By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack
 
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  

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

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

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

 

 

By 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 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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