BY CARL & ROBIN WHEAT
We expected an information-packed, tiring weekend. Even as we planned our trip and packed the car, however, my wife Robin and I never imagined how enjoyable it would be to attend a New 49’ers mining project. Each summer, Dave McCracken of the New 49’ers holds an assortment of weekend Group Mining Projects and group-participation operations covering different aspects of gold prospecting and gold mining. As weekend prospectors ourselves, we were nonetheless delighted to be able to visit Happy Camp, California this past summer.
While witnessing firsthand the exceptional benefits of becoming a member of the New 49’ers, we also experienced the enduring peace and beauty of the Klamath River. From its origins in Oregon, the Klamath runs some forty-odd miles south into California then turns west to meander its way to the Pacific Ocean. With the morning sun rising behind us, we entered the river valley. Tendrils of mist rose from the water as we followed the twists and turns of the Klamath past steelhead river resorts, picturesque flood plain meadows, and finally into Happy Camp itself.
Arriving in Happy Camp at 6:30 a.m. Friday morning, we ate breakfast in an antiquated coffee shop we discovered on Highway 96. The menu cover sported a picture of the 1964 floodwaters covering the streets and lapping at their front door. After 10 hours in the car, we really appreciated the substantial and hearty food and the friendly and talkative locals. Breakfast over, we still had time to spend. Since the New 49’ers main showroom would not open until 9:00 a.m., we took the opportunity to scout the town. Happy Camp itself is picturesque as only a historic mining and lumber town can be in the forested wilds of northern California’s coastal mountains. We found the small library tucked along a side street, a grammar school that looked to date back to the heydays of the local logging industry, and the shell of a long unused barn flanked by neatly kept newer homes. Besides the local population and tourists in town for steelhead fishing, we couldn’t miss seeing dozens of Club members camped in Club-managed primitive campsites right along the banks of the Klamath.
At 9:00 a.m. sharp we pulled up to the New 49’ers’ headquarters. The building was easy to locate, being immediately next to the post office. Kay Tabbert greeted us with a warm smile and was first to say hello as we entered a showroom filled with rows of mining equipment, (from full scale dredges to pans, and everything in-between). Glass cases held gold nuggets, nugget jewelry, and historic mining displays. Along one row we found a collection of historical Gold & Treasure Hunter magazines on display and for sale. The Club’s headquarters also include a small viewing room with a library of Dave McCracken’s and other prospecting videos that both educate and show the successes of others mining the Club’s claims along the Klamath and feeder creeks. Within minutes we found ourselves speaking with none other than Dave McCracken and Bill Stumpf themselves. We were quickly taken under wing by Bill and started on our New 49’ers weekend seminar adventure.
Bill’s tour of the campsites and gold claims took about an hour and a half. While Robin set up camp, Bill guided me to numerous sites along the river under Club claim. Several places in close proximity to the Club’s claims have chemical toilets and campsites worked into the rugged brush and rocks that form the river bank. More developed campsites, with tables and river rock barbecues, are provided by the U. S. Forest Service. If you have the advantage of a camper, camp trailer or motor home, you’ll probably prefer the convenience of camping on the claims themselves. We did do more driving back and forth during our stay because we chose a forest service camp ten miles upriver from Happy Camp.
As we toured the river’s course and mining claims held by the Club, Bill offered a historical perspective of local mining, showing me places where the old-timers used hydraulic mining methods. While this type of mining was stopped in the early 1900’s in the Sierra Nevada, it was allowed to continue along the Klamath until the 1930’s. The hydraulic mining sites appear to be a major source of “new” gold getting itself washed into the river. Gold in rich abundance has been and is presently being found. As much as 100 flakes of gold found in a single pan is being reported at the Club’s newest claim. The particular area of that find is difficult to reach and the claim opened only recently, but it makes a dramatic point. It is quite possible to find large amounts of gold in New 49’ers Club claims.
Saturday morning found Robin and me attending Dave McCracken’s seminar on gold mining. Dave opened with a brief glimpse of his personal history, when and why he began the Club and some of the difficulties he encountered and had to overcome to make the New 49’ers the success it is today. After the background information, he got into the true pay dirt of the seminar. Dave is an engaging speaker. We listened closely as he went into great detail about how to determine likely locations for finding gold in a streambed based on past and present water flow (important information for the beginning miner). Robin was particularly taken with Dave McCracken’s extensive knowledge. We live in the Sierra Nevada gold country ourselves and speak to other miners every chance we get. Where Dave’s information differed from that of our own local miners on the Fresno River, his simply made more common sense to my wife. We couldn’t help listening intently as this man of many years experience explained the basics of gold mining in a most informative and enjoyable way.
With an abundance of new knowledge crammed into our heads, the seminar attendees separated for lunch and then regrouped at the New 49’ers office in Happy Camp. We traveled in caravan to a Club claim on the Klamath known as Savage Rapids. Many pounds (yes pounds) of gold have been taken from Savage Rapids over the years. While at one time it was said to have been worked out, I personally talked to one miner who had an impressive show of gold for only seven hours of dredging. Once again the point was driven home: The Klamath and its feeder creeks still have undiscovered pay dirt waiting to be found.
As a group, the seminar’s participants clambered into Dave’s boat and crossed the rushing waters of the river. First Dave pointed out earlier prospecting sites. Then he scooped up a pan full of exposed riverbed, demonstrating his own panning techniques. After that we scattered out along a couple hundred feet of river bank, each of us prospecting for the best location to do some motorized sluicing the next day. We labored under a hot sun, dripping with effort until late afternoon. Dave watched over our shoulders and gave pointers. By the end of the day a spot was located where as many as five flakes of gold were found in each of several pans.
After we all got a chance to sample the site, we broke for the afternoon and rowed back across the river. The next morning we would set up surface sluicing equipment to work the day’s find. Saturday evening is New 49’ers potluck night. With Club members spread out along miles and miles of river, we were surprised at how many gathered for the evening’s social event. The company of so many gold prospecting couples and families was rousing. People had traveled from all corners of the country. Robin was so impressed that she slipped out to the parking lot with a pad of paper and pen in hand. The license plates of the vehicles parked in front of the hall told the story; Rhode Island, Nevada, Minnesota, Florida, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Ohio. Once again we were struck by the friendliness of the New 49’ers. However long a drive had brought them to Happy Camp, California, each person I talked to showed as much interest in my finding gold as they had excitement in their own success. To top off the enjoyable evening, the Club raffled off mining videos, T-shirts and books, the proceeds to be donated to the local community as a gesture of goodwill.
At about 9:00 o’clock Sunday morning we reassembled at the river crossing and worked diligently for roughly six hours, pouring bucket after bucket of gold-producing material through the surface sluicing equipment. With expectations high, we watched as Dave used a concentrator to separate black sand from the gold. In that relatively short period of time we retrieved nearly half an ounce of gold from the Klamath River bank.Back at the showroom again, Dave showed us how to clean the gold of impurities. After weighing out the gold and splitting it equally among those of us who had worked under a hot summer sun to mine it, each of us was given our portion of the gold in a glass vial to show off our share. Robin and I couldn’t stay nearly as long as we wished. If not for the call of responsibilities at home, we could have easily agreed to spend the remainder of our lives in this idyllic setting among friendly New 49’ers.
The drive out of the Klamath River Valley in full daylight did show us much of the extent of the Club’s holdings. All along the riverside were claim signs tacked to trees designating the upper and lower ends of Club-held claims. All of the Club claims are open to Club members. My wife and I can’t help thinking what a boon these claims represent. At a time when many previously gold-bearing sites around California and the rest of the country have been “panned out,” the New 49’ers Club has claims still producing gold. In some of the locations there have been large parties of miners working for some time. Other areas along the Klamath and its feeder creeks have only been touched, just enough to know that gold does exist there. New strikes and new claims are constantly being opened. There is no doubt that New 49’er claims have many years of productive gold mining left in them.
At our next opportunity, Robin and I will be joining other excited New 49’ers searching for the only known remedy for gold fever. Hope we meet you there!
ORGANIZED GROUP PROSPECTING PROJECTS OUT OF THE WATER: We sponsor weekend group prospecting projects for members on a continual basis between June and October. These valuable projects allow participants direct exposure to prospecting for gold through panning, motorized sluicing, vacuum-mining, sampling techniques, and important information about how and where to find gold on our properties. These projects consist of an exciting, fun-filled, and information-packed outing along the Klamath or Salmon Rivers. This is a interesting and (always) exciting group surface prospecting operation (out of the water) where participants each receive an equal share of the gold recovered.
There were 28 members who participated in this group outing. We also had two journalists along for the adventure. One of the journalists, Steve Werblow, is a freelance writer for Homestead Magazine which is an affiliate of the John Deere Magazine. He was writing about the “New Gold Rush” and the people who it has brought out prospecting. We also had a journalist all the way from France named Camille Le Pomellec. Camille was producing a documentary on the The New Gold Rush for a television station in France which is much like our HBO. They, and all of us, were in for a treat when Dave Mack decided to demonstrate the technique of “booming” on this group mining adventure.
As usual, we met at the New 49″er office in Happy Camp on Saturday morning so that all participants had an opportunity to register for the project and pick up any necessary supplies or equipment at the Pro-Mack store. Then we headed over to the Lions Club for Dave”s talk. For those who have never had the opportunity to attend one of these talks, or an outing, I would strongly urge you to fit it into your schedule. The valuable information and hands-on experience you receive will help you immensely in all your pursuits of gold. I”m not just saying this. Having attended all or most of the outings during the past two years, I believe that everyone who participates would agree that the experience is very valuable. Dave schedules five or six of these weekend projects every season. They are free to all New 49″er members. Each person who participates receives an equal share of the gold that is recovered.
Dave”s talk (about how to locate and sample for high-grade gold) ended at around noon on Saturday. The group broke for lunch and then proceeded out to K-15A to do an afternoon of sampling. This consists of panning materials and comparing the results from numerous places along a gravel bar to figure out where the strongest line of gold is ” and at what layer within the gravel the gold is located. By following this simple process, anyone can track down a good location where you can focus productive activity and recover more gold for your effort. Whether you are panning, sluicing, high-banking or suction dredging, a simple sampling program is the key to locating the higher-grade gold deposits.
K-15A has been one of our more popular mining properties this season. I believe this is mainly because Dave has directed multiple group outings along the upper-part of the property, each time with the participants recovering substantial amounts of gold. Members can then go out on their own after the organized project is finished.
A lot of members had been out there since our last project, so we were having trouble making a strike during the first hour or so on Saturday afternoon. While everyone was recovering some amount of gold, we were not getting the results that are needed to make the gold really add up in a high-banker on the following day.
“Hard-pack“ is one of the most important things Dave demonstrates during these group outings. This is compacted streambed which has been deposited by a major flood storm. Since large volumes of gold only move in a waterway during major flood storms, Dave explains that high-grade gold deposits are nearly always located either on top or at the bottom of a hard-packed layer of streambed, or in the contact zone between different layers when more than one is present. This is one of the most important points that Dave stresses during these outings. He is always saying, “You are not even in the game unless you have found some hard-pack!” It”s one thing to read about this in a book. But it is incredibly valuable when you are just getting started to actually be able to see and dig in the right kind of streambed material! Luckily, I had the video camera handy while Dave was showing newcomers this important point:
Because gold is very heavy, it tends to travel down river along concentrated paths during large flood storms. Finding one of these paths is the first step in a sampling program. Since other members had pretty-much mined-out the rich gold deposit which we located during the previous outing, it was time to establish a new one. So Dave called team-leaders, Bruce Waldie, Terry McClure and Richard Krimm together and asked if they knew of any other gold lines along the gravel bar that had previously been established through sampling.
Both Richard and Bruce suggested that we move the sampling-effort down a bit closer to the river, in line with an area where we had done very well last season. Bruce had done some sampling down there earlier this year, and he was saying that the results were pretty good. As Dave explained during his lecture earlier in the day, getting hot tips like this from other members is one of the fastest and easiest ways to locate new high-grade gold deposits. So we gathered up the participants and redirected our sampling efforts to the new area.
There is another very important thing that Dave demonstrates during these outings. He keeps saying, “Proper sampling is a very exact process.” Since most high-grade gold deposits are located either on top or at the bottom of a compacted flood layer, it is important to be very careful to first clear any sand, loose gravel or other low-grade material from the surface that you want to test. Then, you pass the exact material that you want to test through the proper size of classification screen. This way, you end up with the most concentrated sample that you can fit in your gold pan ” the stuff that is most likely to contain gold if it is present. As Dave explained to the group on this day, preparation of a pan sample in the first place is very likely to make the difference of finding or missing a pay-streak if it is present. Here follows a video sequence showing Dave and some helpers prepare a pan-sample off the top of a layer of some hard-pack:
Several experienced prospectors were out there helping newcomers dial-in their panning technique, and the very first pans in the new location started showing some really good results. Richard Krimm came up with a pan which was actually the best Dave had seen all season. That”s when I picked up the video camera and started capturing all the excitement. Here follows a video sequence with Dave explaining what was going on:
One of the reasons Dave was so excited is because the terrain within this new location was going to allow us to feed the high-bankers using suction nozzles. This is similar to suction dredging out of the water. But Dave was quick to explain that there is a big difference between dredging and booming. The term “booming” refers to how you use the suction nozzle attachment of the high-banker up on dry land. It actually has nothing
to do with an active waterway. .
The truth is that it takes quite a lot of effort if you just pick up the suction nozzle outside of a waterway and start sucking material with it. This is because you have to lift the full weight of the nozzle, pressure hose and suction hose ” which are all filled with water. That”s a lot of weight to manipulate around if you want to operate the suction nozzle as we would normally do when dredging under the water.
In booming, you position your high-banker in such a way that the water which is flowing off the end of your sluice box can be utilized to wash your pay-dirt to your suction nozzle. The nozzle is set in the water (that runs down from your sluice box), while all the pay-dirt is pushed or raked into the flow and is then sucked up by the nozzle and directed to the high-banker”s recovery system. For the most part in booming, the nozzle remains stationary and your effort, along with the water-flow, is used to move the right kind of material to the nozzle.
In essence, you are re-circulating the water which comes off the sluice box. As in normal high-banking, the gold is separated and drops into the various types of matting inside your sluice box. This technique, when done correctly, allows you to process more pay-dirt than you would normally be able to accomplish with a pick, shovel and some buckets. It is wet, dirty, hard work, but sooooo much fun!
Everyone was anxious to get started on Sunday morning, so the day began at around 7:30 AM. Rich Krimm, one of the team leaders on this outing, had his high-banker in motion and the buckets were already moving steadily when I arrived. Other able bodies were put to work rolling aside rocks from the areas where the booming would occur. If you can remove as many big rocks as possible from your path, it will help you to process much quicker once you begin. Bruce Waldie, Terry McClure, and Ron Beondik assembled the other two high-bankers with their suction nozzles and prepared to begin booming.
Once the areas were cleared, Dave gave everyone direction on exactly what they would be doing, how they were to do it, and where they should start. Since we had established on the previous day that the high-grade pay-dirt consisted mainly of the top one-foot of material, Dave”s main direction to everyone was to not direct material into the high-banker from more than about one foot deep. The high-bankers can only process so much material in several hours, so we want to feed it only with the best material. This would mean that our personal gold-shares would be more valuable at the end of the day. Everybody liked the sound of that!
Soon, the water was flowing, mud was flying, and people were getting down and dirty! I have never seen people working so hard and having so much fun. They could have cared less about getting wet and dirty. It was all about moving as much material as they could towards the nozzle, allowing the water to accomplish a lot of the work. There was a continuous need to move rocks out of the way as they were uncovered; those that were too big to be sucked up the nozzle. Everyone was truly enjoying the day and each other.
Here follows a video sequence with Dave demonstrating what was going on, how a high-banker works, and how to do booming:
At lunch time, even after over three hours of mud, sweat, lots of water and moving rocks, I could not get anyone to break for lunch. No really; they did not want to get out of the water! Finally, they decided to break in shifts so they could keep the nozzles working. Stops only occurred when the engines ran out of gas, and once when we lost a hose clamp. What a dedicated group of people (or was it just gold fever?).
When Dave gave the signal to stop you could hear, “Ah please, just 5 minutes more”, “Not yet, we just cleared this area”, “It can”t be time already”, and so on. So Dave gave them their requested 5 minutes and then the motors were shut down. The clean-up from all three of the high-bankers looked really nice as it ran through the Le Trap concentrator. We were seeing some chunky gold and several nuggets.
One of the most important things I have learned from these projects is that successful gold mining is not just about hard work. To recover a lot of gold, you have to work hard at locating and processing the right kind of streambed material. Once you locate good pay-dirt through sampling, then you have to focus your work on processing just the high-grade material. Here follows a video sequence with Dave demonstrating this most important point:
Everyone pitched in to get all the equipment put away, clean up the area and fill in the holes that we had dug. There were a couple of working faces left open for those who would be returning to continue mining on their own. By “working face,” I mean the part of an excavation which meets up with pay-dirt that has not been worked, yet. Several participants were saying that they planned to return on Monday and pick up where we left off.
About 30 minutes later, we found ourselves back at the Lions Club in Happy Camp where we were able to complete the final clean-up using a Gold Extractor. This is a specially-designed final clean-up device which eliminates most of the remaining black sand from your gold.
Then, as we were pouring the clean and dried gold through the final clean-up screens, we found that 9 beautiful pieces would not go through the 10-mesh screen. Those folks, are gold nuggets! That was a record for this year and brought on several hoops and hollers, not to mention lots of smiles. All in all, our total gold added up to ¾ of an ounce. Split up amongst 28 participants, everyone received a real nice share of gold for the work we had accomplished together.
“Terry McClure and Bruce Waldie enjoying the moment”
This was my forth outing of this season, and I am so glad that I was able to be a part of it. I have met the greatest people, had a wonderful time, and I am a little sad each time an outing participant says goodbye for awhile. I can only tell you from my experience that if you find yourself with time, please come on out and visit with us, join us on an outing, enjoy the beautiful area around us and take home some fantastic memories. You won”t be sorry you came, and you will leave with more than you came with, in more ways than one. Please contact us to make reservations in advance!
Until the next outing, happy hunting.
By Sandy Waldie
We had 54 New 49’er members participating on this particular group gold mining project. While this was not as many people as we had on the previous weekend project , they were every bit as enthusiastic and excited as those in the earlier group.
Saturday morning started out at the Lions Club facility in Happy Camp to hear Dave Mack talk about gold, how to find it, where to look for it, its properties, and mostly about how to follow a simple sampling plan in search of rich gold deposits. Since the majority of those who attended were new to the whole mining experience, this led to many questions during the talk. As always, Dave’s presentation held everyone captivated until it was time to break for lunch.
After lunch, we all headed out to K-15A. This is one of the Club’s (many) productive mining properties. We had already done really well out there few weeks ago on a project with over 100 people. So it seemed wise to return to the same location.
Once we arrived there, Dave and his experienced helpers divided everyone into four separate groups, each with their own team leader setting the pace. Then we all launched into a carefully-coordinated sampling program.
Dave really stresses that knowing how to gold pan well is essential to an accurate sampling program. Therefore, several experienced helpers were positioned by the river exclusively to teach and critique anyone who needed help with their panning technique. When the helpers felt comfortable that everyone had a good basic understanding and sufficient practice in panning, those people were plugged into the ongoing sampling program. Pretty soon, everyone was helping to move the sampling program along. With so many people helping, there was an overwhelming sense that we were going to find something really good.
By sampling, I mean that the team leaders were comparing the results of pan tests that were being made in numerous small holes up and down the (very large) gravel bar. Seeing where the better results were coming from, they would then ask others to do more testing in those areas; and step-by-step, they were able to follow the traces of gold into high-grade gold deposits. This is a process which is very valuable to watch play out; because it gives you first-hand knowledge and increases your confidence that you can then go out and find high-grade gold deposits on your own.
Dave Mack and the New 49’ers are very lucky to have so many experienced members that are willing to participate in these weekend outings and show others how to prospect. There must have been at least a dozen helpers out there guiding the sample program along.
Because we had already done so well here, we started sampling in the same general areas that had been worked on the previous project. Once again, long-time member and experienced prospector, Craig Colt (known around the Club as “The Nose“, because some say he can smell gold) almost immediately started bringing up good results out of one area. That particular location was also an excellent place to demonstrate for beginners what hard-pack streambed is, and how to see the difference between storm layers, loose material, sand and the tailings from earlier mining activity. As Dave Mack stressed during his talk, the main key in sampling for high-grade deposits is in knowing that most gold concentrates either on the top or the bottom of hard-packed layers of streambed. Here follows an explanation on video which was given out there by very experienced prospector, Dave Beatson, from New Zealand:
Several other areas were being sampled by the other team leaders and their crews also turned up good results. By late afternoon on Saturday, we were already setting up the high-bankers so they would be ready to go on Sunday morning. We like to end off out there by around 4 pm on Saturday afternoon. This allows everyone some time to clean up and pull something together for potluck on Saturday evening. Most of us walked away at the end of the first day with smiles, with some gold in our sniffer bottles from pan-testing, and plenty of excitement about what the next day would yield from the gold deposits we had found. Some people stayed behind to keep panning, perhaps until dark!
As always, our potluck gathering at the Lions Hall on Saturday evening was lots of fun for everyone, and there was plenty of great food.
Sunday morning, I arrived out on K-15A at 8:15 am,
early I thought, only to find over half the group already there and working hard. Almost all of 100+ buckets were already full of pay-dirt and waiting to be loaded into the high-bankers – which were already running. Boy, were things in high gear!
Long time members, Rich & Connie Krimm, were supervising one team. Also, very experienced and long time member, Lee Kracher had a second team in full production. They were working a deposit of gold side-by-side. Their groups had actually started at 7:15 am on Sunday morning. WOW, talk about enthusiasm!!
Another long time member and very experienced miner, Ray Derrick’s team was also busy working the high-grade deposit which Craig and Dave Beatson had confirmed on Saturday. Here follows a video segment with Ray’s explanation of what they were doing:
Otto Gaither’s team was also working the same gold deposit. Here is what Otto had to say:
Between all the discussion, laughter and some moans and groans, the buckets were filled (only half full to keep the weight down), carried and loaded into the high-bankers, and then carried back empty to be filled over and over again. The weather even co-operated by being a bit hazy and keeping the sun from parboiling us.
Luckily, one of the high-grade pay-streaks we were working was under the shade of a big tree. So that’s where nearly everyone congregated when it was time to sit down for a break.
When we stopped for lunch, we all had our first look at what all the morning’s effort had produced. Clean-up was only done on one of the high-banker scalpers. Wow, we were doing pretty good! Here follows a video sequence of team leader, Richard Krimm, cleaning out the scalper-section of his high-banker:
Seeing all that gold in the black gold pan was more than enough to overcome our aches and pains. Some people were already up and filling buckets again even before I finished my sandwich!
We like to end off out in the field at about 2:30 pm on Sunday afternoon. This allows us plenty of time to back-fill our excavations, put up the gear and get back into town where we can do a final clean-up of the gold and split the gold evenly amongst all the participants.
After the concentrates were removed from the high-bankers, they were carefully fed through a green “Le Trap” gold sluice to remove a large portion of the black iron sands.Oohs and Aahs could be heard throughout the group that was observing the process. The gold was looking really good, and anticipation was high for the final clean-up when we returned to town.
Once all the holes from the digs were filled in and the debris picked up and packed out, we headed back to Happy Camp where we would complete the final clean up and split. A “Gold Extractor” was set up in the shade at the Lions Club. The purpose of this device is to separate even more of the black iron sand from the gold. Afterwards, the final concentrates were dried, and the mixture of black sand and gold was poured into some clean-up screens. These screens separated the gold into 10, 12, 20, 30 & 40-mesh sizes, which then enabled the black sand to be blown away rather easily — leaving only the gold.
We ended up with a total weight of about one ounce, along with two very nice nuggets. This was then split up between the 54 people who had participated on Sunday’s dig. There were a lot of smiles and looks of satisfaction. A lot of these people had never even mined before. Now they were receiving their first golden reward. By the looks on their faces, it would not be their last.
Here follows a video sequence which captured the spirit of all the fun and excitement we share together on these weekend projects:
After hugs, exchanges of phone numbers, and promises to keep in touch, everyone headed on their way. Many people were talking about how much fun they had and how much they had learned over the weekend. There were several who said they would be back for the next weekend group mining project, as well.
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!
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:
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 Â½ 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 Ulf Dannenberg
The morning chill had not quite departed when we gathered outside The New 49’ers headquarters in Happy Camp, California. A crowd of people had arrived from all parts of the country, including one from Switzerland, and were chatting happily as they sat on benches underneath the few apple trees.
It felt like being back in school again, with the large chalkboard looming in front of us. Dave McCracken, founder of The New 49’ers and known worldwide for his abilities in gold mining, started off the day by asking all participants to introduce themselves and talk a little about where they had come from.
Some of the participants were active members of The New 49’ers organization, but many others were here to try out the hobby of gold mining for their first time. There were people of all ages in the class.
After giving his personal story of how he became a gold miner, Dave got down to the business of his two-hour lecture on the basics of mining for gold–where the gold is in the river, and why it is in one spot and not in another. Even for me, some aspects of the theory were new, although I have been a gold miner for a couple of years. The lecture was quite refreshing in that Dave kept returning to the fundamental that each person only does as well as he or she applies oneself to the task of gold mining. By the end of the lecture, this was clearly true to all of us.
Dave encouraged all participants to ask plenty of questions during the lecture and this enabled people to really get down to what was on their minds. Some had prior experiences and were looking for answers on how to improve their skills.
At noon we took an hour off for lunch. Later in the afternoon we found ourselves in practical application of what we had covered earlier. This included a hand-on demonstration of gold panning, vack-mining, and sampling. Our destination was the Glory Hole, one of the richest mining claims owned by The New 49’ers.
Equipped with shovels and pans, classifier screens and crevicing tools, we spread out on the bank of the river trying
to find a good spot for the highbanking operation which we would be participating in on the following day–first we had to locate gold!
It was a nice, hot sunny afternoon. some of the participants took breaks to go swimming in the river. We were finding gold as well! Every pan held at least a few tiny specks. Dave and his assistants, after giving demonstrations, set everyone to work in a contest to find the richest area, with the winner to end up with the biggest nugget on the following day. Dave then proceeded to observe and give further assistance to anyone who needed it in their panning and sampling techniques.
One thing we learned is that you need to decide what your satisfaction level is going to be. For some gold prospectors, it is enough to find one pennyweight (1/20th of an ounce) a day. Others are disappointed with two or three pennyweight. Make up your mind about how much gold you want to find. If one spot doesn’t seem good enough, look for a new location. And always do your testing before setting up your highbanking equipment.
Proper testing tells you how rich one specific spot is in comparison to other locations. The river bed and gravel bars might look good, but there is no way to really tell without adequate testing. Since generally, there is flood gold almost everywhere along the Klamath River, the main difference is in the concentration (richness) of the gold deposits.
By the end of the afternoon we had found a spot that looked quite promising. It was producing from 50-200 colors to the pan along with some fairly good-sized flakes. At around 4:30 pm, we knocked off for the day to give those of us who wanted to go, a chance to get ready for the Saturday night potluck and get-together which is sponsored each week by the 49’er members. Everyone was invited to attend. And it was a very pleasant experience. Newcomers were introduced, jokes and “Murphy’s Law” mining stories were told–which had everyone laughing. The food was abundant and quite good. Dinner was followed by a substantial drawing of prizes, and further games and cards for those who wished to play. Quite a nice experience and friendly crowd!