding upon Mary’s success, we started using bars to break open bedrock cracks upstream and downstream directly in line with Mary’s spectacular find. Almost immediately, Mary recovered another pan of large, rich golden flakes. Wow! But our additional pans further away were not turning up high-grade. So we worked our way closer towards Mary, only to discover that she had located a small single deposit. Too bad! Just for a little while there, I thought we had discovered a rich deposit that was going to carry us all the way through the week. Like a dowsing rod, Mary had zeroed in right on a small hot spot!

Just as we were figuring out that Mary’s initial deposit was just a small one, one of Craig’s helpers returned to the boat for more gear. He told us that they were already into something good further downstream. That sure lifted my spirits! So I gathered up a few more helpers and off we went to see what Craig’s team had found.

Craig’s deposit was in a bedrock trough immediately upstream from where Rex & Earlene had been mining several years before. There was a thin layer of hard-packed streambed material on top of some very uneven bedrock. Through some trial and error, we discovered that the gold was coming from off the bedrock, and also out of the hard-packed material. This was good! While the flakes were not nearly as large as what Mary had found, the gold was plentiful. We devoted the remainder of the first day spreading out Craig’s discovery to make sure the gold deposit was large enough to justify bringing in a high-banker on the following day. It was!

Dennis Taylor, Craig Colt & Dick Bendtzen
working the high-banker in Craig’s discovery.

All of the bedrock irregularities over there made a perfect setting to set up a high-banker (small motorized sluice) for dredging on the following day. We did this by setting up a small water pump down near the river. By pumping water up into a suction nozzle, and allowing the water to flow back into our work area, we were soon dredging the hard-packed pay-dirt up into a sluice box. We were about 50 feet away from the river. Overflow water was caught by other natural troughs in the bedrock. This was a textbook situation for surface mining!

It is important to note that while no dredging permits are required in California to dredge in areas outside of the active waterway, there are regulations which prevent you from making too large of a hole up out of the water (without special permit), and which prevent you from putting dirty water back into the active waterway. Making sure we stay within these guidelines is one of my primary duties when we do these Projects.

By the end of the second day, we had fully worked out Craig’s discovery. We recovered a healthy amount of gold from that. But the good times were over. On the morning of day-3, we found ourselves sampling again. Deciding that we should check it out, we spent the first half of the 3rd

day sampling the upper-end of Wingate on the highway-side of the river. Preliminary sampling results looked pretty good. But the deposit over there seemed pretty spotty to me, and I was concerned to not lose a whole day or two trying to recover gold out of a lower-grade deposit, when we might still find something better further downstream. We always debate these tough decisions during the Projects, so everyone is able to take part in the process which evolves into the final result. After some discussion about our options, we split the sampling team in half, and I used the boat to place several samplers on the far side of the river towards the bottom-end of the claim. This took some creative boat work by Craig and me. We had to portage our small aluminum boat through a fairly bad set of rapids. But through some trial and error, we worked out a way to get the boat through the rapids in both directions without too much difficulty. Boating to the lower area of the claim was a heck of a lot easier than hiking down there!

Dennis Hoepfer helping to sample the lower-end of Wingate.

Down towards the lower-end of the claim, we started pulling excellent pans out of the exposed bedrock cracks right away. It didn’t take us long to discover a rich section of bedrock that was about 50 feet wide, starting about 30 feet from the active river. Most of it was exposed bedrock that had small pockets of hard-packed streambed which were loaded with fine gold. This place looked good! So during the afternoon of the 3rd day, we found ourselves relocating the whole team down to the lower end, with multiple vack-mining machines. Our mission was to discover if this deposit was worth working on the following day with the high-banker. It was!

But rather than use the high-banker, the morning of the 4th day found our whole team working together to create a mini-high-banker using a Le’ Trap sluice with a special feed from two garden hoses. The problem with this new high-grade area was that, while plentiful, most of the gold was very small in size. We could not produce enough material with the vacks to feed a normal high-banker. Because the Le’ Trap sluice recovers fine gold exceptionally well, we came up with an idea to make a special water feed so we could process material from the vacks way up out of the water. The system worked great!

 

Mary Taylor & TaTiana Serbanescu working the cracks in the hot new area.

We devoted most of the 4th and 5th days to production mining with the vacks. We all took shifts at running the machines, breaking open cracks, filling buckets, screening the pay-dirt through an 8-mesh screen and feeding the Le’ Trap recovery system. While mostly fine in size, by the end of the 5th day, there was a lot of gold adding up in our bucket!

We don’t do a final gold clean-up every day during these Projects. The process takes too long. So we allow our gold concentrates to add up in a bucket until the last day. Then we clean it up all at once and split it off. But we do pay close attention to how much gold is present from each sample – or each production day. This gold was so fine and plentiful, that the concentrates were looking very rich. We were going to have a good week!

On the morning of day-6, Dick told me he was getting a very strong feeling about an area just downstream from where Rex & Earlene had made their big strike. So he decided to hike up there and do a few samples. It was quite a ways up there; but about an hour later, I thought I could see Dick waving his arms around. So I drove the boat over there to have a look. Sure enough, Dick had made the richest strike of the week! It was under about 2 feet of hard-packed streambed on bedrock. The whole area had been buried under about 6 inches of loose sand. That was the reason we missed it the first time we were sampling around there. Dick’s samples were producing large flakes and small nuggets. It was truly a rich find! This is not the first time Dick has discovered the big strike of the week. We are sure lucky to have him on these projects!

With only about a half-day remaining, we immediately mobilized a major move from the fine gold deposit we were working further downstream, with multiple boatloads of gear and people. By lunchtime on the 6th day, we were high-bank dredging in Dick’s new discovery. This was a different kind of mining altogether from what we had been doing the previous 2 days. Although adjusting to the change did not require much direction on my part. Everyone there had plenty of experience by then. We all just stepped in to do what was needed. With only a half-day remaining, we wanted to clean-up as much of Dick’s deposit as we could. We took turns operating the dredge, while also filling buckets with material and feeding the high-banker to achieve as much production as we could. My main focus remained on filling our excavation behind us, to never allow our open hole to become very large. I was also making sure that no dirty water ever got back into the river from our high-banker.

By the end of the 6th day, we had a good showing of larger-sized gold to go along with all the fines we had accumulated earlier in the week.

Everyone was working as a team to operate the high-banker on the last day. We wanted as many nuggets as we could get!

Normally, we use the 7th day to pull all our gear off the river and put it all away. We also do the full final clean-up process. Everyone participates in every step of this. Over the many years, we have worked out a system of final clean-up that retains all of the gold without the use of any mercury or other chemicals. This involves the use of a Gold Extractor – which is like a miniature sluice with very low-profile riffles. When set up properly, this device will work all of your concentrates down to all of your gold with no loss whatsoever, along with only about a tablespoon of black sands remaining. Then this final material can be dried and run through a set of final clean-up screens. Once separated into different size-fractions, it is very easy to separate the gold from the last of the impurities. We mainly do this by blowing off the impurities, which are about 4 times lighter than the gold.

Phil Maher & Sara Rese showing off some project gold!

At the end of the 7th day, we split off the shares of the gold evenly between all the participants. Everyone was excited to get their share. We then took a moment to review our week and discuss the things that we did, and the decisions that we made along the way, which led us into our good fortune. Sampling is an interesting process whereby every key decision you make is like a crossroads that will directly affect the final outcome. Each time we do one of these projects, we come to the very same conclusion that you should never give up hope; that if you just stick with the process, you will always get right into the next gold deposit.

 

 

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.

 

Tags