By Dave McCracken

Everything was going normal. My partner and I were using an 8-inch dredge, pumping rich gold from underneath about seven feet of hard-packed streambed. It was just another day in god’s country. Then, without any warning, we ran out of air. “Out of gas,” I thought. As I turned around to go back to the dredge, there it was, upside down, with the engine muffler resting on the bottom of the river!

Dave Mack

flipped dredgeThere are few things more disheartening in gold dredging than flipping your dredge upside down in the river! But if you spend some time talking with experienced dredgers in river-dredge country, you will find a good percentage of operators have experienced turning one or more dredges over at one time or another.

Dredges get flipped over because of numerous different factors. One common reason is not having enough flotation under the dredge. Another is having a dredge design where the dredge is not wide enough. Another common problem is in dredge designs whereby the forward-most floats are not tapered enough to help deflect the river’s flow.

Design problems aside, there are two common situations which cause dredges to flip over. The first is when something happens to cause the sluice box to start loading up with the material you are pumping. As more and more material piles up in the sluice box, and then perhaps onto one of the pontoons, the increased weight eventually overwhelms the dredge’s floatation capacity, and over she goes! This can happen in minutes if you are feeding the nozzle at production speed!

The second common reason for flipping a dredge is floating it out into faster water than the design can manage. Every dredge has its limits! A dredge which might float just fine in shallow, slack water might not last five minutes in the faster flow of a river. fast water

As fast water often poses more risk to the dredge than an experienced operator, sometimes you have to find some slack water along the edge of the river where it is safer to float the dredge!

Gold quite often deposits in the fast water sections of a river. Also, because of the faster water, these areas often have less gravel and overburden covering the pay-streaks. Less streambed makes sampling go faster. Consequently, river dredgers often find ourselves dredging in the faster sections of gold-bearing rivers—including white water rapids.

It is difficult enough to overcome the underwater problems associated with fast water dredging. Knocking out plug-ups in the suction hose is particularly difficult. A dredger should not also have to worry about his or her dredge flipping over at the same time. Therefore, a certain amount of dredge modification might be necessary on any store-bought dredge before it is used under fast water conditions.

Normally, dredges are modified for fast water by adding more flotation—sometimes to the sides, sometimes to the forward-part of the dredge.

Here’s something important: Additional side flotation tends to make the dredge more stable from side to side and generally prevents the flipping problem. However, additional side flotation enormously increases the dredge’s water drag in the fast current. This puts a great deal of pressure on the tie-off lines, and it also makes it more difficult to get on and off the dredge, or work around the dredge (knocking out plug-ups) without getting swept down river. This is because the additional drag directs a larger volume of water around the sides of the pontoons.

It is usually more difficult to mount additional flotation as an extension of the front of your dredge; but we have found in our own operations that this is the better overall modification for several reasons. Reduced water drag is very important in swift water conditions. More floatation up front helps prevent the dredge from doing a submarine dive! Also, the additional platform in front of the dredge provides more space to place support gear on your dredge. And, in the case of larger dredges, if you should ever want to mount a winch on the front of your dredge, the extra flotation and frame will already be in place.

But you do not need to be in fast water to flip a dredge over. As mentioned above, a very common reason for a dredge to flip over during operation is sluice box load-up. This is when rocks and gravel overwhelm the sluice box, start flowing over onto the decks, and eventually cause the dredge to list over to one side and flip. If you have a water-flow problem with your recovery system, the problem must be resolved before you operate your dredge without someone at the surface to keep an eye on it. The key is to get enough water-flow to keep all of the rocks and material moving through and out of the recovery system. We always make sure we have a little more flow than necessary, because we choose not to hire a dredge tender to stay on deck.

Occasionally, even with a dredge which is set up perfectly, just the right rock can lodge in the sluice box and create an obstruction. Then that single rock can be the cause of a sluice box load-up. If not caught in time, the load-up can collect enough weight to flip the dredge over. This is why I say many experienced dredgers have had the fun (not) of flipping a dredge. Helpful hint: It never hurts to look back every once in a while to make sure your dredge is floating alright!

Tying off the dredge properly in swift water is also an important factor in preventing a flip-over. Obviously, you do not want your dredge sitting broadside in a fast current! It is a matter of applying Murphy’s Law: you must observe the water-flow and its effect on the dredge. If it looks chancy, come up with another plan.

When a dredge is flipped over, you usually lose all of the items that float. If the river is swift, these things are usually quite some distance down river before you get back up on the bank and remove your dive gear. I will never forget the time we came up from a dive several years ago just in time to see the five-inch dredge that was operating just downriver from us was underwater and

hanging by just one pontoon. The guy was dredging when we started our dive, so we assumed he was still underwater, pinned by a rock, or perhaps knocked in the head by the dredge when it flipped over, or something. Because the owner of the dredge was nowhere to be seen!

However, it turned out that when the dredge flipped over, the dredger came to the surface and saw his other pontoon going downstream fast. He off-loaded his dive gear and swam through three separate sets of rapids trying to catch the pontoon. These were the very substantial rapids on our Mega Hole claim at K-15A! He never did catch up with the pontoon. He showed back up at the dredge about 45 minutes later, exhausted and demoralized. We already had dragged the remainder of his gear out of the river. Using my jet boat, several hours later, we located his pontoon about eight miles downriver in a back eddy. It only took him several days to get his dredge running again. He installed extra flotation to prevent further such incidents.

When a dredge is flipped over, after it is set right-side-up again, the water needs to be completely removed from inside the engine and hookah air compressor. We usually do about half a dozen oil changes, starting the engine for a few seconds each time, to remove more water. As long as the oil keeps turning milky, it is necessary to keep changing it.

It is not as hard on an engine if it is not running when it goes underwater! Sometimes it is necessary to remove the electrical components and blow them out with air or replace them altogether in order to get spark at the spark plug again.

The air compressor must have all water removed from inside, as well as the intake air filters and air lines. If the compressor was running when it was submerged, it will be necessary to pull out the reed valves and make them straight again or replace them.

And of course, if you were dredging gold, some or most of that will have been lost from your sluice box when it flipped over. So, you will have to decide whether it is worth going through your cobble and tailing piles to retrieve it. It usually is not worth the effort, because you can get more gold by just continuing forward on your pay-streak.

One important dredge modification worth doing is to secure the sluice box to the frame or deck of your dredge so it will not flap free in the current should the dredge become flipped over. This prevents the box from being damaged or lost altogether. It also makes it a heck of a lot easier to get the dredge flipped back over.

At the end of last season, one of our local commercial dredgers was trying to winch his dredge up through a particularly difficult section of rapids on our K-17 property along the Klamath River. He was trying to test a potentially-excellent hot spot that no one else had ventured into, yet. The spot looked great; many pounds of gold were recovered just upstream and just downstream. The spot is probably still loaded with gold!

He was moving the dredge alone, using a power winch anchored to the streambank some distance upstream. Just as he was almost around a large rock, the outside edge of his dredge took a dive and the dredge flipped over — just like that. This is the way it usually is in fast water; when something goes wrong, it happens quickly and decisively. Usually, there is little time to do anything effective about it.

connecting sluiceBesides all of the damage to a dredge, the loss of support gear, and the loss of production time, there is also a large amount of embarrassment which goes along with having a dredge floating upside down in the river!

Once we found out about his problem, we put the word out, and experienced New 49’er members from the area converged on the site to help our friend. It is no small task to right an eight-inch dredge in fast water! The images in this article were captured as we made it happen.
First, we had him winch the dredge around the rock and pull it into slower moving water. This did not help the equipment much, because his sluice box was dangling in the current and dragging along the river-bottom. His engine was also dragging the bottom. Not good!

We spanned the bottom of his pontoons with some beams, and then cranked his sluice box back up to his deck before trying to winch the dredge back over.

winchingThen, we had several divers go under the dredge and use chains and a come-along to lift the sluice box up and secure it to the deck. We used a boat to set up an electric winch on the far bank. We secured the two outside corners of the dredge to the bank on the close side of the river. We secured the winch cable to the opposite corners of the dredge and we winched the dredge over. What a mess the dredge was! Since it was late fall anyway, this pretty-much finished the dredger’s season. Miners are a hardy bunch; he returned the following year, better and smarter than ever!

The moral of the story is that a little prevention goes a long way. Another thing: we are dealing with the forces of nature. We use our observation and judgment. We take some chances and we are not always right. Murphy lives! And, when he wins a battle, it doesn’t mean he has to win the war. There is always another day and another opportunity.

Another thing: We are dealing with the forces of nature. We use our observation and judgment. We take some chances and we are not always right. Murphy lives! And, when he wins a battle, it does not mean he has to win the war. There is always another day and another opportunity!

Never quit!



By George Anderson

My adventure started the day I arrived in Happy Camp, California, a small town located on the Klamath River, and headquarters for The New 49’ers Prospecting Organization.

My first order of business was to join The New 49’ers, so I went to the headquarters, and after paying my membership dues and signing a few papers I was asked to go on a tour of the more than 50 miles of claims that I now had access to. It was that simple. The gentleman who took me on the tour was very knowledgeable about claim locations, boundaries, camping areas, club rules and regulations, and those stretches of the river that he felt would be good dredging for my size dredge. On the tour we stopped often as he would point out access points, newly-exposed bedrock from this past winter’s flood, and newly-deposited gravel bars that looked like good prospects.

After the tour I spent the rest of the day looking for what I felt would be the ideal place to dredge. To help me in my search I had been given an indexed list of each claim, which included a detailed description of the location, access, camping, maps, and information about the prospecting and dredging potential. This information proved to be invaluable in my assessment of the many different stretches of river and tributaries I was interested in dredging.

After a few hours of looking at, and reading about, the claims I had access to, I found a stretch of river that looked to me like an ideal place for placer gold to deposit. It was a submerged gravel bar located on the inside of a bend, just downriver from a high pressure area. There were large boulders half-buried, sticking out from the bank. I knew these boulders would make low pressure eddies behind them during high water. The high water during this last winter’s floods laid the trees at the river’s edge right down. 20 feet up the bank in this particular area I could picture that raging water running over these boulders, and hopefully carrying gold to be deposited in the low pressure areas behind them. This looked like a textbook location to find a good placer gold deposit.

So on the following day, after setting up camp I pulled my dredge to the river’s edge, put it together, put the rest of my gear on the pontoons, and suited up. Then I floated it across the river to a point just behind a large boulder that stuck out from the bank about 3 feet. This boulder was also dug into the bank about 3 feet and had saplings growing around it, which told me it had been there a few years.

I started dredging about 6 feet downstream of the boulder, moving forward and down as I dredged. When I got to the boulder I was beneath it. As I dredged the last foot of material from behind it I saw a beautiful nugget wedged between the boulder and another rock. I pulled the nozzle away, plucked the nugget from between the rocks and held it in front of my mask. It was the prettiest nugget I’ve ever seen, and later weighed in at 2.2 pennyweight. Underwater it looked like it weighed a half-ounce, which really added to my excitement!

After I regained my senses I placed the nugget on top of the boulder and kept dredging. After just a few more passes with the nozzle, and about a foot from the outer edge of the boulder I saw about 8 pieces of shale standing on end, spaced about 1 inch apart. I made another pass, and there in front of my eyes were four more nice nuggets! Now, by this time I was really getting excited, and thinking I’d hit the Mother Lode. I lay there staring at them until my breathing returned to normal. It was a sight I’ll never forget. So, after relishing in the moment, I plucked them from their hiding place and sat them

on top of the boulder, also. The largest of these weighed 1.6 pennyweight. That evening while panning out the material from the sluice box I recovered 5 matchhead-sized nuggets and a bunch of nice pickers. My first day of dredging had proved to be very rewarding–I’d recovered more than 6 pennyweight of gold from this one test hole! I was really looking forward to what tomorrow might bring.

The next morning I decided to drop back to see where the end of this paystreak started, so I moved the dredge downriver and punched another test hole. After a few hours I found just a few pickers, so I moved forward to just downstream of my first test hole and dredged into it. I made it longer and wider. I dredged behind, under and around the boulder and found one more nugget and quite a few pickers. Before I felt it was unsafe it undermine it much more, I decided to move upriver to the next boulder.

I punched a hole to bedrock, which was about 4 feet deep, behind this second boulder. I found a shale-like seam about a foot wide and rough, inset about 2 inches below the surrounding bedrock. I really started getting excited with anticipation, knowing this was another textbook location for gold to deposit. I hastily dredged a 4-foot-square area above the seam down to bedrock, leaving a few inches of material covering the seam, and after waiting a minute for my sluice box to clear I dredged the seam material out. You can imagine my disappointment when I discovered there wasn’t any gold in the seam. It’s my belief that someone beat me to this spot, due to the lack of any hard-packed material over the seam. I also saw an area to the inside of this seam, consisting of a cement-like material (caliche), where it appeared to me that some had used a pry bar to break it apart. I did pull a couple of nuggets and a few pickers from this hole, but not what I was hoping for.

The next day I dropped back to the end of the gravel bar where I had spotted 4 large boulders. By large I mean they were as big as a dresser and twice as wide. These boulders were wedged against each other in a horseshoe configuration and about half-buried. This looked to me like another good place for gold to deposit. As I started dredging I hit a semi-hard packed material just a couple of feet down, and could see small nuggets lying amongst the large rocks. Within an hour I found a beautiful 3/4-pennyweight nugget, just behind the first large boulder I came to. I dredged here for the next few days, going around this horseshoe configuration of boulders, from about 4 feet out to under and in-between them, recovering a lot of gold. I would check my sluice box every couple of hours, gold pan and tweezers in hand, and was always rewarded with five or six pickers for my effort. All in all I recovered 19-7 pennyweight from the six test holes I dredged.

In conclusion I feel this particular gravel bar has good gold throughout, but that the paystreak runs 2-4 feet deep. I didn’t have time to see how far out in the gut the paystreak ran. I’ll have to determine that the next time, but I do know it looks pretty rich along the bank to 10 feet out, as all my test holes had a good showing, except for maybe the fourth one I punched on the seam towards the front of the gravel bar.

I had a great time dredging in the Klamath River country. And, I plan on returning very soon. I want to thank the people at The New 49’ers for this opportunity, and their help. I met some really nice people there, while dredging, especially Jerry H., a true prospector and friend who makes the best hobo coffee in the world. Good luck to you all. Hope to see you real soon!


By Marc Rogers

Chuck and Chris Carfrae have a rich and varied background in gold prospecting and treasure hunting. Their interest began in 1974 when they took a vacation up through the Mother Lode area of California. While there, they decided to try their hand at gold panning.

They didn’t have much luck until they saw a sign offering panning lessons for $2. Their teacher was an old miner who “didn’t hesitate to tell you if you weren’t doing it right,’ and after taking the lessons they fared much better. They finished up that vacation with a week spent on the Feather River where they found 1/4 ounce of gold, panning! They decided that if they could do that well panning, they should get some equipment, so Chris bought Chuck a 2 1/2-inch dredge for Christmas.

The following season they found almost an ounce with Chuck’s little dredge, so Chuck bought Chris a 3-inch dredge with air the next Christmas. They bought a motorhome so they could be comfortable while they dredged, and at home they joined a local club, the PCSC (Prospector’s Club of Southern California), and have continued to be active in the club for many years. Through club outings they gained knowledge and interest in metal detecting and drywashing, bought equipment to participate, and by this time were planning all their vacations around dredging. They spent a number of years visiting different areas of the Mother Lode, eventually dredging every major river from the Merced to the Yuba.

One year they wanted to do something different, so they flew back to Georgia on vacation, taking their smallest dredge, and rented a car. They went first to the Dahlonega area where they spent time dredging and finding gold, and visiting local mines and miners. Then they moved on to Franklin, North Carolina, and other nearby areas, where they dug in the gem fields.

They then visited nearby relatives who told them of a Civil War battlefield where they thought they might detect. After receiving permission from the owner, they recovered numerous minie balls, one of which was unusual. They found that it was a special one shot intermittently to clean the gun. They then moved on to Norfolk, Virginia, where they detected some of the old canals, and made several good finds, the best find being a very old ruby ring which Chris found.

The next year they decided to try detecting in Hawaii. They found most people detected in the mornings. Since there were a lot of nighttime shows on the beach, and all the lights from the hotels provided plenty of light, they did their detecting about 11 p.m., after seeing one of the shows. They had very good luck, and came home with a nice bunch of jewelry and coins.

Both Chuck and Chris have a very mischievous twinkle to the eye, and you know that whatever they do, it will be interesting. So when you hear about the unusual finds they’ve made while dredging, it doesn’t surprise you too much. Most people consider themselves lucky if they find one good cache in their lifetime. Chuck and Chris have found two, and they weren’t even looking for them. They found them dredging and panning!

The first was on some property they own in the Mother Lode area, which has a small creek. They were vacationing and panning in and around some rocks, since there was not enough water to dredge. The material was very hardpacked, and Chuck was having a hard time breaking it loose. He finally got a pan full, and was swirling it around as he worked at loosening it all up when he found a hard rectangular object in the pan. After cleaning it up they could see that it was a hard leather case.

Taking a screwdriver, Chuck worked the case open to find it was full of dirt. He was using the screwdriver to scoop the dirt out when a coin popped into view! They hurriedly got another pan and carefully scooped the contents of the case into it, then carefully panned off the dirt. What they were left with was 19 coins and two gold nuggets. The nuggets were 3 dwt. and 2 dwt. in size; the coins consisted of 3 silver dollars, one $5 gold piece, and 14 half dollars. All were from before the turn of the century. They later learned that the case was an 1870 Spencer rifle bullet case.

When they found this cache, Chuck and Chris didn’t even know what the gold coin was. They thought perhaps it was a token of some kind. They took it to a coin shop in a nearby town, and asked if they could identify it. The store owner told Chuck it was “just an old coin,” and he would give him $25 for it. Chuck almost took it, but finally decided to keep the coin. He later found that the gold coin was worth $350.

The second cache was found on the Klamath River, on New 49’er claims. They had just joined The New 49’ers, and came up to spend a vacation dredging club claims on the Klamath River. Chris was dredging in a shallow spot that bordered an area that had already been dredged by someone else. While she was working a large rock fell on her leg. A trip to the local doctor showed nothing broken, but the doctor told her to stay off the leg for a few days.

At the end of that time Chuck thought Chris should dredge first so she wouldn’t build up a fear after being hurt. While she dredged, Chuck sat on a rock nearby, panning concentrates left from the day Chris hurt her leg. Just as he was picking out the nice pieces of gold to put in the bottle, the pan tipped, and all the gold fell back into the water. The bedrock was clean and smooth there, so he had Chris stop dredging and he maneuvered the dredge so he could pick the gold back up with the nozzle.

When he started picking up the gold it didn’t all come. Some of it had fallen into a crevice, and was scattered along the bottom of it. He worked the crevice as far as he could, but it went under a large boulder. He felt around underneath as far as he could, and it felt like smooth bedrock but, thinking that some of it could still be in the crevice underneath, he got the pry bar and worked until he moved the boulder over. When he went back down, he could see there was some hardpacked streambed there. It was packed so hard, in fact, that the nozzle couldn’t even budge it! He used the bar to loosen it up, and then worked the nozzle in a back and forth motion to try to clean the area down to the crevice. All of a sudden he saw something shiny and large. He laid the nozzle down and waited for the water to clear. Chuck says, “All I could see was a pile of shiny coins.”

At this point he stopped dredging and worked with the pry bar until he’d completely moved the large boulder out of the way. Then he began working the material very carefully. At one point he came across a piece of wood, so he carefully removed all the material around it, but as soon as he touched it, it disintegrated in his hand, turning the water almost purple.

When he finished cleaning out the spot he had a hole about 3 feet in diameter, and 12 to 18 inches deep. Their cache consisted of 35 silver dollars and 3-five dollar gold coins! They have them in safekeeping with their other finds. They decided they didn’t want to even clean them. The newest of the coins was a 1927 silver dollar. The boulder that covered the cache was about the size of an office desk, so they think the cache was lost possibly in a flood, and the boulder came to rest on it some time later. Last year Chuck and Chris went to Alaska and carried their dredge on the truck for 72 days before they found a place they could dredge. They report that there were a lot of places where you could pan, but not many where you could dredge. As always, however, they enjoyed their trip.

They finished their vacation in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, at the World Goldpanning Championships, where Chuck and Chris entered the competition. Chris was the only American woman entered, and she won the beginner’s competition!

They spent an entire week there, joining in parties every evening with German, English, French, Swedish, and other competitors, and in making friends from all 17 countries represented. Chris says “We didn’t even have trouble communicating with the people who spoke no English. We enjoyed visiting with all of them! We traded pins and sweatshirts, and had a great time. We were even loaned Klondike pans from the group from Great Britain, to use in the competition.”

Whatever else they do next summer, you can bet that there will be a lot of fun involved. Chuck and Chris are great people to be around. They are eager to pitch in and help anyone with almost anything. One thing for sure, if there are any organized activities going on, and Chuck and Chris are around, they will be in the forefront of the activity. Speaking for both of them, Chuck has said it this way: “The most fun is being directly involved; to be helping the people who are getting things accomplished.”

This article was first published in Gold & Treasure Hunter magazine.


As most of you have probably heard by now, Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 670 into law which has placed a statewide moratorium on suction dredging in California until the Department of Fish & Game (DFG) completes an updated Environmental Impact Report (EIR). This EIR process has already begun. Under the present schedule, public hearings will begin in November of this year. DFG is now projecting to complete the process by the fall of 2011. If they remain on schedule (unlikely, in my own opinion), this means we will miss two dredging seasons in California.

Just in case you didn’t know, this new law only stops suction dredging within California’s active waterways. It does not have anything to do with the other types of prospecting or mining that we do in California. Unaffected prospecting activities include panning, sniping & Vack-mining, sluicing & high-banking, booming, electronic prospecting and other types of prospecting that do not use a suction nozzle within an active stream, river or creek. It also does not affect our group weekend projects.

We are Immediately Implementing a 3-Pronged Solution for California Suction Dredgers

As we are not very good at sitting around complaining, here is what we are doing:

1) Participation in the Administrative Process: The EIR on suction dredging in California must be completed through a CEQA Process (California Environmental Quality Act); which, based upon best available science, requires the authorities to identify any important concerns. Then, those concerns must be addressed through implementation of regulations which are least-restrictive upon people and economic activity. This is not new to us, since we actively participated in the earlier EIR which was completed during 1994.

We have already lined up specialist-biologists on our team who are ready to participate as the process moves forward. Our lobbyists are already busy soliciting assistance from the friends we have in the California legislature. Hopefully, some of their aids will also participate in the process, helping us to keep things on a “fair and balanced” approach and moving along towards completion as soon as possible. Our attorneys are continuing to pursue remedies in the Alameda Superior Court to help move the process along.

We will be actively involved with the Administrative process, pushing it towards completion while fighting to prevent unreasonable solutions (regulations) from being imposed upon our industry. Ultimately, if we do not overcome the new law (outlined in solution number 2 just below), completing the Administrative process is going to get dredgers back in the California waterways. We are right on top of this.

2) Challenging the New Law in Federal Court: In anticipation of the possibility that SB 670 might be signed into law, several months ago, we asked our attorneys to perform legal research to prepare ourselves for a challenge in federal court to overturn the new law. This new law is clearly flawed, and there is a reasonable chance that we can overcome it.

As always with legal matters, I have to try and present you with enough details to keep you informed, but not so much that we tip off our adversaries (who read every word published on every Internet forum having to do with mining).

To help with an explanation, here is a summary which our lead attorney has provided.

Even the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) is taking the position that the Mining Law, Organic Act and their own Section 228 regulations pre-empt the new California law. My sources are telling me that USFS will not enforce the new law and will continue to allow suction dredging on USFS lands. California may try to enforce it, but the USFS will not and will not accompany California officials in the field. My understanding is that USFS is taking the position that the U.S. Supreme Court case known as €œGranite Rock directs only reasonable state environmental laws “of general applicability”€ can apply to operations authorized by the Mining Law. It says that state or local regulations or laws “€œcannot say no”€ to mining activities on federal public or National Forest land that comply with the Section 3809 or Section 228 regulations, respectively. The Granite Rock case originated in California.

Under existing federal law, mining is the priority-use of the public lands. Regulations can only be imposed to lessen unnecessary impacts. Regulation cannot be used to prohibit mining. There is a lot of existing, controlling case law on this. Yet, without any proof that a single fish has ever been harmed by suction dredging in California under our existing suction dredge regulations, even while they continue to issue fish-kill licenses to millions of others, the State just passed a new law which declared suction dredging as “harmful,” and prohibits suction dredge mining until such time as the activity can be further studied with new regulations imposed upon our industry.

Our federal challenge will be to try and prove that a state does not have the authority to prohibit or impose unreasonable regulations upon mining on the public lands. The outcome of this challenge will most likely have an important impact upon mining in all of the states. So we must be very careful about what we do. If we win such a challenge, it is reasonable to expect all states to back off on all the unreasonable regulation of mining activity within their borders. Winning would solve a lot of problems for miners!

If we lose such a challenge, we can expect the states to step in with even more unreasonable regulations upon mining.

This leads me to the subject of how we will pay for a challenge of this new law in federal court. We need to have some certainty that there are enough supporters on our side who will help New 49’€™ers cover the costs. This, so we do no€™t make the fatal mistake of starting a fight that we cannot finish!

Most of the industry manufacturers (and others) are supportive of a federal challenge. So we have been able to pull together a very substantial list of prizes for this new fund-raiser.

The donors of these prizes have authorized our office to automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets, etc). There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win. The drawing will take place at our headquarters in Happy Camp on 9 March, 2012.

Legal contributions can be arranged by calling (530) 493-2012, by mailing to The New 49’€™er Legal Fund, P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039, or by clicking here:

Make a donation

Asking the €”federal supremacy”€ question in federal court will most certainly affect the future of all small-scale mining (and probably even large-scale mining) in America for the foreseeable future. In my view, the responsibility is too large to place on a single attorney who is being managed by just one or two people from the whole industry. It would wise to get more organizations and more specialists involved with this. With your support, we are ready to play. Our attorneys are as good as you can find! We would like to see other organizations also actively participate.

This fund-raiser is going to be the decision-maker concerning New 49’€™er active involvement in a legal challenge in federal court to California’€™s new anti-dredging law. We will make the decision based upon how much initial financial support that we receive from you guys.

Thanks for whatever you can do!

3) Working out Suction Dredge Opportunities in Oregon: Oregon’s annual suction dredge permit presently costs $25 per year for both residents and non-residents.

We have struck high-grade gold on our dredge sampling project along the Rogue River. You will be hearing much more from us during the next few months about how we intend to support our members who wish to operate your dredges in Oregon.

Meanwhile, as you know, we continue to have the best high-banking opportunities (anywhere) along the Klamath River in Northern California for members who prefer prospecting for gold above the water.


By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack


Rogue RiverGold


Note: Oregon Now Has Placed a Moratorium on Motorized Prospecting!

We decided quite some time ago that as long as things are running smoothly in Happy Camp, our field staff (Richard Krimm, Ray Koons and others) would be overseeing activity this season along our mining properties on the Klamath River, while Craig Colt and I provide help and encouragement to members who want to dredge for gold along the Rogue River in Southern Oregon.

We have maps and an Access Guide on line for all members who wish to suction dredge along the Rogue River. Members are also invited to contact our office for more information.

We struck high-grade gold during a dredge sampling project along the Rogue River last fall. So we have been planning to support our members who wish to operate your dredges over there however long the dredging moratorium remains in affect in California (at least though the present season).

One of the best ways I know of to encourage our members is to take a dredge out on the river and start sampling for high-grade gold deposits. Since most gold follows along a common, narrow path in the river, once high-grade is established in one place, we can begin lining other members up to get a piece of it. Then, as other members start finding acceptable levels of gold (or better), everyone becomes encouraged.

When Craig and I started, there were already several members dredging in the section of river that we had targeted downstream of the Gold Ray dam. Some of them were already dredging some high-grade gold, amazingly on both sides of the river and also out in the middle. This made things a lot easier for Craig and I. Usually we are the ones who have to go out and make the first strike!

Using my jet boat to gain access to the far side of the river, Craig and I initially launched a 4-inch dredge about 100 feet downstream of where one member (Tom) was already dredging about a quarter-ounce of gold per day. Whenever possible, we try and learn as much as possible from someone who is already into high-grade gold. The information tells us exactly what we should be looking for in our own sampling. Tom was getting some nice nuggets off the bedrock, under about a foot of an orange-colored hard-packed streambed which also contained lots of fine gold. Easy dredging!

Here is a video sequence that was taken while Craig and I were talking to the guys dredging just up in front of us:

The problem was that the river was running faster down below Tom. With Craig holding the 4-inch dredge out into the river for me, it was everything I could do to hold a position out in the river to dredge a sample. The water was only a few feet deep, so it was not dangerous. It was just hard to hold a position against the fast flow. There were several hundred feet of very fast water here; and I was betting that because other sections of the river are so much easier to work, nobody had ever dredged this area before.

Craig ColtIt turned out that I was right about that. I found the orange-colored hard-pack as soon as I started dredging material into the 4-inch nozzle. I reached bedrock within just a short time. The material was less than a foot deep. Easy!

Slowing down on the bedrock to have a more careful look, I started spotting occasional flakes of gold right away. It is always so uplifting when you start seeing gold while dredging. If you are seeing the gold, it means you are on the common gold path. Individual pieces can be followed into pockets of gold when the bedrock is right. Tom told us he had uncovered multiple pockets of beautiful nuggets just the day before.

I didn’t see any pockets of gold while spending about an hour getting a sizable section of the bedrock uncovered. But I did see sporadic flakes of gold along the bedrock surface. It really cuts into how much you can accomplish if you slow down too much to look for the gold. So once I established that there was gold present, but not in pockets, I mainly focused on getting as much volume sucked up as possible so I could complete a good sample.

When we looked into the sluice box afterwards, we were amazed to see that it was laced thick with thousands and thousands of small flakes of gold. We were into high-grade gold on the first try; unbelievable! Since there was so much more gold in the sluice than what I saw underwater, it was clear that most of the gold is concentrated inside of the orange layer of hard-packed streambed. This was good; because it means that the gold deposit is not depending upon bedrock conditions. I have found many times in the past that concentrations of fine gold in a pay-layer tend to be very consistent.

The following video segment captured all the excitement we

Sample gold in panwere experiencing when we performed the first clean-up on the dredge:

Our next step was to assemble and float my 5-inch dredge to the location. In anticipation of the potential new DEQ regulations, Craig had already welded a 4-inch ring onto the nozzle. Once we moved the larger dredge onto the far side of the river, we decided to drop further back on this pay-streak and see if we could pick up the same paying orange layer. The water was just as fast back there, so Craig was mainly supporting my samples by holding the dredge out into the current. This was so I could dredge further out in the river. We found the paying layer as we dropped further back two more times on the pay-streak. Wow!

Craig and I were really excited! Here follows a video sequence Craig filmed with my explanation about how we were figuring things out:

Here is a look at the 5-inch dredge operating on the river as we were doing the sampling. The water in the video doesn’t look nearly as fast as it felt when we were doing the work!

Since we were spreading the news to other members about what we were finding, those with boats began moving their own dredges over and setting up in the slower water well up in front of us, but in line on the river with where we were finding our gold. Those guys also immediately started finding the shallow layer of orange-pack with fine gold. They also started picking up pockets of nuggets in the bedrock. The nuggets are getting bigger as members establish the paying line further upstream. One member was picking up pennyweight-sized nuggets when I talked to him a few days ago.

Here follows some of Danny’s explanations of how things are going on the river:

This is all directly in line with where we established high-grade gold last fall, perhaps 500 yards further upstream. This is a very large river, and there is a lot of room!

Craig and I have since set up our two dredges side-by-side and are working the deposit in a friendly competitive fashion, seeing who can get the most gold. I recovered an ounce of fine-sized flakes the other day in less than three hours of running. Back during my younger years, I might not have been so enthusiastic about recovering an ounce of gold. But at today’s value, an ounce per day is something to get excited about!

Here is a video sequence we filmed just as we completed the clean-up on my 5-incher several days ago:

Gold clean-upOther members have established a completely separate line of gold on the access-side of the river, and another line out in the middle of the river. I gather the reason there is more than one gold line is that there are multiple sources of gold entering the river just upstream. One of our members working the access-side of the river showed me a bottle of beautiful nuggets which even has me rethinking the plans for where I will operate my 5-inch dredge!

One member (Danny) who is doing really well with his 4-inch dredge up in front of where Craig and I have been dredging says that his dad is doing even better than he is just using a 3-inch high-banker. His dad is mining about 3 miles downriver from where we are, using the suction nozzle to suck up material from the bottom near the river’s edge. He is getting nice nuggets, too. Here is what Danny had to say:

I have been too busy over the past week trying to establish and confirm high-grade to drive around to all the river access points and see how other members are doing along the Rogue River. I hope to have a report for you guys in next month’s newsletter about that.

What I can tell you at this point is that there is definitely high-grade gold to be had by dredging on the Rogue River. I can tell you that so far, everything we have seen involves shallow streambed material to the pay-layer, and that it is pretty easy going. We have quite a few happy members over there.


By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack


Gold in pan
Otto's group workingDredging

There were 24 of us involved with this particular group dredging project. It was one of the last week-long projects that I personally managed, not because I don”t enjoy getting out on a serious prospecting project. But because projects of this sort require so much focus during the busy part of our season, I am worried about allowing my other management responsibilities to lapse while we are off on some prospecting adventure.

Working togetherEven though the project took place over a year ago, the story and video segments go a long way to show the camaraderie and great adventures our members share together in The New 49″ers.

Of all the week-long dredging projects we organized over the years, this is the one that had the most experienced crew ” ever:

We had longtime miner, Dave Beatson (from New Zealand) working with Craig Colt to manage our 8-inch dredge program up on K-15A in a place where we had already located a pay-streak during an earlier project.

We had longtime, experienced helpers, Matt Johnson and Rick LaRocque, heading up a sampling program on K-14. Another longtime member and experienced dredger, Max Andrewski, was present with his two sons, Paul and Max Junior. Paul and Max Junior both grew up dredging gold on the Klamath River! We were lucky to have them leading a second sampling program onto the lower-end of K-14.Jeff Buchers Team

Longtime member and helper, Jeff Bucher, was present to lead a sampling team on the far side of the river at K-15A. During earlier years, Jeff always managed our beginner-crews on these group projects. Jeff is a retired firefighter and has that extra calm and patient way about him that is helpful with beginners who are a bit nervous about getting into the water for the first time.

But Otto Gaither had taken over the beginner-teams during this particular season. Otto had a fairly large crew over on the Hwy-96 side of the river on K-15A. There was a shallow section of river there where Otto had already made a gold discovery; a perfect place for people to experience their first underwater mining adventures. From plenty of practice, Otto was tuned right in on what it would take to get a bunch of beginners off to the right start.

CampingWhile most of us camped in our popular campground right there at K-15A, this was the first and only time that we ever split one of these projects up so that the prospecting and mining was happening on two separate claims, some 5 miles apart or so. We were able to do this because we had experienced crews on each of the dredges. The two teams we sent up to K-14 could just as easily have gone up there on their own without being involved with our group program.

There is a lot to be said about directing experienced dredgers in a sampling program. I just had to point out what needed to be done without having to take much time in explaining things.


Paul wavingTaking the boat

Just a few days before the project, one of our more experienced members located a high-grade pay-streak up on K-14 using a 4-inch dredge, and he invited us to go up there and see if we could locate a piece of his action either up or downstream from where he was already dredging. We have so many gold properties, I have found that it is wise to sample in places where someone has already discovered gold. So I went over and swam under his dredge the day before the project to have a look at what he found. He was recovering some beautiful fine and flake gold out of about 5 feet of nice-looking hard-pack about a third of the way out from the far side of the river. The deposit looked good! It also looked like it might be big. Since we had already identified some gold deposits to mine on K-15A, we decided for starters just to send two of our dredges up to K-14.

Nugget in hand  Otto's crew

There are quite a lot of logistics involved with putting 24 people effectively to work on six different dredges in multiple locations. On this project, the key was to immediately turn all of the beginners over to Otto. Our photographer, Bella-Linda Williams, is also an experienced suction dredger. She jumped in and devoted the first whole day to helping Otto to teach beginners how to put their faces underwater.

We have known for a long time that it is important to get beginners uncovering some gold as soon as possible. Uncovering treasure along the bottom of the river will immediately extrovert nearly anyone; even people with serious fears about being underwater! Since Otto had located this particular gold deposit in advance, it wasn”t long before Otto”s whole team was absorbed in productive activity.

Otto's crew 2  Otto's group 2

With the beginners in good hands, my main mission during the remainder of the week was to increase gold production as much as possible without compromising safety. In other words, I have to get the participants to mine the gold without anyone getting seriously hurt. This is always the challenge, since the richest gold deposits sometimes seem to be located in the most difficult locations.

Tending the dredge  gold in pan

Dave Beatson and Craig Colt had their marching orders even before the week started. They had already dropped back and opened up a dredge hole further behind on the original pay-streak which Eric Bosch and I found at Savage Rapids back in 1983. That year, Eric and I recovered 100 ounces of gold in just two weeks. But we buried the lower-end of the deposit under our tailings and never returned. Our hope on this project was to tap back into the same rich deposit again. Several other helpers jumped in with Dave and Craig on the 8-inch dredge. But the material was deep (9 or 10 feet) to bedrock out there, so they were pretty challenged, and progress was slow. Still, they worked hard all week and made a healthy contribution to the gold recovery. Here is a video segment which captured how the 8-inch program played out during the week:

As it turned out, we had to set up a winch to pull one very large rock out of the way; a monster that had been resting just up in front of the 8-inch production hole. We have learned over the years that it is better to be safe and move anything out of the way that could potentially roll in and hurt someone. In this case, the boulder was very large, and we had to do some fancy block & tackle work to create enough power to move it. Here follows a video segment which shows some of the winch-action:


Jeff Bucher  Good Sample
Sampling the far bank

Jeff Bucher took his team to the far side of the river on K-15A, a place where we had been mining a good pay-streak during an earlier project. This involved the use of a motor boat to get people over there and back, along with fuel and other gear. Jeff”s plan was to finish that gold deposit on this project. He gathered up a team of helpers, all who were up to the task. It was a bit challenging over there, because the rocks were big, and the water was pretty fast.

Girls in the water  Team work

Once we got things organized at K-15A, about a third of us gathered up a 5-inch and 6-inch dredge, and another boat; and we hauled it all up to K-14. With that experienced crew, it didn”t take but just a few hours to get everything set up and running. Since we had plans to sample the middle of the river, we used the boat to help string a rope all the way across the river, keeping it plenty-high so we would not be blocking boat traffic. Nearly everyone there had already done all this before, so we made pretty fast work of it. Both experienced boat operators, I turned that motor boat over to Max and Rick. We had a sampling plan that would have them reaching out into the river from both sides, trying to capture a piece of the high-grade deposit that had already been located just downstream from us.

Dave and Haze  Good sample pan
Dredging in the middle of the river

The first thing we did on K-14 was go take a direct look at the pay-dirt where the guy before us was already recovering high-grade gold. From that, we knew exactly what we were looking for as we sampled. Here follows a video segment which captured all of the excitement we were experiencing during our initial moments discovering a brand new gold deposit:

My week was mainly devoted to driving back and forth between K-15A and K-14. The team leaders on each dredge pretty-much managed the activity along the river. Several of the beginners quickly graduated off Otto”s 4-inch dredge and were soon dredging over with Jeff and his team. Shortly thereafter, a few of them were working on the 8-inch dredge with Craig and Dave.

Shallow water  Guys in the water

Shallow dredgingStill, as usual, most of the excitement was taking place on the beginner-dredge. There, it seemed like every few minutes, they were passing up more gold nuggets that they were digging out of the bedrock. I swear, there were times the whole bunch of them were jumping up and down, yelling. Several times, I thought the more serious dredges were going to shut down just to go over and see what all the yelling was about!

This is just one reason why we allow Otto to mange the beginner-teams. He has a special way of getting the excitement levels out the roof! I have seen it where everyone was so happy, they just started dancing on the bank, carrying on like it was a New Years eve party! Here is a video segment which captured some of the fun and excitement that Otto”s team was experiencing:

Hard-packMainly, for the entire week, the crews at K-15A just worked away at the 3 gold deposits we started in at the beginning of the week. Up on K-14, both of our crews worked their way out to the middle of the river where they joined their dredge holes together. They were dredging in about 18 inches of nice hard-packed streambed on top of bedrock. There, they were picking nuggets out of cracks.

One thing always of great interest to New 49″er members is the high and dry ancient streambed alongside Highway 96 on our K-14 property. Anytime I am there with members, I take the opportunity to point out the exposed streambed material and explain that every time we are sampling either in or out of the water, we are always looking for similar hard-packed streambed. This is material which has been brought in and formed by major flood events. Here follows a video sequence that captured my explanation:

Dave with goldpan
As always on these projects for me, the hours and days went by very fast. We had good team leaders keeping the momentum going and everyone was pitching in. The amount of gold you recover in a mining project is directly proportional to the volume of streambed material which you process from the right places. So once we identify where the pay-dirt is located, our entire focus changes to volume of production. Time goes by really fast when you are in a hurry!

It was particularly interesting for me to have three youthful partners on this team. I am not used to dealing with so much youthful enthusiasm, so I had to make some internal adjustments (the best I could). These younger miners are part of the next generation of leaders that will someday take my place in the industry. That is a pretty sobering thought to me. It is also a relief on some level. It”s nice to know that others are coming along to take over from us “oldtimers” when we start getting tired.


Here follows a video segment put together from different moments during the week:


Cleaning gold  Final gold clean-up

While we do clean-up the high-grade sections of our dredges after every sample, or at the end of every day, we normally do not clean-up our whole dredge recovery systems or do a final clean-up until we get to the end of the week. This is because we don”t want to subtract unnecessary time and energy from the more important work of sampling and production mining. There are only so many work hours in a week, and we always try to use them wisely.

Gold on the scale  Gold nuggets

So Friday found all of us working hard to pull some of the dredging gear off the river, and then we returned to Happy Camp and devoted the remaining part of the day to cleaning-up all of the concentrates which we had accumulated during the week. Everybody participates in the final clean-up process, so it is a learning experience for those who have not seen it before. Plus, getting your hands on the gold goes a long way to acknowledge all of the hard work we invested earlier in the week. Ultimately, our gold added up to 88.7 pennyweights (about 4.5 ounces), with 25.9 pennyweights of nuggets. Everybody received an equal share of the gold on Friday afternoon; and with some sadness that we had reached the end of another grand partnership, we all shook hands and went our separate ways. Here follows a video sequence from our clean-up, and from some of our final moments on this project: