By Sandy Waldie

We had a record gathering in Happy Camp for the first weekend outing of our season. The Pro-Mack store was jumping on Saturday morning, while we were getting everyone signed in and equipped. We had a total of 103 people attend this outing, which included two sets of reporters and their cameramen. Alex and Vlad were here for a Russian television station, so they were gathering information on “The New California Gold Rush.” The other two journalists, Justin and John, were from New York. They were representing Fortune Small Business Magazine, speaking with those in attendance regarding their feelings on gold prospecting, why they were here, and what they enjoyed about the whole adventure. Both teams caught a little “gold fever” themselves and could be seen sitting by the river looking for that glint of sunshine in their own pans.

The weather cooperated beautifully for the weekend with lots of sunshine; and of course, the ever-present sights and sounds of the great outdoors.

On Saturday morning, everyone gathered at the Happy Camp Lions Club to hear from Dave Mack about how and where to prospect for gold, the type of gear we were going to use and safety precautions. This was an opportunity for everyone to have all their questions answered about how to locate high-grade gold deposits. Just walking into the Lions Hall would have convinced any bystander that this was a very excited group!

Armed with all the useful information and necessary gear, we all headed off after lunch to K-15A. This is one of the Club’s most popular mining properties otherwise known as “The Mega Hole.”

Once we arrived at the chosen destination, logistics came into play of having so many people involved. So, with megaphone in hand (one complete with siren to get everyone’s attention), Dave had nearly everyone split off with 5 separate team leaders to begin our afternoon of sampling and panning. Dave had already explained that we needed to stay out there until everyone knew how to operate a gold pan efficiently. Through organized teamwork, we needed to locate some fresh high-grade gold deposits. We would return to work these areas with high-bankers on the following day. It didn’t take long before we had an army of people out there sampling for gold.

 

 

  

Images by Vladimir Badikov

Saturday afternoon was filled with camaraderie, lots of smiles, a few dips in the river (not always on purpose), sometimes the sound of moaning over seldom-used muscles, and questions, questions, questions. Dave’s team-leaders and several other very experienced members worked hard to get everyone on the right track. And sure enough, we located two separate high-grade gold deposits before finishing up on Saturday afternoon. There were still people out there panning their first gold (ever) when I departed for the day.

We also experienced one of our largest-ever potlucks that evening with an attendance of over 133 hungry prospectors. There was so much food that the tables resembled a grand smorgasbord! Old members met new members, and the stories ran wild. “Did you hear the one about the guy who dredged up the ten pound nugget?” (sort of like the fish growing from two pounds to thirty between the

catching and the landing!) A very good time was had by one and all and some even forgot the aches of those muscles (until they woke up the next morning and tried to get out of bed).


Image by Vladimir Badikov

Sunday morning was greeted with the same enthusiasm as on the first day of the project. Spirits were more than willing, but it did take some of the bodies a little while to catch up. Today was going to be devoted to digging-up the high-grade gold deposits that we had located on Saturday afternoon, placing the material into buckets, and then feeding the buckets into several high-bankers to recover the gold. This was a volume program designed to recover as much gold as we could in about three hours of hard work. Everyone pitched in to help. In fact, several of the team-leaders had arranged for their helpers to show up early and get things off to a strong start.

Someone brought along an ingenious suitcase vacuum system (you would have to see it to believe it) that defies explanation from me. He was using that to suck up high-grade material which had been discovered between two storm layers, and it worked like a charm! Others were feeding that material into the high-bankers.

During a short lunch break, everyone had their first glimpse of what all their hard work was for. You could almost touch the excitement when Dave swished around a sample from the high-bankers in a gold pan for all to see. Anyone who has ever experienced that moment knows exactly what I am talking about; gold fever! We were getting a lot of gold! It didn’t take long to finish our lunches and get back to filling buckets with golden pay-dirt!

For myself, I can only tell you that it was wonderful standing back and observing all of the excitement and adventure. Everyone was laughing, smiling (a few groans), and really enjoying not only the prospecting, but the friendships which were being formed. It didn’t take long to be on a first name basis and start comparing the holes they were digging. “Should we go deeper, wider, to another area, or what?” “Your hole is looking good; what about this dirt I have?” Dave had assigned several experienced gold panners to keep showing people how much gold was contained in the material that they were shoveling into buckets. By the looks of the pans, the gold was going to really add up! Before long, questions answered, most knew what to look for and knew their efforts were being rewarded by what was being found.

 

The final clean-up revealed a total of 1.25 ounces of beautiful gold. There were two very nice gold nuggets which weighed in at about 9 grains each. We drew tickets to see who would receive a nugget as their reward for the day’s work. Laughter and smiles continued right on through the weighing and distribution of equal shares of the remaining gold.

Much more than gold was found on this group prospecting adventure. There were new friendships and golden memories that will last a lifetime! Here follows a video segment which was put together from different parts of weekend events:

We hope you can join us on one or more of the other weekend prospecting projects scheduled for the 2008 season:

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

 

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 General Manager

Dave Mack

 

 

We have learned over the years that no matter how good some mining property is, most beginners and moderately-experienced prospectors might need a little help in figuring out how to locate high-grade gold deposits. This is partly because different geographical areas may have been affected by different types and magnitudes of geological events which may have deposited gold in different ways. While the fundamentals will be the same everywhere, finding high-grade gold deposits in our part of the world may require a different prospecting focus than elsewhere.

Some people arrive in Happy Camp who have never even prospected for gold before. Some have never seen gold in its raw state. Some who arrive do not even believe there is any gold left to be found! Just about everyone arrives needing some amount of assistance in understanding how successful gold prospecting is being accomplished along our mining properties.

This is why we started organizing weekend group mining projects, and have been scheduling them throughout each mining season for the past 20 years. We know how important it is for members to get off to the right start on our mining properties. So I personally join in and supervise nearly all of these weekend projects, myself. I also get a lot of help from other experienced members who enjoy going out on a weekend and finding gold; sometimes, lots of it.

We had a number of experienced helpers along on this particular weekend project. Otto Gaither is often referred to as “The High-banker Kid.” That’s because his personal high-banking machine is always producing in good gold. Otto has been helping out on all of the weekend projects for several years. Craig Colt has also been helping for years. Craig’s nick name on the river is “The Nose.” This is because Craig can smell-out a high-grade pay-streak better than anyone else that I know. While we went into one of Otto’s favorite high-banking areas on this project, it was Craig that found the rich gold deposit. Together, we make a great management team for these weekend gold mining projects!

 

The way that Craig finds these gold deposits, is that he just aggressively follows our basic sampling plan. It is the very same plan that we use in all of our gold mining projects. This is a simple plan that we have developed over many, many years of serious prospecting. Because it is the plan that will get you into high-grade gold every time, we devote a big part of these weekend projects explaining and demonstrating for everyone how it is done. In fact, this is the reason we organize these projects in the first place; to get as many members as possible following a sampling plan that works!

Our weekend high-banking projects are free. But you must be either a Full, Associate or Affiliate Member to participate. Each participant receives an equal share of all the gold that we recover on Sunday.

Weekend projects begin at 9 am on Saturday morning. Participants arrive at our headquarters (from all over the world), and are directed down to the Happy Camp Lions Hall where there is a comfortable place to sit down. A fresh pot of hot coffee is always ready to go. After introductions, we devote the remainder of Saturday morning to a discussion about where we will be going, and about how we will all be working together to locate a high-grade gold deposit. Using a chalkboard to demonstrate the theory, I invest a few hours into providing a substantial explanation of what the basic sampling plan is, and why this plan will always lead you into high-grade (as long as high-grade exists within the area that you are prospecting). I make it a point to answer any and all questions.

After lunch, we meet back at headquarters and carpool to whatever mining property we have chosen for the project. Sometimes we use a boat to get everyone across the river.


This particular project found us prospecting on the Highway 96-side of upper K-15A, otherwise known as the “Upper Mega-Hole.” Participants are supposed to bring their own basic prospecting tools, and especially a gold pan. They should wear clothes and foot ware that they don’t mind getting dirty and wet. A container or two of drinking water is always a good idea!

After everyone is gathered together out on the mining property, I take a moment to relay all or most of

the important information that we have collected from previous mining activity in the area. This is veryimportant; because knowing where others have found high-grade in the past will allow everyone a head start in being able to find more during the project.

Because gold is very heavy, it follows a common path down the waterway, and nearly always deposits along the bottom-edge of hard-packed layers of streambed. So if you know where others have already found high-grade in the area, you then know where to target your samples to find it again. This is what the basic sampling plan is all about! Since we do not have much time on a 2-day project, my personal mission is to direct as much energy as possible towards the areas where the gold is most likely to be found. The following video sequence captured some of our beginning moments as we began sampling for high-grade:

Once we are out there, the first thing everyone needs to do is demonstrate that they can operate a gold pan well. The remainder of Saturday will be devoted to locating a rich gold deposit with the use of gold pans. If your panning method is not capturing every speck of gold, you can easily miss the pay-streak even if you place your samples right down in the middle of a good deposit!

So after providing a panning demonstration to everyone who wanted to see it, I devoted the first hour or so just going around and critiquing everyone’s panning methods. Otto also helps with this. It usually comes down to just a few people who need some extra help. We focus on that until everyone in the program knows how to pan for gold without losing any in the process.

Since it is also important that we find high-grade before Saturday is finished out on the river, Craig and other experienced helpers usually get started in a serious sampling effort as soon as we get out on the river. This day was no different. Craig disappeared soon after we arrived on the river. So, as soon as everyone was panning alright, I went hunting for Craig to see if he had made any important gold strikes, yet. I found him towards the upper-end of K-15A. Craig was digging around the top layer of big rocks within the top layer of hard-pack.

Hard-packed streambed viewed from the surface.
Fortunately, most of the high-grade gold deposits that we find in surface mining (out of the water) are located around the top layer of imbedded rocks. I say “fortunately” because it means you usually do not need to dig very deep to recover the gold. We believe most of the gold that we find in this top layer of hard-pack is gold that has washed down during large winter storms. This is why some prospectors call it “flood gold.” Imbedded rocks which protrude up through the surface layer form natural riffles. Gold being washed downstream during high-water becomes trapped between the rocks. Sampling is mainly a matter of freeing-up the top layer of embedded rocks, and panning the gravel-material that is between and just under them.

Craig was busy following the basic sample plan when I found him. He had placed himself in the same path, just a short distance upstream from where some earlier prospector had made a strike. Craig was gathering his sample along the bottom of the same layer of streambed that the other prospector was finding his gold. As Craig was digging in hard-pack, he already knew that no other prospector had been there since the flood layer was created by a major flood storm (probably the great flood of 1964)

In gold prospecting, the bigger the sample, the more accurate and dependable the result is going to be. Since we cannot make our gold pans bigger, we compensate by using a classification screen to eliminate larger-sized gravel and rocks. This allows us to double or triple the amount of gold-bearing-sized material that we actually process in the pan. Craig was screening his sample into his gold pan through an 8-mesh screen. The larger-sized material was being tossed to the side of where he was digging.

I showed up just in time to watch Craig work his sample down in the gold pan. And sure enough, there was a good showing of gold in the pan; 3 or 4 nice middle-sized flakes. Craig told me that the previous several pans were about the same. So Craig had already made a strike for this weekend project, just in case we were not able to find something better during the next few hours. This was good; my worries were pretty-much over for this project! Craig is my personal insurance plan that we will always recover some amount of gold on these projects!

Having been managing these prospecting events for more than 20 years, my worries come down to: (1) don’t hurt anyone, and (2) make sure everyone leaves knowing how to operate a gold pan, and (3) send everyone home with as much gold as possible!

Wandering back down to where most of the others were actively sampling, several participants already had some pretty encouraging results of their own to show me. This is always the most rewarding part of the weekend for me. My job out there is to look at and compare the results of all the sampling. Someone is always finding something that looks encouraging. So, I ask others who have not been finding very much to help expand the sampling effort where we are finding more gold. Within an hour or so, we usually have everyone out there doing pan-samples in several different strikes. There can be a lot of excitement to go along with this. This is especially true with people who have never found their own gold before!

Here is a video sequence that captured how we were all working together to establish some high-grade gold:

One of the most valuable things we do during these weekend projects is show all of the participants exactly what hard-packed streamed is. “Hard-pack” is streambed that is formed by a major flood storm after pay-streaks are already formed. There is a world of difference between loose material or tailings from earlier mining activity, and naturally-formed streambed material (hard-pack). It is vital to know the difference, because almost all of the high-grade gold you will find along New 49’er mining properties will be located at the bottom-edge of one or more layers of hard-packed streambed. Knowing what to look for allows you to target your sampling activity at the right areas.

Another very important thing we do in these weekend projects is demonstrate how to place a relative value upon the amount of gold that is being found in a pan-sample. It is not unusual for a person to walk up with a great sample result, and say, “I didn’t get very much!” And it’s true that there is not very much gold in the pan. But that small amount of gold is only from about a single shovel of streambed material. That is a very small volume! Getting 4 or 5 nice little flakes of gold in a single pan can relate to a half-ounce or more of gold on Sunday when we have a dozen people shoveling the very same material into a high-banker!

 

A small showing of gold in a single pan-sample can add up to a lot of gold once you start processing more volume!

So, one of our goals during these projects is to help all of the participants gain the ability to relate how the gold found in pan-samples (on Saturday) will add up in a high-banker that will process more volume of the same material (on Sunday). While I am evaluating pan-sample results on Saturday afternoon, I make it a point to show around the sample results coming from the areas that we will work as a team on Sunday. I also try and get everyone to do some personal panning in those very same areas. This goes a long way to help beginners form a personal judgment about what is a good sample result when panning.

But on this particular day, most of the participants were totally absorbed in all the gold they were finding. Everyone gets to keep for themselves all the gold they find on Saturday afternoon. There was a lot of excitement going on; some people were yelling out their enthusiasm, having found their first-ever gold!

We do a weekly potluck gathering at the Happy Camp Lions hall nearly every Saturday evening during the season. The gathering starts at 6:30 pm, and we start dinner at around 7 pm. Then we do a short meeting and have a prize drawing. We have a lot of fun, and it gives members a chance for a weekly get-together.

Some members look to the Saturday evening potluck as the highlight of their week!

To give everyone some time to clean up and pull something together to contribute to the evening meal, we wrapped up the sampling program out on the river at around 4:30 pm. Some participants were having too much fun out there to quit when we did. Still, I did notice that they made it to the potluck in time for dinner! We filled the Lions hall that evening, as we usually do.

Sunday morning found our energetic group packing several motorized high-bankers over to where we had made our strikes the day before. A high-banker is basically a sluicing device which can be set up near to where you want to dig. This way, your pay-dirt can either be shoveled or dredged directly into the recovery system, rather than packed some distance across land. A motorized pump provides water to the system through a flexible pressure hose.

With all that help, it did not take us very long to get things set up. We split the group into three different teams, each to operate their own high-banker. It wasn’t long before team leaders on each crew organized the activity. Some people were tossing the top loose rocks into piles. Others were using picks and pry bars to loosen-up the top layer of hard-pack. Others were filling 5-gallon buckets about half-full and packing the pay-dirt just a short distance to the high-bankers. Others were pouring a steady feed of material into the high-bankers. There was a whole lot of productive activity going on! Check out the following video sequence:


Once I was sure the high-bankers were operating with the proper water flow, and that they were being fed with pay-dirt at a good speed (not too fast, not too slow), my focus turned to the tailings water coming off the high-bankers. Dirty water is not allowed to flow back into the river. This is something that always determines where we set up the high-bankers in the first place! In this case, we had found a location where natural contours up on the gravel bar had already created a place that would trap the dirty water. That water was seeping into the gravel bar about as fast as we were pumping it up there. So we were not going to have any worries about washing dirty water back into the river.

The other main job I have is to keep an eye on what participants are shoveling into the 5-gallon buckets that will be fed into the high-bankers. We only want high-grade material in those buckets! Once in a while, we get someone trying to help things along by shoveling sand or low-grade material into the buckets. That is counter-productive, because those low-grade buckets will ultimately be processed instead of other buckets that would contain high-grade material (more gold). Why do people do this? It’s usually because the loose material is easier to dig, and everyone wants to feel like they are helping.


You learn early in gold mining that you can work all day and not recover very much gold if you are shoveling the wrong kind of material! But this particular group had been listening when I talked to them about this, and they were focused upon filling buckets with material from the layer of streambed that we had identified as being the pay-dirt.

After a few hours of good hard work, we shut everything down for lunch and took a look in our recovery systems. There was lots of gold to be seen there. Some people were hooping and hollering, which is music to my ears. Enthusiasm is a good thing!


We don’t normally clean-up the recovery systems at lunch. This is because the process generally is time-consuming and would likely subtract from the amount of digging we can accomplish after lunch. After seeing all that gold, everyone ate just a little faster than normal so they could get back to work! This is pretty normal. Several participants were already filling buckets even before I finished my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Gold fever! Everyone was pretty excited!

 

We processed more pay-dirt for another hour and a half after lunch. I closely watched how things were going. It gets pretty hot out there on Sunday afternoon. When people start slowing down, I know its time to begin shutting things down for the day.
Of course, the first part of shutting things down involves removing all of the gold concentrates from each recovery system. This was the part everybody had worked so hard for all day! The following video sequence captured some of those magic moments as we all got our first good look at the gold that we had recovered:

While one part of the crew cleaned the concentrates from the recovery systems, everyone else pitched in by back-filling our excavations with the rocks that we had been carefully placing in piles all day. By the time we left the area, you could not tell we had ever even been digging or prospecting there. This is the right way to leave a prospecting excavation when you are finished with it!

This is what an area should look like after you have finished prospecting there!

Note: I returned there a few weeks later with the top minerals officer for the Klamath National Forest, and he was not able to point out any of the places where we had been mining!

We timed things so that we were back at headquarters in Happy Camp with our final concentrates at around 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. What do I mean by “concentrates?” Like most other gold recovery systems, high-bankers do not just recover the gold. They recover a concentrate of all the heavy materials which have been shoveled into them. Concentrates normally consist of some (iron) black sands, along with the gold that has been recovered.


Back at our headquarters in Happy Camp, our mission for Sunday afternoon was to separate all of our gold from the other concentrated material. We have a special garage area in the back of our building where this final clean-up process is accomplished. As this is something that every prospector needs to know how to do, we always invite all of the participants to either watch or help with the process. This enthusiastic group was all too ready to help!

We use a special device for final gold separation which is called the “Gold Extractor.” This is basically a finely-tuned, narrow sluice that uses very low-profile riffles. In 30 years as a serious prospector, I have never seen a more effective portable tool for reducing concentrates down to a very small volume (about the amount of a rounded tablespoon) – with zero loss of gold during the process. The whole idea is to reduce the amount of concentrates down to a small enough volume that can be dried for final separation.

Our most experienced panners went through the tailings from the Gold Extractor and were not able to locate a single speck of lost gold. Everyone was happy about that!

After drying our final concentrates, we passed them over a set of final clean-up classification screens to separate the material into several different sizes. The different sizes of concentrate were then placed on separate clean sheets of paper so we could carefully complete the final separation – mainly by gently blowing away the iron sands. This is usually not very hard to do, because the iron is about 3 times lighter than the gold.


By around 5 pm, we had all the gold cleaned up and on the weight scale. It weighted out at about 13.3 pennyweights. That’s almost 3/4 of an ounce. This was pretty good for about 3 ½ hours of hard work! It was especially good, being that none of us even knew that particular gold deposit existed on Saturday morning!


After taking a few moments to pat ourselves on the backs for a job well done, I carefully weighed the gold into equal shares for everyone who participated. I like to place the gold shares in small glass sample viles. But some people prefer to keep their shares in small zip lock baggies. Here is a video sequence that captured part of the final clean-up:



The project was over by 6 pm on Sunday evening. Some participants went away with the first gold they had ever found. Most went away with big smiles on their faces. Everyone went away with a full understanding of how successful gold prospecting is accomplished, from pan-sampling, to production-mining on a small scale, to final clean-up and gold separation. That was going help each of them to become more successful in their own prospecting activities.

 

 

 

By Dave McCracken


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

deposit!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

 

 
 
 

As told to Marcie Stumpf/Foley

BOY!!! All my life I’ve wanted to go look for gold, and, by golly, now I’m going to give it a try!” Ralph said, as he looked at the advertisement offering an introductory week on The New 49’er claims.

Ralph Geidel is a New York City resident—he was a fireman, and is now retired due to an injury, and spends a great deal of time metal detecting. While browsing through the magazines in his favorite shop, he came across “Gold and Treasure Hunter” magazine. Taking it home, he was carefully going through it when he came across the advertisement, and his excitement grew as he read all the details. He immediately called his brother Michael, who also lives in New York City (and is still a fireman), and they eagerly discussed how they could get together to make the trip to California.

Ralph’s son, Ralph, Jr., was so excited about the prospect that they immediately included him in their plans. Every time they were together, until Michael’s vacation time, their talk centered around the plans for the trip, and when vacation time finally came they were thoroughly prepared.

On the trip to California they stopped at Yellowstone, and a couple of other places to see the sites, but were so eager to try their hand at finding gold on their own that they didn’t take much time!

On their arrival in Happy Camp, they checked in at The New 49’er Headquarters and followed the recommendations for setting up their tent camping area.

The next morning they eagerly arrived back at headquarters, ready for an original tour of the mining properties with Bill Stumpf. Bill spent several hours with them, showing them different areas, showing them how to pan and how to use a Mack-Vack.

The first site of gold sent a rush through Ralph, and he knew he was hooked! Gold! Real, actual gold, and he’d found it! What a thrill. Nothing he’d ever found while metal detecting had ever caused this reaction!

On their arrival back at headquarters, Ralph bought a Mack-Vack, and off they headed. The three of them worked tirelessly the rest of the day. At the end of the day when they panned out, they had more gold to put in their bottle.

You see, they had spent so much time talking to all their friends and neighbors about their trip that by the time they started out, they began to have some doubts about whether they’d find anything that they could show off upon their return.

The next morning they returned to the headquarters once again, to take part in the weekend training program and group mining operation conducted by Dave McCracken and Bill. The morning was spent under shade trees at outdoor tables, learning where to look for gold, and how. That afternoon, after lunch, they met the other participants back at headquarters, and they all headed upriver. They were going to an area across the river, where “Railroad Don” had made a strike the week before, using a high bank unit.

Everyone learned how to pan, and Dave and Bill helped them locate likely areas for sampling. The afternoon was spent sampling the area, locating the richest spot.

Next morning they were all waiting early, eager to load up the equipment and get upriver, where two high banking units were set up once all the participants were ferried across the river in a boat. Ralph really enjoyed the friendship and camaraderie shared by all the participants, and they could see they were getting gold as they worked! Boy, what fun! This was just great—out in a beautiful setting, fresh air, with his son and brother and lots of great people—what a life! Before they headed back to headquarters to clean up the concentrates, Ralph, Mike, and Ralph, Jr. (already nicknamed “the New York Boys”),

made the decision to rent the high bank unit on the spot.

When they returned to headquarters with the concentrates, Dave showed how to pan it down and clean it up, and then they weighed it. They estimated their working time at about three hours. They’d found 1/2 ounce in one afternoon! Everyone was so excited that the joking and laughing continued all through the dividing of the gold, so that each participant had an equal share.

That night the excitement lasted through cooking their meal outdoors, and while sitting around after, they eagerly made plans for the week. Their goal was to go home with an ounce of gold!

The next morning they were at it early, and worked hard all day. There were several groups working in the area, and Ralph was really impressed with the help they received from all the old hands. “High banker Jerry” (Jerry Snell of Eugene, Oregon), Bob and Vivian Harris of Florida, and “Railroad Don” of Klamath Falls, Oregon, all longtime members, gave help to the newcomers freely.

Most nights they were so tired they didn’t make the trip into town—several days, Ralph, Jr. worked with the Mack-Vack after Ralph and Mike quit high banking for the day, concerned that they might not fill their bottle. But, during the group mining operation they did spend Saturday evening in town so they could attend The New 49’er potluck, where they met dozens of club members, and had a great time listening to stories, and telling about themselves, as lots of people were really interested in learning about them, and showing off the gold they’d found.

All the rest of their week they worked hard, arriving early and staying late, adding each day’s “take” to their bottle. On Saturday they cleaned up their concentrates for the last time, got ready to leave in the morning, and headed into town for their last potluck. After eating, everyone who’d met them was eager to know how they’d done. Huge smiles lit their features as they hauled out their bottle—it was full, right to the top! They’d actually found an ounce, all by themselves, with no more knowledge than what they’d learned in their week on the Klamath River.

They passed the bottle around, someone snapped a photo, and then they were off, heading back home. The excitement from the trip stayed with them, and they recounted the events of the week as they traveled across country. Ralph had saved five full buckets of concentrate from their cleanups, and they were hauling it all the way home. He wanted to share the excitement of panning with friends.

After arriving home they were celebrities! They were gold miners! And, every barbecue they had for the rest of the summer, friends would pan out some of the concentrates Ralph had brought back, and find some gold.

Ralph couldn’t get their trip out of his mind, and he has plans for this year all worked out—he can hardly wait. First, he’s joining The New 49’ers—right away, before leaving home, even. Then, the minute Ralph, Jr. gets out of school they’re heading back out to California, and Happy Camp. They’re going to stay for two whole months this trip, and he’s going to have a dredge—a new, 5 inch dredge. He’s going to learn how to dredge, and the sky’s the limit! Wow! No telling how much gold he may go home with this year!

 

By Sara Koehler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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