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» Highbanking On The Klamath

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!

 

 

 

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