By Dave McCracken

 

We just completed this season’s third special Group Dredging Project along the Klamath River. It took place on the Club’s new Upper Klamath properties, near UK-3. These properties are located near where Highway 96 meets Interstate 5, around 65 miles upriver from Happy Camp. There were 15 participants in all (12 men and 3 women), including several experienced helpers, Craig Colt, Jake Urban, Lily Fuller, Ken Eddy and myself.

Three of the participants were dredging for the first time ever, and several others only had a little previous experience.

One of the primary objectives of these Projects is to help all participants achieve personal confidence while dredging underwater. Lily Fuller, Jake Urban and I take this responsibility very serious. Under our careful guidance, all beginners on this Project were doing very well underwater by mid-way through the week.

Nearly all of us camped in the Club’s long-term Klamathon campground for the duration of the Project. Camp-Klamathon is a large, scenic camping area (free to members) which extends along the Klamath River within about 2 miles of the UK claims. This is a popular camping area for members who are mining in the area. As other members were also camping and mining in the area, we spent some of the after-hours visiting and enjoying our time together during this adventure. Club member, Ernie Kroo, showed up about midway through the week to resume one of his traditional rolls as the Camp Barbeque-Master. The food was great!

The Club has access to well over 60 miles of mining claims to choose from along the Klamath River and its tributaries when organizing these Group Projects. The options are almost unlimited with this much waterway to choose from. Choosing a productive location is one of the most important first steps. This is because once we launch a Group Project into an area, there is not enough time to withdraw and begin the sampling process somewhere else, and still expect to recover very much gold by the end of the week. So we always choose our location very carefully.

However, making the decision where to go on this particular Project was not difficult. Because so many other members have done very well on the new UK properties this season, and because Craig and Ernie already had a 6-inch dredge working in high-grade gold that we discovered during the July Dredging Project on UK-3, we decided it would be wise to do this Project on the UK claims.

There was already an ongoing gold rush taking place on UK-3 when we arrived there last week. So we decided to direct our sampling effort further down river on UK-2. There was only one other member (Mark Johnson) dredging when we arrived at UK-2. He was dredging out near the middle of the river near the top-end of UK-2. Mark was kind enough to show us some of the gold he was accumulating in two separate bottles. The bigger bottle enclosed some very nice nuggets. Wow!! Seeing those nuggets got us really fired up. So we doubled our efforts to get our own dredges into the water and position them on both sides of the river downstream from where Mark was dredging.

Other members were already recovering high-grade gold even before we began this project!

Having some beginner-dredgers on a Group Project requires a place where there are some easily-accessible, slower, shallow-water areas; comfortable places where we can get people started, and there is still hope of finding high-grade gold.

There was a perfect place to set up two 4-inch dredges about a hundred yards down from where Mark was dredging. Because the river narrowed slightly down there, it appeared that we could place our less-experienced participants in slow-moving, shallow water in line with the high-grade path of gold that Mark was following upstream from us. The prospect of this made me really happy. Because picking gold nuggets off the bedrock goes a long way to help beginners get motivated and into the spirit of things!

Finding one or more rich gold deposits is one of the primary objectives that we must accomplish during these week-long Projects. And we must accomplish this relatively early in the week, or chances are that we won’t have very much gold to split off at the end of the week.

Already having a 6-inch dredge in a high-grade deposit up on UK-3 took a lot of pressure off me this time around. Even so, the whole group was eager to find new high-grade deposits during our time on UK-2.

Craig and two of our most-experienced participants operated the 6-inch dredge up in the pre-established pay-streak on UK-3 for the entire week. This started building up our gold reserves from the beginning of the week. It was nice to see the gold building up even on the first day!

Ken and two of our other experienced participants set up a 5-inch dredge just below a small natural riffle in the river on UK-2. Their plan was to push out under some swifter-moving water to see if they could find some high-grade out there – which they immediately found on their first dive. With luck smiling upon us, they established a high-grade deposit right on top of the first layer of hard-packed streambed, about 4-inches from the surface. They were recovering lots of fine gold and some big-sized flakes. The water was fast, but the gold was easy; because it was being recovered right on the surface of the streambed.

We began getting good dredge sample results within the first hour of the Project!

I devoted the first few days working with Jake, Lily and the less-experienced participants on the two 4-inch dredges. That part of the program was going well, with everyone quickly adjusting to being underwater. So well, in fact, that I upgraded one of the 4-inch dredges to “intermediate status” on the second day. They then began sampling further out into the river – where they immediately started recovering high-grade gold and some very nice nuggets. By the end of the second day, this 4-inch dredge looked to be recovering about as much gold as Craig’s 6-inch dredge was getting upriver! There was a lot of excitement over the nuggets being recovered.

With three dredges already into high-grade gold by the end of our second

day, we all knew it was going to be a great week!

By the end of the third day, our remaining three people on the beginner-team were managing the second 4-inch dredge all by themselves, and had launched into sampling. Returning from one of the other dredges, I found the beginner-team repositioning the 4-inch dredge “because there was no hard-pack” in the place they had been operating it, and they were not getting very much gold. It made me proud to discover that they had taken matters into their own hands, and were implementing good solutions. The solution in this case, meaning that they had to ease themselves out into slightly faster, deeper water that was further from the safety of the stream bank. As they eased themselves out there, they found gray hard-pack on their own, and started recovering high-grade gold, along with some nice nuggets. Boy did that make them happy! This situation prompted me to upgrade them all to “intermediate status.” We didn’t have any more beginners on this Project!

As we had several dredges into high-grade gold almost from the beginning, after some group discussion on the matter, we elected to devote a second 5-inch dredge with three of our intermediate participants into dropping back towards the lower end of UK-2. Their mission was to do a sample hole in a location where we have heard rumors that there exists a rich nugget pay-streak in a deeper gravel deposit. As the gravel really was deeper down there, after devoting several days to the effort, and not being able to get a good sample of the underlying hard-pack, we decided to back off and leave that prospect for another day with a larger dredge. So, about mid-week, we pulled the second 5-inch dredge back upriver and put in line, just downstream from where the two 4-inch dredges were already recovering high-grade gold. After just a little sampling around, this dredge also located high-grade, and began recovering some of the largest nuggets we found all week.

By mid-week, most of the dredges involved with the project were recovering nuggets!

Meanwhile, Ken’s team on the other side of the river decided to dredge a hole down through the hard-pack to see if they could find bottom. They found it at a depth of around four feet in the gray-pack. With even more luck on our side, through some trial and error, they discovered that in addition to the surface gold deposit, the gray layer of hard-pack was also paying consistently in fine gold and flakes throughout the material. Then they found the largest nugget of the week on the fourth day. So they devoted the remainder of the week production-dredging to the bottom.

There is clearly an evolution happening in these organized Group Dredging Projects. They are getting better. The nature of the Projects brings the whole group together in a team-building experience. With five dredges working in high-grade gold by about mid-week, we really had some great team-chemistry going. Maybe the best I have ever seen.

Also, it appears to me that we are attracting more experienced miners to the Projects. This increased experience helps focus the Projects in a more productive direction.

During these Group Projects, we all meet at camp every morning to review theory concerning the various tasks that we are performing in the field; subjects like how to move and tie off dredges in different circumstances, how to avoid and cope with plug-ups (when rocks obstruct the flow of material through a dredge system), what to look for in prospecting, how to increase the volume of production, standard operating procedures in teamwork situations; all of the important things people need to know to improve their skills in this field. Mornings are a good time, where we share our experiences, and everyone can get their questions answered.


During the morning sessions, we also discuss the progress we have made and make plans for how we will reach the next objective. Objectives can change on these Projects every day. First, we just want to find some gold. Then we want to find something better. Then we want all the dredges to be producing in gold. Ultimately, we evolve into a production-mode with the purpose of recovering as much gold as we can during the time remaining in the Project. We take it a step at a time, progressing towards where we need to be at the end of the week – which is having plenty of gold to split off.

In all, we recovered nearly 7 1/2 ounces of gold for the week, of which 30.8 pennyweights were nuggets. Each participant received 11 gold nuggets (165 nuggets were recovered).

 

Measuring out 14 equal shares was the highlight of the week!

Two new pay-streaks were located and developed during the Project. Naturally, since we depart the area once the Project is over, other members were already showing up during the last few days, and another small gold rush was started on the UK claims just as we were leaving.

If starting gold rushes were a measurement of how successful a Group Dredging Project is, I’d have to say this was the best Project ever! There were so many members watching us do the final clean-up process on the dredges at the end of the week, that it was difficult to move through the crowd of people!

We came close to breaking a record (we recovered around 8 ounces of gold on one earlier Project) in the amount of gold we recovered; and we would have done it, had we just dredged another hour or so in the river. The problem is in not knowing exactly how much gold we have accumulated until we do a full clean-up on the last day.

We have one more Group Dredging Project this season scheduled for September 10 through 16. There is still room for a few more participants, if anyone might else be interested in joining us. With the right team, I think we can break the all-time gold record. Does anyone want to guess where we will do the Project?

 
 
 

By Dave McCracken

“Our target for the week was to dredge a pound of gold.”

Dave Mack


This project was made up of a smaller group than normal. Four participants arrived on Saturday morning. A fifth person arrived later in the week.

Since it was going to be a smaller group than normal, my two helpers (Craig Colt and Shawn Higbee) and I had made a plan to use one of the Club’s large commercial rafts to get us all into the deep canyon along the Klamath River just downstream from Happy Camp. I have always had a good feeling about this section of the Klamath. As the area is somewhat inaccessible, few people have been down there with dredges. We spent some time sampling down there earlier in the summer during a group prospecting project above the water. While we were sampling the banks down there, I took the opportunity to swim some of the river with mask and snorkel. The area looks good, with lots of exposed, rough and irregular bedrock showing along the river-bottom. There are lots of faster-water areas there where the pay-streaks should not be buried under very much overburden. I’m thinking there will be high-grade gold there that is not too difficult to find.

But a few days before this last project was to begin, while Craig and Shawn were busy getting all the dredging gear and the raft ready, the water-release from the Iron Gate dam (upriver) was increased, raising water levels about a foot, and turning the river a green color. Underwater visibility was down to about two feet at the surface. It would only be about half that on the bottom of the river. This created very poor conditions to be trying to coordinate a group mining program – especially under faster-water conditions. One look at the river prompted me to direct Craig and Shawn to put the raft back into storage. We needed to find another place to go.

From earlier communication with the group (they all flew out together from Chicago to do this project), I knew they preferred to dredge in a river, rather than on a creek. That left me comparing our Scott and Salmon River opportunities. Both were running with crystal clear water. While I was trying to decide where to do the project, Dale Carnagy stopped by the office to show me a whole bunch of very nice gold he and Jason Inks had just dredged together a few days before down on the Salmon River. These are two long-time members of the Club who have spent most of this summer dredging along the Main Stem of the Salmon River. Jason was working a pretty good pay-streak further upstream, while Dale just made a very high-grade strike at the lower end of the claim. Dale’s best day working alone, so far, was about three ounces of nice flakes and nuggets. It was really nice stuff!

Dale told me Jason had gone off to get a winch, because the boulders were really slowing them down. They decided to work this high-grade deposit side-by-side, helping each other with the boulders.

It did not occur to me until after Dale left the office that I should have asked him if they might like to have 5 more partners for about a week, to help them get their high-grade pay-streak opened up. I gathered that they did not have much winching experience, and (I was hoping) the support of an organized project might just be the thing they could use at the moment.

The following day was the day before the group would arrive from Chicago to begin the project. I needed to decide where we would go. Just as I was about to drive down to the Salmon River to make a proposal to Dale and Jason, they both arrived back in my office to show me even more gold they had dredged. It looked really good! Nice nuggets!!

The great thing was that Dale and Jason did not even hesitate to offer up their rich pay-streak to help out the Club in a week-long project. While they would benefit from gaining exposure to a more commercial approach to opening up a hole filled with boulders, I am certain their primary motivation was to do something good for the Club.

This saved us a lot of time, because it meant that we could use the two 5-inch dredges and 8,000-pound electric winch that Dale and Jason had already brought into the lower canyon area.

As soon as the project-group arrived on Saturday morning, we checked out everyone’s personal gear to make sure everyone had what they would need. Then we drove down to have a first-hand look at the project site where Dale and Jason were dredging along the Salmon River. This was down in a pretty deep canyon area. But there was already a trail leading in, so it was not bad access in comparison to how bad it might have been.

I wanted to make sure all the guys were up for making the hike in every day, and that the group was comfortable about our taking control over an existing successful project that was started by other members. We were going to be dredging in someone else’s rich pay-streak. That doesn’t happen very often. It was important, before getting started, to make sure that everyone was alright with that.

After some discussion down on the site, we all agreed together that we would form up a team that would allow me to manage the project for a week. We would evenly split the gold recovered during the week amongst all the participants, and then turn the pay-streak back over to Dale and Jason. We were all pretty jazzed-up!

Dale and Jason had already dredged several sample holes in this section of the Salmon River while trying to establish the size of the pay-streak. The holes were of various depths, some going all the way to bedrock, and some which were blocked by rocks that were too large to roll out of the dredge holes.

There were big rocks in every hole. It was clear to me right from the beginning that an organized winching operation was going to be the primary key to progress and success in this project. So we all spent Saturday afternoon throwing rocks to build-up a small island in the middle of the river downstream of the dredges, and using cables to anchor the electric winch (on the island) to a large boulder further downstream. We pulled the first big rock out of the dredge hole before calling it a day, to make certain that the winch was set up properly. It was.

Sunday morning was devoted to moving our camp down to the mining claim. This was going to save us three hours of driving back and forth to Happy Camp every day. Several of us stayed down there for the remainder of the project. Salmon River country is some of the nicest area on this planet. It is a great place to camp!

Sunday afternoon found us making two journeys down into the canyon, hauling in our personal dive gear, and some special rigging to make the slinging of boulders go more quickly when winching.

We connected 5 HOOKA airlines to the two 5-inch dredges. The plan was to have two people work each dredge, and one person sling boulders and get them out of the hole. We decided to drop back and start a new hole, not far behind where Dale had dredged his 3-ounce day just a few days before.

In normal group dredging projects, as the supervisor, I am challenged with three main objectives:

1) I must help less-experienced participants through the early stages of their underwater learning curve as soon as possible, so they can participate in accomplishment of the other two objectives. Sometimes beginners arrive with some fear of going underwater the first time. But we always get through it.

2) We must find a pay-streak. This normally requires all of the participants to perform the necessary steps to complete a sampling plan in the section of the river that we have chosen. Sometimes the sampling phase takes two or three days. The idea is to try and find something rich enough to get everyone excited, and provide us with enough gold to split up at the end of the week.

3) Once the pay-streak is located, we pull ourselves together as a production-team to recover as much gold as possible in the remaining time allowed to us. This is always the best part.

All of the participants in this project had past HOOKA or SCUBA experience, so the first objective was already accomplished before we even started. Because Dale and Jason had already located this pay-streak, all we had to really focus on from the beginning was organizing ourselves for optimum production under the circumstances. While we were certainly going to work hard, and the boulders were going to require a structured approach, not having to worry about the first two objectives was going to make this project more like a vacation to me. This was a good way to finish my season!

Dale and Jason had already established that the gold was coming off the bedrock and out of a 4-foot-thick, yellow layer of streambed material lying on top of the bedrock. We found the yellow layer shortly after getting started, and the guys immediately started seeing large flakes of gold here and there in the material.

This pay-streak was different than most others I have seen. Usually, high-grade gold accumulates either on the bedrock, or in the contact-zone between two different layers of streambed material. Here, the gold was widely disbursed throughout the yellow streambed material, and did not seem to be any more concentrated at any particular level. I’ve occasionally seen this in some original streambed layers on the Klamath River, too.

There was definitely a greater concentration of gold along the bedrock. Almost all the gold we were finding consisted of large flakes and small nuggets.

It was time to begin winching boulders out of the hole almost immediately after we started dredging. I began the underwater part of that, since getting the big rocks far enough out of the hole was going to be critical to reaching bedrock. There is a system of slinging big rocks out of a beginning dredge hole, which

requires some planning in advance, a good and fast communication system with the winch operator, and a lot of intention to make the boulder go where you want it to. You have to make your winching system bigger and stronger than the boulders. Otherwise they start running around wherever they want to go, increase the danger to people and gear, and eat up a lot of precious time. While having a strong winch is definitely important, the main keys to a smooth winching program are leaving yourself a smooth runway (so you are not trying to pull a boulder past some big obstruction that is directly in the way), and re-slinging the boulders as often as necessary to keep them from slipping free and rolling back down into the dredge hole.

Keene sells a really good cable rock-net for winching. But to get the most out of Keene’s rock net, you must also have a 4-point harness made up so that the net can be attached to the pull-line of your winch. Then, slinging is mostly a matter of draping the net around the back-side of the boulder and giving the pull signal to the winch operator.

Most boulders pull out of the dredge hole without any further difficulty. But some need to be nursed along. I suppose the most important thing for the underwater guy to do is immediately stop the pull and re-sling every time he or she sees that it is probably not going to work. This prevents the rock from slipping free and ending up back in the dredge hole. It also prevents the rock from getting into a place where it is going to be more difficult to get out

We pulled boulders out of the dredge hole non-stop on Sunday afternoon, not touching down on bedrock yet, even though we were about six feet deep into the yellow streambed material. The excavation was getting pretty big. This was necessary, because it was important to not leave any loose boulders resting up on the face of the hole that could roll in on any of the divers. So the deeper we went, the wider we had to make the hole. This is normal.

Between the two dredges, we estimated that we recovered around 1 ounce of nice gold flakes during the first day of work. We figured we would do even better once we established ourselves on bedrock.

We do not do a full and final clean-up of gold at the end of the day on any serious dredging program. It takes too long, and would subtract valuable time from the productive activity in the dredge hole. However, we do clean the high-grade portion of the concentrates out of the dredges each day and make a pretty close estimate of how much gold we recovered. This is important to both planning and morale. By comparing how much gold we are getting to what we are doing, and where, we can focus the following day’s effort towards what seems to be most productive. Seeing the gold also gets everyone pretty excited!

As we do on every day of these group projects, the following morning found us planning our day’s activity over a chalkboard at camp. This is the time to talk about everything we are doing, cover all the reasons why, debate ideas on how we might do it better, and finally decide upon a team-plan for the day. We spent considerable time each morning on this project talking about winching procedures, signals and the need for the underwater person and winch operator to establish communication and an organized system to make the process go quickly, smoothly and safely. There was also a lot of discussion about how to excavate a deeper dredge hole safely, in a way that kept the richest pay-dirt (down along the bedrock) from getting covered up with boulders or cobbles by the time we got down to it.

Since bedrock in this hole was deeper than we anticipated, we decided to initially spread our hole in the direction of the streambank where there was visible bedrock showing along the edge of the river. Establishing some bedrock along the bottom of a dredge hole is the first major objective in getting a production operation underway. We were eager to make that happen.

Finally, towards the end of the day on Monday, we had some bedrock showing on the side of the hole that was closest to the bank. We were seeing some pretty nice gold on the bedrock, too. By now, we had winched around 50 boulders out of the excavation, and it was really getting opened up. But we were getting slowed down by some very big rocks that were going to be too large to winch out of the hole. While we could use the winch to roll them into the hole, we did not want to move them in until we had a chance to get the gold off the bedrock where the huge rocks would eventually end up. This forced us to slow down so we could do things safely. We estimated about another ounce of flakes and small nuggets were recovered by the two dredges on Monday. The hole was opened up to make some pretty good progress on the following day.

The key to the best progress in a streambed that has lots of boulders is to look ahead of yourself and decide where things are going to need to go. My experience has been that it is best to initially winch every possible rock out of the hole. Once some bedrock is established, don’t allow it to immediately get all covered up by new boulders. Winch them out, too. You have to make some room in advance for the really big ones that can only be rolled once.

This is where we found ourselves on Tuesday morning; rolling the really big ones to the rear of the dredge hole, where we had left room for them the day before. Rolling the big ones out of the way opened up our hole nicely, and allowed us to establish bedrock all across our dredge hole.

Some of the rough and irregular bedrock was giving up a lot of gold flakes. We connected up an air-powered chisel and were pulling nice gold out of cracks as deep as we could break them open. By now, the hole was large and safe. We pulled around 3 ounces of nice gold on Tuesday. Now things were beginning to get pretty exciting for everyone. By now, we estimated that we had accumulated around 5 ounces of gold in getting the hole opened up.

During our planning meeting on Wednesday morning, based upon our production from the day before, we made a target to recover 6 ounces of gold for the day. Everyone agreed that this was something we could accomplish; and it would place us well ahead of our weekly target of 12 ounces.

But then we had a turn of bad luck on Wednesday morning, when our dredge hole pushed right up into an old dredge hole that someone else had worked years before. Here, the hard-packed yellow streambed material turned to loose cobbles, boulders and sand. This was a pretty heavy blow to our morale, and completely undermined our gold-target for the day (and the week). We found ourselves in a meeting up on the stream bank trying to figure out what to do next. While it was a great learning-experience for all of the participants to see what previously-dredged material looks like at the bottom of the river, all of us were feeling the weight of how much effort it was going to take to begin another dredge hole from the beginning in all those big rocks. But it was really the only thing we could do.

After cleaning up the small portions of yellow-pack to recover the last of the gold that remained in our original hole along the bedrock, we moved the dredges forward and repositioned the winch to open up an entirely new dredge hole. We decided as a group that even if we could not finish the new hole, we could at least add more gold to what we would split off, and leave Dale and Jason with an excavation in the yellow-pack that they could develop into a production program for themselves after we left. The new excavation was pretty-much a repeat of the first. By Thursday afternoon, we had winched another 40 or more boulders, and had touched down on bedrock again in several places. We recovered another ounce or so of nice gold. And we left Dale and Jason with a production-hole that they could further develop on their own into something very valuable.

The group from Chicago needed to fly their airplane back home on Saturday. So we all decided that Friday should be spent on getting personal gear back out of the canyon, and performing all of the final clean-up steps on the gold we had recovered for the week and split it all up. This took all day.

For the week, we ended up with just short of 7 ounces of gold, which included 3 ounces of nice nuggets. This amounted to about an ounce for each of the 7 participants. Everyone was happy.

Although it is very important, we learned early on that the amount of gold we recover on these projects is not the only measurement of success. Participants gain valuable experience, giving them an improved ability to find more gold on their own afterwards. There is the excitement and adventure of the project. And each successful project improves our perception of where more valuable high-grade gold deposits lie waiting.

There are fantastic feelings of excitement that come from locating a high-grade golden pay-streak of Mother Nature’s treasure! Had we not run smack up into some earlier dredge hole, I’m certain we would have surpassed our target of recovering a pound of gold on this project. But that’s the way it goes. We’ll shoot again for the 1-pound target in next year’s group projects. As it was, we all were feeling pretty happy about the way the week turned out.

We also have a much better idea of what we are looking for to find the underwater high-grade gold deposits on the Salmon River!

It is members like Dale and Jason that make The New 49’ers a truly great group to be associated with. Once again, I find myself counting my blessings.

 

 

high-banker demo-Lee Kracher Lee's gold

Long time member of the New 49er’s, Lee Kracher was born in Omaha Nebraska. His first introduction to gold mining was when a customer of his (Lee owned an electronics store in Orville California) wanted to trade a 2 ½-inch Keene dredge in exchange for a CB radio and antenna. Lee made the trade and began carrying the dredge around in the back of his pick up truck.

Lee tried using the dredge in different creeks. But it wasn’t until he was up on theYuba River during 1973 that he met Bill Crestman and ‘Hardrock” Hendricks. Both of these men were very well known for their gold mining experiences. Bill Crestman saw the dredge in Lee’s truck and invited him up to his claim. On the first day with their help and guidance, Lee was able to recover 2 ounces of beautiful, shiny gold. Prior to this, he had tried a dozen different times on his own and only recovered about 5 grains of gold in all.

After several weekends of working with his mentors, Bill sold Lee his first 4-inch dredge. Soon afterwards Lee recovered about 6 ounces of gold on his own. This prompted him to go back to Orville and sell his electronic business.

Lee KracherAfter he bought his own 6-inch dredge, Lee recovered over 66 ounces of gold on a single day. That day’s take included 1.5-pound and 2-pound nuggets. It was his best day ever. He worked everyday for 6 weeks, cleaning his recovery system several times a day. He was recovering large amounts of gold on every clean-up. He says the pay-streak was in ancient streambed gravel which was from 6 to 10 inches thick.

Besides mining, Lee has led a very interesting and exciting life. At 17 years old, he went into the Naval Air Force and ended up flying patrols in Vietnam. A country boy, he has participated in rodeos as a roper. Lee’s nickname is ‘Cowboy,” and it is well-earned.

Lee’s wife, Anita, was born in Indiana. She and Lee met in Orville, California. Together, they owned a cattle ranch in Missouri. Anita is a cardio vascular technician who has traveled extensively in that line of Lee & Anita Kracherwork. She is also a licensed massage therapist. She started mining about 5 years ago when Lee bought a 4-inch dredge for her. She credits him with having taught her everything she knows about mining.

These days, Lee and Anita devote their summers prospecting and camping along New 49’er mining properties in northern California. They also like to devote time to helping beginners get started. ‘There are few feelings more enriching and exciting than when you first discover your own gold deposit. That moment of discovery is just wonderful,” says Lee. ‘But helping others to have similar experiences is also rewarding, and the shared experiences create friendships that will last forever.”

Lee credits both Bill and ‘Hardrock” for the knowledge he has gained about gold prospecting and the impact their help and guidance had upon his life. It has been his practice to continue the teaching with others as they did for him. He believes that for each person that he shares his knowledge with, they should then go on to ‘pass the knowledge forward.”

Gary PriceGary Price is one of Lee’s happiest students. He says Lee taught him how to find gold along the Klamath River.

This season, Lee and his wife Anita have taken over as camp hosts on our K-15A claim at Savage Rapids. This is one of the season’s most popular campgrounds this year ‘ largely because Lee and Anita have been so helpful to other members. Besides running his own dredge along the river, Lee has invested a lot of his personal time teaching people the proper method of panning, high banking & sluicing, crevicing, and much more. He also demonstrates what hard-pack streambed is, how to locate the gold path and follow it into high-grade pay-streaks. This is all very valuable to newcomers.

Lee’s boat has made many trips across the Klamath River full of hopeful new miners this season. I have spoken with several beginners that he has taken under his wing. They are all excited about what they have learned from Lee. Because they were taught that mining takes work, practice, and perseverance, they have not become discouraged after just a few days, but have remained at it long enough to get through the early steps of the learning curve. Now they are having a great time prospecting on their own!

Rita Gold in pan

Rita Matson and Tom Knap say that they feel compelled to help other new members because of all the assistance they received from Lee and Anita when they first arrived.

In keeping with Lee’s request to ‘pay it forward,” many of them have gone on to help and teach others, as well. This all falls in tune with the New 49’er logo, ‘Miners helping miners!”

I personally have seen The New 49er’s concept of Miners helping miners in many ways. From the simple act of giving a ride to someone, helping out with a need, or allowing new inexperienced members learn side-by-side with the more experienced.

I believe that most members who spend any amount of time around Happy Camp or on New 49’er properties would readily agree that while the extensive mining opportunities are worth joining for, it is the quality of the membership which makes the whole experience great. It is for this reason, Lee says, that it is so important to always take the opportunity to keep it all going by ‘Paying it forward.”

Here follows a video sequence edited together from video I took while doing this story:

 

 

We just completed a fantastic week-long high-banking Group Mining Project on our Wingate claim, which is located downstream on the Klamath River about 10 miles from Happy Camp. We did last year’s surface mining project on the same claim, and recovered some really nice gold. Since we didn’t ever see any members return there to further develop the deposits we had discovered during last year’s Project, we decided to return there last week. This turned out to be a good move!

There were 18 of us involved with this most recent Project, including myself and my longtime, trusty assistant, Craig Colt. While there is some pretty good high-banking opportunity on the Highway 96 side, richer gold discoveries have been made on the very extensive area on the far side of the river. So we launched one of the Club’s large rubber rafts on the first day of this Project to go back over there and do some sampling. The raft was used all week to help ferry Project participants and all our gear across the river. We had excellent weather al week, bright blue skies and days which were not too hot out in the sun. We used to do these surface mining Projects (out of the water) during the (much) hotter month of August. Rescheduling them to June also turned out to be a good move.

As we had a fair number of participants in this Project, we decided to split into two teams on the first day. I went to a lower portion of this claim along with everyone who had vack-mining machines and those who were interested in digging out crevices on a (very) large area of exposed bedrock. Last year, we discovered that all of the cracks and traps along the exposed bedrock were producing consistent rewards in fine gold and small flakes. This type of mining is relatively easy to do; because it is mainly a matter of sitting yourself down and using a garden trowel or various other types of small digging tools to extract small amounts of gold-bearing pay-dirt (sand and gravel) from the exposed cracks and crannies along the exposed bedrock.

As always, we began with pan-sampling to make sure there was enough gold present to make all the effort worthwhile. There was! Our average sample pan was producing 4 or 5 small flakes and a spattering of finer-sized gold, sometimes 50 or more small pieces to the pan of material. It was good!

So it did not take us long to organize ourselves into a production team. Several participants were digging material out of the gold traps in the bedrock. Several others were following closely behind, using their vack machines to suck all of the remaining pay-dirt from the gold traps in the bedrock. The pay-dirt was carried in buckets over to several more participants that were screening everything into plastic washtubs. The screened material was then being fed into a Le’Trap plastic sluice that we modified to allow a water feed from a small motorized pump that was providing water from the river.

From long experience, we have found that the Le’Trap sluice recovers fine gold exceptionally well, providing the water flow through the box is adjusted correctly and the pay-dirt is screened through and 8-mech classifier before being fed into the sluice. We were seeing a nice showing of gold building up in the sluice as soon as we started feeding it! Everyone on my team was pretty excited!

Craig took the second team about an eighth of a mile further upriver where we had discovered a very rich section of high-grade streambed on the final day of our week-long surface mining Project last year. We were initially not sure if anyone had returned there after last year’s Project, because the whole area had been covered up by a thin layer of sand during a very large flood that happened in early January of this year. So Craig’s team got busy right away shoveling sand out of the way, trying to find where we had left off on our earlier Project, and to see if any of the original hard-packed streambed material was still present there. Last year, we were pulling nice big golden flakes out of that material, and sizable gold nuggets off the bedrock!

Through just a little sampling, Craig’s team quickly discovered that the hard-pack was still present right where we left off last year. We were amazed that nobody had returned there, since we did so well! This was a great area to develop further, because the natural contours of the bedrock create small pools of water, allowing us to set up a dredge nozzle to feed pay-dirt into the high-banker. The water from the pools is then re-circulated so that we can actually dredge hundreds of feet away from the active waterway.

Craig and his team did not waste any time getting started, and they were almost immediately rewarded with big flakes and a small treasure in small gold nuggets even before the end of the first day. When I went over to see how they were doing, Craig’s team was bubbling over with enthusiasm, joking with me about how I had made a big mistake agreeing to challenge them in a competition over which team would recover the most gold. While I did not admit it to them at the time; looking at their gold, I knew they were probably right!

Craig’s team started recovering beautiful nuggets right away!

As the guys on my team were feeling really good about all the gold they were recovering in their vack-mining program, we continued into the next two days working out exposed cracks and crevices in the exposed bedrock, while watching an ever-increasing amount of gold accumulate in the Le’Trap sluice. We were doing really well!

And while Craig’s team was recovering more gold and bigger pieces, with a lot less effort using a dredge-feed into the high-banker, both Craig and I were concerned that there might not be enough hard-packed streambed present to justify bringing my team over to his

location with a second high-banker. The problem was that we could not see the extent of Craig’s high-grade gold deposit, because the whole area was covered by a thin layer of sand. So Craig came up with a plan to move his high-banker some distance away from where they were already getting good gold, and do another test, to see if the high-grade gold deposit was large enough to bring on a second production team.

One of the biggest problems we continuously face as gold prospectors is that we cannot actually see the gold deposit, because the gold is almost always located down inside of hard-packed composites of sand and gravel. Since we cannot see the gold, we have to do sample tests to find where it is located.

It is always an incredible feeling of fortune when you discover something rich. The best way I can describe it is the feeling you might experience if you hit the bonanza when playing a slot machine and the money just keeps pouring out of the machine onto the floor. But finding a rich gold deposit is better, because you are recovering beautiful, natural gold; Mother Nature’s purest of treasures! The first realization of a rich gold discovery brings out an exhilarated enthusiasm from you that few other things in life can match.

Towards the end of the forth day, when we heard Craig’s team hooping and hollering from an eighth of a mile away, everyone on my team knew that we were finished with our vack mining program for the week. We could always return to that at another time. As much gold as we were recovering, it could not match the large number of beautiful nuggets that Craig’s team was finding in the other location. Craig’s new sample had paid off; the test hole they dredged for us turned up even higher-grade pay-dirt!

It did not take us long to set up a second high-banker on the fifth day of the project, and we were no longer two separate teams. There is a point on all of these Projects where everyone comes together as a unified group. Part of it comes from the hard work we do together. Part comes from the excitement of making a rich discovery. And part comes from the enthusiasm to work together so that we can recover as much gold as possible in the remaining time that we have. Once the team comes fully together, I usually find myself with little remaining to do as the Project manager. By this time, everyone already knows what needs to be done. There is a very worthwhile group chemistry that happens in these Projects, perhaps similar to what a competitive sports team feels when they are winning games against very challenging opponents. I always feel pride watching my team go at it, working together, laughing and feeling great about what we have accomplished together. Each Project develops its own unique chemistry; almost like something that comes alive. And I always feel a little sadness knowing that our partnership will soon end.

We were rewarded with rich clean-ups on both high-bankers at the end of our fifth day. Excitement levels were about as high as they can get!

  

The sixth day found us needing to roll a very large boulder out of our way. It was sitting directly in our path up on top of the hard-packed pay-dirt that we were mining. Besides being in our own way, we had a duty to move it so that it would not pose any danger to other members who might want to mine here after our Project was finished. So we rigged up a cable grip puller and hand-winched that big rock out of our way. We only needed to slide it a short distance.

Moving the rock turned out to be a really good move, because underneath it, we found original hard-packed streambed; something the original gold miners must have left behind under that boulder. The pay-dirt was so rich there, that we were actually seeing gold as we moved rocks out of the way!

We produced our richest clean-ups on the sixth and final day of production. Before leaving the area, we filled-in and reclaimed all of the area that we had mined, except for the working face of our excavation. It is important to leave the area looking like we were never even there. This is not a difficult thing to do. We generally do not fill-in the face of an ongoing excavation in rich pay-dirt until the end of a season. This way, it will be easy for other members to pick up right where we left off if you want to mine there this season. It looks like there is a lot more pay-dirt to be mined in that specific location. The Wingate claim is so extensive on the other side, we have hardly even begun to sample the larger area. There are years and years of work remaining down there.

We always devote the seventh day of these projects to pulling our gear off the river and cleaning up all the concentrates that we have accumulated for the week. It takes too much time to clean up the gold every day, so we just accumulate all the gold and concentrates in a single bucket until the end of the week. Friday afternoon found our whole team going through the whole clean-up process. As we do not use any chemicals, we process all of the week’s concentrates down to all of our gold with the use of a Gold Extractor. Then we dry the final product, classify it into different size fractions through a series of finishing screens, and carefully separate the gold. Everyone participates in this process.

In all, we recovered 64.5 pennyweights of gold (3 ¼ ounces). Of that, 26.3 pennyweights were classified as nuggets. The largest nugget for the week added up to 3.3 pennyweights. There were several other really nice pieces. Participants split 122 gold nuggets between themselves, along with all of the other gold recovered during the project. Our partnership in this adventure dissolved at dinnertime on Friday afternoon. We finished up with a great barbeque.

 

 
  

We recently completed a very productive week-long (dredging) Group Mining Project on our Kinsman Creek claim (K-7), which is located upstream on the Klamath River about 30 miles from Happy Camp. We had done an earlier Group Dredging Project on this same claim a few years ago and actually broke our gold production record there. So we felt pretty good about investing another week to develop more of the claim’s underwater gold deposits.

There were 24 of us involved with this most recent Project, including myself and my longtime, trusty assistants, Jake Urban and Jeff Butcher. Richard Dahlke was present to give us some help, and Otto Gaither has also been helping us out with this year’s week-long Projects, taking on the job of “??Shore boss” ?? which basically means keeping all of the gear running, team needs supplied and resolving most of the organizational challenges which come up along the way. Having a full-time “shore boss” on a Project allows me to spend more time working with participants to sample for high-grade pay-streaks.

From a long history of prospecting on this section of river, we already knew before this Project started that there is a rich line of gold nuggets, flakes and fines traveling down the far side of the river, and a strong line of fine gold traveling down along the highway-96 side of the river. Members have mined different high-grade and moderate-grade pay-streaks on K-7 over the years. Our basic plan for this Project was to dredge test holes between the areas where others had already established high-grade. We believed it was likely that we could discover more high-grade that had been overlooked by the earlier mining activity.

The main problem we were facing early in the week was that the Klamath River was still flowing abnormally high because of the record amounts of rain we had last winter. High (fast) water was making it nearly impossible for us to complete sample holes out in the middle of the river.

Our first day was devoted to setting up a base camp for the Project, and also launching 4 dredges and a small boat onto the river at K-7. I used the boat all week to ferry people, gear and supplies around to both sides of the river along the entire length of the claim. We set up a great camp in the shade right there on K-7 in large pull-off areas on both sides of Highway 96. This made it possible for most of the participants to visit before and after project hours. Otto and others organized some great potluck meals every evening throughout the week. It was a great camp!

On the morning of the second day, we split ourselves into 4 teams. On dredging Projects like this, we normally form up our initial teams based upon the relative experience levels of the people who are involved. Then, we direct each team to dredge test holes in a coordinated sampling program, taking on tasks which each team is comfortable in performing. The advanced team normally samples the more challenging areas (deeper or faster water). The least experienced group (usually consisting mostly of beginners with a team manager) samples in the less difficult areas (shallow, slow water). Those with moderate experience pull together in 1 or 2 teams to sample and dredge in those areas which require some skill, but are not too difficult for those who are involved. In this way, we are able to utilize all of the Project participants in a well-orchestrated sampling plan in search of high-grade gold. As the week evolves, we keep adjusting the teams so that everyone is given an opportunity to participate in a variety of ways according to their personal level of skill and competence. Several of the participants who began this week with no past dredging experience stayed with that same dredge all week. Others progressed to helping perform very productive dives on the advanced dredge before the week was over. Through some juggling around, we are always able to find a good place for everyone to contribute to the mining Project.

We place a lot of attention with the beginners during the first day or two of these Projects. The idea is to help them through the initial steps so that they can become more productive participants in the ongoing sampling and productive aspects of the bigger program. Beginners are graduated to more advanced work as the days go by and the sampling program evolves. All of the effort combines to a very effective mining program.

We were very lucky during this Project to have Jeff Butcher on board as the team leader of the beginner-dredge. Experienced dredger that he is, Jeff’s lifelong professional background is in firefighting and emergency services. He also has a bottomless depth of patience and understanding, while never losing track of the work that needs to be accomplished by his own team. So in addition to bringing his full team up to a level of competence within the first few days of the Project, Jeff’s team also discovered and began developing a moderate-grade gold deposit using a 5-inch dredge right on the first day! While some of Jeff’s people were graduating off to other dredges during the week, the remainder stayed there and contributed to a substantial part of the week’s gold recovery.

Richard Dahlke put a very productive team together consisting mostly of participants who had some amount of previous dredging experience. They dropped a 6-inch dredge down river to about mid-way on the claim; and again, managed to get into a moderately-rich pay-streak on the far side of the river. Through some trial and error, they quickly discovered that most of their gold was being recovered out of a gray hard-packed layer up off of the bedrock. So they quickly organized themselves into a production crew, and devoted most of the week trading off in shifts to contribute to the ever-increasing amount of gold that was adding up in our bucket.

Jake Urban also put a team of moderately-experienced participants together and launched a substantial sample out into the river from the high-way 96 side of the river. Jake is more of an aggressive, competitive team leader. He is happiest when his team is producing the most gold during a Project. So we directed Jake’s 6-inch dredge to an area where they were challenged with faster water conditions. The gold deposit they found there was richer than what the other two teams were mining, but it still was not the high-grade that I was hoping to find on this claim.

‘Jake Urban directing the activity of his team.”

Again, higher water levels were making it nearly impossible for us to push our sample holes out into the middle of the river where we anticipated that the highest-grade gold deposits were going to be. We were doing the best that we could under the circumstances.

The following video segment was edited together to show the process we were going through to develop these gold deposits:

We almost never begin these Group Mining Projects already knowing where the high-grade gold is located. We initially choose a mining property where we hope high-grade is going to be. Then we must find the high-grade through a well-coordinated sampling plan in which the whole group helps to accomplish. Difficult river conditions can sometimes prevent us from completing important samples which can help us trace down the high-grade deposits. This was the problem we were facing on about the 4th day of this particular project. We had to decide if we would just keep working the moderate pay-streaks to get as much gold as we could out of them, or if we would keep sampling for something better. This is

a tough decision that I am often faced with during these Projects. We always spend some quality time as a group in the mornings discussing the situation as it develops and debating various solutions.

“A-team smiles for the camera’

Our 4th dredge team on this Project was being managed by Rick LaRouque. Rick was joined by several other moderately-experienced dredgers. But these were some seriously motivated guys! They started referring to themselves as the ??”A-team’ from the very first day. Everyone in the Project agreed that’s exactly what they were! As the A-team was prepared to do just about anything to strike high-grade, we decided on the 5th day that the other 3 teams would continue to recover as much gold as possible from the moderate-grade gold deposits, while the A-team continued sampling for high-grade gold. So we floated their 5-inch dredge down towards the lower-end of K-7, not far from where other members were dredging high-grade just last year. I spent a lot of the 5th day working with the A-team. Time was running out! And while we kept picking up signs of the high-grade that we were looking for, high, fast water out in the middle of the river was preventing us from getting far enough out there to reach beyond where the earlier members had already mined.

Fortunately, the water release from the Irongate dam was reduced just in time, and the river dropped about a foot by late on the 5th day. This made a huge difference in the speed of the water out in the middle and allowed us to reach out into the river just far enough to strike high-grade before the 5th day was finished. The streambed material was shallow out there, so we were able to uncover enough bedrock to see gold scattered all over the place. That’s when we uncovered some very nice nuggets!

This following video segment was edited together from footage captured by our shore boss as we evolved through the sampling process of discovering the high-grade. It began with seeing just few flakes of gold. Through some trial and error, working closely together, we walked our way right into a rich pay-streak. It was incredible:

As hard as they worked for it, in all of the Group Projects I have been involved with, I am not sure I have ever seen a more excited group of miners. The A-team seriously wanted to dredge until it was too dark to see! No question, in just an hour or so, they had recovered more gold on their single 5-inch dredge, than all the combined gold recovered from the other 3 dredges for the entire day!

The thing about high-grade is that when you uncover it, the whole world changes to a much better place. Especially when you first discover it! I was fortunate to be down on that particular dive with Buzz Schwartz. The A-team had just reached bedrock on a sample in the middle of the river and said they thought they had seen some gold during the dive. Buzz and I went down to open up the hole and have a closer look. About 30 minutes into the dive, we uncovered a crack in the bedrock that was just loaded with golden treasure! Each time we expended the hole, we just kept uncovering more beautiful flakes and nuggets. Even underwater, I could hear Buzz yelling out his personal excitement.

Here follows a video segment which shows how excited the A-team was as we were looking at the gold that we had just recovered from the initial rich discovery:

‘Exhilaration” is the best word that I know of to describe the feeling that you experience when uncovering high-grade gold. I’m serious; I cannot think of very many things in this life that will prompt a more exhilarated feeling than what you experience when you uncover Mother Nature’s rich, virgin treasure! That’s also the way everyone felt in camp that night when we showed them what we had found!

‘Our A-team was carefully planning its next moves early on the morning of the 6th day.”

The 6th day of the Project found our whole company eager to get an early start on the river. The first thing we did was float Jake’s dredge and team downstream to fall-in alongside the A-team. It did not take very long for the teams to get both dredges into production. I personally devoted most of the rest of the day using the boat to ferry participants from the other 2 dredge teams, so each person on the Project had an opportunity to dive down and dredge up some of the high-grade gold deposit. The following video sequence goes a long way to demonstrate the action and excitement as it continued to unfold:

While all of this additional activity slowed everything down bit, I felt it was important to give everyone on the Project a chance to see what real high-grade gold looks like when you find it. Perhaps this was even a greater reward than getting a share of the gold. Because once you have actually seen high-grade gold, you will thereafter always know what you are looking for during sampling. It is one thing to hear or read about it. It is quite another to actually experience high-grade as it is being uncovered from the bottom of a waterway. Dredging high-grade gains you some personal certainty that Mother Nature’s rich natural golden treasures are right there for the taking. All you have to do is go out and find them. Finding high-grade once lends confidence that you can find it again.

As usual, there was very little I could do to participate in the last day of dredging out on the river. So I spent much of the day leaning back in the boat, watching with pride how all of the team participants enthusiastically worked together. They were pushing to recover as much gold as possible during the time remaining in our Project. They knew how to do everything without any further direction from me. Watching them discuss and work out a production plan together, once again, made me reflect upon how lucky I am to be part of these mining Projects.

Most of these people did not even know each other only 6 days before. Yet, here they were on the river working together as an experienced team of prospectors who had overcome all of the unknowns that we began with, worked their way together through some pretty difficult conditions, kept the faith throughout the whole process, and pulled off a wonderful success in the end. The transformation of group chemistry during these Projects into something really rewarding never ceases to amaze me! With that amazement always comes my own personal sadness that another fantastic partnership will soon end. Still, I am certain that meaningful friendships are sparked on these Projects that will last a lifetime.

The process requires too much time to clean-up the gold from multiple dredges each day. So we allow our final concentrates from each day to accumulate in a single bucket which remains in my care until the end of the Project. We devoted the 7th day to pulling most of our gear off the river and doing the final clean-up of the gold that we had accumulated during the week. As you will see from the following video segment, it was a lot of gold:

  

Everyone participates in the final clean-up steps, and every participant receives an equal share of the gold. In all, we recovered 120.2 pennyweights of gold. That’s about 6 ounces. There were 327 nuggets in all, which allowed everyone at least 14 nuggets.

There were a lot of smiling faces on Friday afternoon!

 

 

By Sandy Waldie

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

  

Images by Vladimir Badikov

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

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

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


Image by Vladimir Badikov

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

By Dave McCracken

Week-long Group Dredging participants
Week-long Group Dredging participants join together for a group
picture at the Brown Bear Claim (K-6) after their final clean-up.

This Group Project took place on the Brown Bear claim along the Klamath River at K-6, around two miles upstream from Horse Creek, about 50 miles upriver from Happy Camp. There were thirteen participants (11 men and 2 woman), including myself and two helpers. Two of the participants were dredging for the first time ever, one who was uncomfortable going under water when we began the week.

Most of us put up in the campground at Brown Bear for the week. There is a USFS river access there, where non-fee camping areas have been developed. This made it nice and convenient after the long workdays during the project.

We chose Brown Bear for this project because it is a rather long claim that includes a lot of river diversity; slow, shallow areas, rapids, directional changes in the river, etc. New 49er members made a strike on this claim in the mid-90’s, so we already knew high-grade gold was traveling through this section of river. Having both new and advanced dredgers on a project allows us a lot of sampling options. I hoped that if we hit the area hard with enough sampling, we would find some rich new deposits.

As we already knew where an earlier deposit had been located below a set of rapids, I directed our more experienced participants to position a 5-inch dredge out in the middle of the rapids and do a sample there. I know this sounds difficult, but there were big boulders out there blocking the river’s flow, creating big pools behind, where the dredge and divers were protected. The Klamath had dropped down to summer-low flow levels, so it was not that difficult. They dredged the hole down through about 4 feet of original grey Klamath River hard-pack (never been mined before by anyone) on the first day, and were recovering some nice sized flakes of gold.

Nuggets found at Brown Bear
Everyone was really happy about the assortment of nuggets that were found.

Although it was nothing to get excited about yet, the big flakes were an encouraging sign that we were on the right track.

Sampling at Brown Bear
Sampling on the top of the Brown Bear claim in about two feet of water.

We used two 4-inch dredges during the first two days of the project to complete two other sample holes to bedrock on the far side of the river (away from the highway) across from our campground. These holes needed to be dredged, as we were looking for the common path that the high-grade gold is following in that section of the river. The pay-streak located downstream from there in the mid-90’s was also on the far side of the river. So it seemed like a reasonable bet that we might find some high-grade where we were sampling further upstream. Because the water was slow and shallow there, this was a good place to help our less-experienced and beginning participants get more comfortable underwater and guide them in the basics about how to operate a dredge, how to do things underwater and what to look for when prospecting. We were finding some beautiful hard-pack over there, and the bedrock had plenty of irregularities to trap gold. But by the end of the second day, we had determined the general path of high-grade gold was not traveling along the far side of the river.

The more-experienced guys had reached bedrock out in the middle of the river on the second day, and established that was where the high-grade is traveling through that section of river. They were recovering lots of nice flakes and some nuggets out there in about 4 1/2 feet of hard-packed grey material with some pretty large boulders. We were getting pretty excited about that.

We all worked as a team on the third day to clear a platform on the near bank, just under our campground, and set up the 12-ton winch. That took about half the day. The second half of the third day was invested into grooving-in participants how to operate the winch and coordinate as a team to pull big rocks out of the dredge hole. After a bit of trial and error, we had it down pretty well.

I always start feeling real proud when I can stand back and watch participants pull together to get the important work done which results in high-grade gold and nuggets being recovered from the river. In short order, they pulled enough boulders out of the hole to get a work area opened up.

Into the fourth day, over half the participants were venturing out to take shifts on the 5-inch dredge in the middle of the river. We were tightening up the winch cable from the bank to create a handhold so they could walk out there. It was working out pretty well, and the gold was adding up.

Flakes of Gold
Large and small flakes of gold started showing up in the 4-inch sluice boxes right away!

However, that was only one dredge producing gold for us. Not good enough! And, even though they were getting better at dredging, a number of the participants were still not comfortable going out into the middle of the Klamath River to dredge in a set of rapids.

Since the high-grade gold path is in the middle of the river in that section of the Klamath, we decided to move the two 4-inch dredges to the upper end of the claim where several directional changes (bends in the river) were likely

to place the gold deposits on one side or the other of the river. This was all taking place while a small team continued the dredging and winching program downriver, so the gold would be building up in our bucket.

Peggy Derrick
Peggy Derrick smiles after coming up from a dive.

By the end of the fourth day, we were sampling upriver using the two 4-inch dredges. Two of our more experienced teammates sampled the highway-side of the river, just downstream on the inside bend under a set of rapids. This was a textbook location to find a rich pay-streak, but they were finding loose streambed material that had apparently washed in there from winter storms. At the end of the day, they finally had to give up that sample hole, because the loose material was too much for the 4-inch dredge to make any meaningful headway through.

While those guys were doing that, my primary focus was in helping our two least-experienced participants to do their first sample hole on their own, from start to finish. We were on the opposite side of the river where the water was shallow and slow, with bedrock sticking out of the water in places. Frankly, because the area was so easy to dredge, I did not expect to find much gold there, believing that other members must have dredged this place during the past.

When it was time to start this test hole, with just a little help, one of the new-dredgers went right under and started to get some work done. The other still had some anxiety to overcome about going out in the river underwater. This is not unusual. It is common to have a few people in each project that need a little extra help to get though the underwater basics. This person had been dredging in the days before, but was still pretty nervous about going underwater. I always use some gentle encouragement and spend the necessary time as a personal lifeguard to help first timers get through the stressful early stages. It seldom takes very long. Once a beginner gets busy underwater (especially when gold is being recovered), he or she usually overcomes the trepidation in a matter of hours. Getting all the participants through this stage is one of the several things I must accomplish in every one of these projects. This, so that we can get them productive as soon as possible.

Finding enough gold to split off at the end of the week, with the participants actually doing most of the work, is another one of my missions!

After about an hour of dredging, our two beginners came up for a rest, pretty excited that they were seeing flakes of gold on the bedrock. There was no longer any fear. That part was already long-forgotten. We looked in the sluice box, and it was speckled with small and large flakes of gold. This was the first time in all our projects that beginning-dredgers actually went out and located a pay-streak on their own. I’ll never forget the feelings of enthusiastic accomplishment.

It is also the first time we have located two high-grade pay-streaks in a single project! Everyone was feeling pretty good around camp that night!

The fifth and sixth days of the project are now just a blur to me. In fact, I probably could have taken those days off and it would not have mattered much to the final outcome. All of the participants worked together to pull themselves into a production team. Everyone had already graduated from the basics. The 5-inch dredge no longer required any winching, because the hole had been opened up enough to allow bigger rocks to be rolled back as progress was made. All but just a few of the team members invested a shift or two on that dredge, mainly to get a first-hand look at what the original (virgin) Klamath River streambed material looks like.

Sluice full of Gold
The top of the finishing-sluice was filled with gold during final clean-up on the last day.

And everyone also spent some time working the 4-inch dredges in the pay-streak upriver. That deposit consists of a foot of hard-packed streambed on top of shallow bedrock in one-to-six feet of water. The dredging in this pay-streak is so easy, I almost felt guilty putting in my own shifts. However, the overwhelming amount of enthusiasm from all the other team-mates helped me get though my guilt. Miners helping miners! We spent the seventh day floating gear out, doing the final clean-up and splitting off the gold. In all, we recovered around 2 ¼ ounces of gold, mostly nice flakes. About a third consisted of nice nuggets, the largest which was 4 pennyweights (almost ¼-ounce).

 Everyone got a shareSharing the Gold

My best guess is that there should be a strong high-grade line of gold going right down the middle of the river on K-6 from just below the USFS river-access to well below the rapids.

Just as our project was coming to an end, several members were already converging upon the upper pay-streak we had located; the easy one. Smart move!!

I floated a dredge though about ¼-mile of river down to the USFS river access from the upper pay-streak when the project was over. There is lots of bedrock showing in that area, too. And it is located between the two pay-streaks we located last week. It is silly to think there is not some high-grade to also be recovered out of that stretch. Check it out!

 

By Dave McCracken

Nearly 3 ounces of gold  Lilly Fuller
Pictured are the nearly 3 ounces of gold for the week, of which 11.8 pennyweights
were nuggets. Lilly Fuller smiles as she cleans up the final concentrates for the week.

 
This Group Project took place on the Schutts Gulch claim along the Klamath River at K-11, several miles upstream from Seiad Valley, about 20 miles upriver from Happy Camp. There were 14 participants (11 men and 3 woman), including myself and my 3 experienced helpers, Craig Colt, Ernie Kroo and Dale Carnagy. Several of the participants were dredging for the first time ever, two who were pretty nervous about going underwater water when we began the week.

Most of us camped in the USFS campground at O’Neil Creek for duration of the project. That is a nice, shaded, developed area with toilet facilities and picnic tables, located only a half-mile from where we were doing the project. We decided on the first day to stay in the central group-site together as a community. This made it convenient after the long workdays during the project. Plus it allowed all of us to visit and enjoy the after-hours together.

We chose the Schutts Gulch claim for this project because it is a very long claim that includes a lot of river diversity; slow, shallow areas, rapids, and directional changes in the river. New 49’er members have been making rich gold-strikes along this claim both in and out of the water since the early-90’s. I also made a very high-grade strike (6 ounces of gold out of a single pocket) in the mid-90’s, so I already knew high-grade gold was traveling through this section of river.

Having some less-experienced dredgers on a project requires a place where there is some easily-accessible, slower, shallow-water areas and there is still hope of finding high-grade gold. K-11 has many such locations on both sides of the river.

4-inch sample team
Four-inch sample team pauses to consider the next move,
as six-inch team is recovering gold just downriver.

K-11 also has some deeper, faster areas where potential for high-grade is really good. From past experience in this area, I felt pretty comfortable that if we hit the area hard with enough sampling, we would find some good gold deposits waiting for us.

As K-11 is such a long claim, We broke it down into three separate sampling areas: the top third of the claim; the center section; and the lower third of the claim. For practical purposes during these projects, I like to try and keep the several dredges we use within a reasonable distance of each other. Because once things really get going, I spend long days running up and down the bank, or swimming back and forth, going from dredge to dredge, while directing the sampling effort and coordinating the participants.

If we did not find what we were looking for in the upper section of the claim, my plan was to float all the gear down to the lower sections and continue the sampling effort there. I feel the potential for high-grade gold is just as good in the lower sections as it is in the top. As it was, we remained in the top section for the entire project, and several participants are still dredging high-grade in there as I write this newsletter.

Some members have been working good gold deposits on the far side of the river during earlier seasons. The problem is in transporting the people and gear from a Group Project over there from the road-side. There is a Forest Service road that goes around to the other side, but I did not want to lose the time driving all the way around every day. Another option was to use a boat at the USFS Rocky Point river access which is located about half-way down the claim. But we finally decided to start our project on the road-side. We needed to sample there anyway.

We spent the first day of the project doing orientation, moving several dredges with support gear down the hill, and getting all participants into the water for their first dives. We were using two 4-inch dredges to sample the slow, shallow areas nearer to the edge of the river. These dredges are set up for two divers each. While more experienced participants were getting a little sampling-work done further out in the river, I spent some quality time working with the less-experienced dredgers nearer to the shore.

From long experience at this, I find that beginners make very fast progress, even those who have a healthy fear of the water, as long as we begin their experience from a place where they are comfortable. Sometimes this means having the person hang out along the river’s edge for a while just looking underwater with a face mask. Once comfortable with that, I get the person looking from the edge using the mask, but breathing with the HOOKA regulator. Then I get the person to swim around the edge of the river on their own with mask and regulator, sticking his or her head down and getting used to the idea of breathing underwater. This usually progresses along just fine if the person is given some time on his or her own to work through the initial discomforts.

Herb Miller and Doti BuruursemaHerb Miller and Doti Buruursema prepare to start a sample hole on the far side of the river.

Before long, I am usually pressing down comfortably to hold the person just under the water’s surface while he or she is breathing through the regulator and looking around. It is a safe process, because I am right there being sensitive to how the person is doing. The key is to not push it too fast. The next step is to strap on the weights so the person can spend some time on the bottom in water shallow enough to get his or her head out of the water if he or she feels the need. From that point, it is seldom very long before the person is out helping on the designated beginner-dredge; the one that is operating in a very safe area.

One of my primary objectives in every project is to get all the less-experienced dredgers through these early stages and to the point where they feel comfortable working out in the river. All of the beginners in this project were competent dredgers by the time the project was over.

Years ago, I located a high-grade pay-streak out in the middle of the deeper, faster part of the river along the upper-portion of K-11. It was so long ago, I cannot even remember why we stopped dredging there, although I am sure it was not because the gold played out. The streambed is rather shallow out there; average maybe 2 feet to bedrock. The bedrock pays in the cracks and pockets when they are right. Sometimes the pay is very rich. So on the first day of the project, I directed Ernie Kroo and one of our more-experienced participants to do a sample right out in the middle, directly in line with where I had established high-grade gold in the past. They were operating a 6-inch dredge. And while they immediately started getting into some gold, it turned out that even our most experienced participant was not able to deal with the fast-water conditions out there.

Dave with Sandy CrawfordSandy Crawford always ready to light up the day with a big smile.

Meanwhile, Craig Colt and Dale Carnagy had drifted further downriver to do another sample in the middle using a 5-inch dredge. They were running into deep streambed material there. By the end of the second day, we decided to withdraw from the 5-inch sample hole in the middle of the river, because it was going to require a winch to be set up to move the boulders, the hole was going too deep to do on a 7-day project, and we knew there were other good gold prospects to sample on the far side of the river.

By the end of the second day, all participants, were out in the river pursuing the sampling effort using the two 4-inch dredges. Surprisingly, they located a pretty rich gold deposit in a hard-packed gray layer on the road-side of the river. We were already accumulating an interesting amount of gold from those two dredges. The excitement level was starting to build, and all participants wanted to spend more time in the water.

Because no-one was up to going out in the middle of the river with Ernie on the 6-inch dredge (where the rich pockets of gold are located), we decided to organize a production team to work with Ernie on the 6-inch dredge where the two 4-inch dredges had located a gold deposit closer to the edge of the river. On the third day, the two 4-inch dredges were moved further upriver on the road-side to continue the sampling process, while the 6-inch dredge was accumulating gold for the group project.

We also swung the 5-inch dredge across to the other side of the river to do a new sample. A long-time member from Sweden named Morgan had already been dredging on the other side for about a week, and he was

showing us a lot of beautiful gold, along with some nice nuggets that he was finding over there. The 5-inch dredge was put in line with Morgan several hundred feet downstream. Craig and Dale immediately got into some really nice gold over there, but there were big rocks that were going to require a winch. So they drifted back further downstream on the morning of the 4th day to begin another test hole.

While Ernie and his crew were in production with the 6-inch dredge, building up our accumulation of gold for the week, other crew members were performing sampling operations further upstream though the 4th day. They were finding gold up there in some shallow hard-pack, but it was not the high-grade deposits I was hoping to find. So we made a tactical decision to swing one 4-inch dredge across to the far side of the river to do some sampling upstream and in line with where Morgan was getting all his gold.

There is a system to getting a dredge safely across fast water. If you do it wrong, you are almost certain to dump the dredge over and lose a bunch of gear. If you do it right, it all happens so easily that everyone is left wondering what all the worry was about. That’s the way we always do it (the easy way!). So this was all good experience for those who had not seen it done before.

We asked for volunteers; and those who were the strongest swimmers were assigned to perform the samples on the other side of the river. There is also a proven-method for safely crossing a fast-moving river. Participants were getting a lot of exposure on this project in how to deal with more challenging conditions.

Once on the other side, participants used the 4-inch dredge to perform three good samples on the 5th day. Without any assistance from me, they discovered a rich gold deposit on their 3rd hole. I was so proud! This deposit is in the top layer of hard-pack. As the gold is fine in size, and they could not see it in the gravel, they did some small production-runs at different depths to discover where the gold was coming from. Right out of the text book! At the end of the day, the concentrates from their sluice box were so saturated with fine gold, that even I could not pan them out. The excitement-level was really building!

Dave with two students  Nuggets

Enough nuggets were recovered that each participant got to choose 3 pieces as a part-share.

Further downstream, Craig and Dale located a rich gold deposit in about 4 feet of old original streambed on top of bedrock. They were getting lots of fine and flake-gold out of a gray layer, and also picking up some nuggets off the bedrock. Those guys were really excited!

The second 4-inch dredge was dropped down to spend most of the 5th day production-dredging along-side the 6-inch dredge. Between those 2 dredges, we were accumulating some nice gold. They were also getting some nuggets off the bedrock. Imagine; gold nuggets being recovered from both sides of the river! Interestingly, the 4-inch dredge was recovering more gold than the 6-inch dredge. We speculated this was because the gold line was stronger as they dredged closer to the edge of the river.

So we began the 6th day with 4 separate high-grade gold deposits being mined on the upper end of K-11. Morgan was mining one, and we had located three more. Because Craig and Dale had found so much gold the day before, we made the decision to swing the 6-inch dredge across and move it downriver to work alongside the 5-inch dredge. By now, we had been through this drill enough times that our crew probably could have done it without me around. But to be on the safe side, I always keep a personal hand in the most challenging exercises during any project. Getting the dredge across and set up in the new hole was done in very short order.

Because not everyone on the project was comfortable swimming the river, we launched a boat in the morning and used it to get people, gear and supplies over to the other side. All these logistics caused us to get somewhat of a late start under the water. We made up for that by working later. In fact, I was still trying to get everyone to shut down the dredges at 7 PM at the end of the 6th day. I wrote that off to gold fever. The deposits were pretty rich. Everyone was excited.

Managing these week-long projects is a personal challenge for me in many ways. Every project is entirely different, depending upon who the participants are, and where we choose to go on the river. I always balance the need to do things safely (primary concern), while providing participants exposure to the real thing; the way high-grade gold deposits are found and developed in the river. We always find some gold. But when the participants are the ones who discover high-grade, and pull themselves into a dedicated team-effort to recover as much gold as possible in the remaining time, I am certain the adventure-experience for them is something they will never forget. This is not television or a theme park. It is the real thing!

And I am personally rewarded with very meaningful experiences on every project. Watching a person struggle early in the week with deep-seated fears of the water and having to overcome them by reaching down inside to find the powerful substance of their most inner strength is a demonstration of true bravery. I get to be part of that each time we do a project. While I cannot put it into words, being alongside a person who is overcoming personal limits is a very meaningful and honorable experience. I feel very close to my crew members in this way.

Listening to the prospecting-chatter of participants at camp during the evening is a another special bonus to me; talking about the color and hardness of the different hard-packed streambed-material they had encountered during the day’s activities, and projecting hope for how those clues might lead us into the next pay-streak… This is a whole reality that is only understood by prospectors who have actually done it. Listening to the discussions and hope for the next discovery creates an inner reward for me, allowing me to believe that I am doing something meaningful by managing these Group Projects.

Dave with two students  Dredges

I suppose the highlight of this particular project for me was on the 7th day when we decided to connect 3 suction dredges together and float them down through a long stretch of fast water like a train. This equipment needed to be extracted off the river and stored away safely for the next project. The average person anywhere would be fully challenged to just float a single dredge downstream in fast water and across the Klamath River. But we hooked three of them up like a convoy of fully-loaded tractor-trailers! Everyone involved with this exercise did their part like we had been working years together as a mining-team.

Naturally, I took the most upstream position on the rope to guide the chain of dredges, so I could keep a close eye on the whole operation. And I cannot remember ever feeling so proud, watching the teamwork and listening to the enthusiastic coordination of my partners in this adventure. For me, this feeling always seems to go along with the sad realization that the team will soon break up, with most everyone needing to go back to their normal lives.

We spent the 7th day pulling the dredging gear out of the river and cleaning all the concentrates we accumulated for the week. Doing a final clean-up is too time consuming to do every day on one of these projects. So we save it all up for the last day. Cleaning up a substantial accumulation of concentrates that contain a lot of fine gold, and accomplishing a full separation so that the gold can be split off evenly amongst the participants, is a fair amount of work. We never use mercury or any chemicals in the process. It is important for every prospector to know how to do the final gold separation. On our projects, under my careful guidance, the participants do almost all of the work. But I always get the personal pleasure of weighing out all the final shares.

In all, we recovered nearly 3 ounces of gold for the week, of which 11.8 pennyweights (a little more than half-ounce) were nuggets. Two pretty important pay-streaks were located; both which are being worked by numerous members as I write this newsletter. The richest part of the upper claim remains relatively untapped, because it lies under a section of deeper, faster water which we could not access using the team involved with this project.

 

By Dave McCracken

This Group Dredging Project took place in the lower portion of the Mega-Hole (K-15A) and the upper portion of the Glory-Hole (K-15) along the Klamath River. These long claims adjoin each other at Hwy 96 mile marker 54.17, which is around 11 miles upstream from Happy Camp. There were 15 participants (13 men and 2 woman), not including myself and my 2 experienced helpers, Craig Colt and Ernie Kroo.

Longtime active member and Club supporter, Marge Strutt, also volunteered to help the project’s less-experienced participants get through their basics during the first 3 days of the project. Several of the participants were dredging for the first time ever, and several others had little previous experience. One of the primary objectives of these projects is to help all participants achieve personal confidence while dredging underwater. This is a necessary part of making the most productive use of all our helpers during the project. We take this responsibility very serious. It helps a lot when I have an experienced dredger on the project to help with this part. That frees me up to direct the sampling activity early on in the project to locate high-grade gold deposits.

Most of us camped in the New 49’er long-term campground at Savage Rapids (K-15A) for duration of the project. That is a large camping area which extends along both sides of Highway 96, and includes a sizeable pull-off area overlooking the river which is a popular camping area for some members. The nice thing is that this camping area was very close to the places we were working along the river. As other members were also camping and mining in the area, we had an opportunity to spend some of our after-hours visiting and enjoying our time together during this venture.

The New 49’ers has access to over 60 miles of mining claims to choose from along the Klamath River and its tributaries during these Group Projects. The options are almost unlimited with this much waterway to choose from. But picking a productive location is the important first step. Because once we launch a Group Project into an area, there is not enough time to withdraw, begin the sampling process somewhere else, and still expect to recover very much gold by the end of the week. So we must choose our location carefully.

To help with this, The New 49’ers implemented a cooperative sampling program along the river which started a few weeks before this project. I have spoken about this ongoing sampling program idea in the past few newsletters, and it is really starting to produce some valuable results. Through the ongoing sampling program, we are trying to locate prime areas to launch the Group Mining Projects. This increases the chances of the Group Projects recovering more gold. A side benefit is that we locate some high-grade mining areas along the way – that other members are able to jump right into on their own.

In this case, during the few weeks before this latest Group Dredging Project, our common sampling program was joined by members, Ernie Kroo, Jacob Urban, Lilly Fuller, Craig Colt, Gerald & Judy Shirey, Hariof Rothenberger and Kent Gibson. We found several very interesting gold deposits as we worked our way down through the Mega-Hole and into the top end of the Glory Hole. Several of the gold deposits were good; but because of deep or fast water, we ruled them out as areas to pursue a Group Dredging Project. We left those areas behind for other members to work.

I have to say something about this: As time goes forward, I am increasingly reminded how lucky we are to have so many members that are interested in participating in cooperative projects that greatly benefit the whole membership. It is remarkable to participate in a sampling activity where we locate high-grade gold deposits and freely turn them over to other members that just happen to be present and are looking for a good place to mine. There is an enormous amount of goodwill in this! In our 20 years as an organized mining group, I do not recall that there was ever a time when morale and goodwill amongst the membership has been at a higher point than it is right now.

Having some less-experienced-dredgers on a Group Project requires a place where there is some easily-accessible, slower, shallow-water areas so we can get them started, and there is still hope of finding high-grade gold. Our community sampling project located a good gold deposit towards the lower end of the Mega-Hole that is perfect for beginners. I was really pleased about that.

Just a little further downriver in the Mega-Hole, we located a second gold deposit out in the middle of the river where the water is only about three feet deep – but moving a little swiftly. So our plan going into this Group Project was to split the group into two separate teams: One to develop the gold deposit in slow, shallow water, and the other to develop the pay-streak in deeper, moving water.

Finding a rich gold deposit(s) is one of the few primary objectives that we must accomplish, or we won’t have very much gold to split off at the end of the week. Therefore, doing some advanced sampling takes a lot of pressure off me during these projects. Once the deposit(s) are located, and the less-experienced participants are through their basics and comfortable in the water, the last remaining major objective is to recover as much gold as we can for the week.

This all sounds pretty straightforward. But quite often, the best-laid plans fall apart in gold mining about as soon as you start implementing them. So you always have to be flexible.

I spent the first few days working with Marge and all the less-experienced helpers on the first team. That part of the program was going pretty well. We clearly established the boundaries of the pay-streak on the first day, even while we were still helping beginners figure out how to breath from a regulator underwater. This was a very easy pay-streak, located on bedrock under about one foot of a gray hard-pack layer of streambed in two feet of water alongside the edge of the river. It does not get much easier than that! This group quickly named itself the “A-Team.” Into the second day of the project, they were already organizing themselves into a production program, taking shifts and doing trial & error routines to push gold production as high as possible.

Meanwhile, the more experienced “B-Team” was working very hard to open up the pay-streak we had located further downriver. They were using 5-inch and 6-inch dredges that were tied off next to each other, and running three divers down on each dredge to deal with the deeper streambed material in that location. This operation was faced with more serious obstacles to overcome in the river.

Initially, we were very excited about the B-Team location, because we had located gold on top of, and inside of, original (virgin), gray hard-packed streambed material in the middle of the river, just upstream from where hundreds of ounces of gold were recovered from the Glory Hole several years ago. The potential for extraordinary success is really good in that location! The problem was that by the end of the second day, B-Team still could not find bedrock, and they had excavated a hole through 10 feet of streambed material and boulders! While they were getting some pretty good gold, the deepness of the hole was making it somewhat ineffective to pursue the location using 5-inch and 6-inch dredges.

What to do? This is always the question! After a group discussion on the morning of the third day, we unanimously agreed that the best course of action was to split the two dredges from B-Team into a new sampling effort. This was a risky decision. Because if we remained in the original location, we were sure to recover enough gold by the end of the week so that there would be plenty of gold to split off. There was no guarantee that we would locate new, higher-grade gold deposits in the short time allowed to us in the project. These are the same risky, difficult decisions every prospector has to face on his or her own. Do you stay with the sure-thing of a lower-grade deposit? Or do you take a chance of recovering even less gold by sampling around for something better?

Ultimately, B-Team opted to sample for something better, while A-Team committed themselves to double their efforts at recovering gold from the pay-streak they were mining further upstream. The gold from the A-Team program was adding up pretty good in our bucket of concentrates going into the third day. I was very proud to watch the less-experienced team carry the responsibility of gold production, while the more experienced participants devoted themselves to the challenge of finding a richer gold deposit.

I’m finding it very interesting that there is clearly an evolution happening in these organized Group Dredging Projects. They are getting better. Because this is the second year we have been doing these Group Projects, we are getting more and more repeat-participants; members who have been involved with earlier projects and already understand what the objectives are and how to reach them. The nature of the projects brings the whole group together in a team-building experience. But usually the team does not really come together until about the 4th or 5th day – after we have surmounted the major challenges associated with sampling to locate high-grade gold. This project was different. Of the 19 people involved, only 7 had not already been on one of these Group Projects. The rest of us started the week knowing where we needed to be as a cohesive team. It was easy for the others to slip right into the team-chemistry.

We were in the full team-mode going into the third day when A-team committed themselves to gold production while B-Team dedicated themselves to the pursuit of higher-grade gold deposits. Good team chemistry like this, managed right, in a good gold-bearing area, is near certain to make something good happen.

We have found from long experience that the key to finding high-grade gold in a good section of river is to bracket the area with numerous, well-done sample holes in the middle and along both sides of the river. So B-team got busy doing that on day-3. The 5-inch dredge was moved to one side of the river and dropped down to just above the rapids that drop into the Glory-Hole. They were struggling with some pretty fast water there, but were making headway. The 6-inch dredge was moved to the other side of the river, upstream where faster water was coming through two bedrock islands out in the middle of the river. They were investing a lot of effort to get a hole started, too.

The hardest part about dredging in fast water is in getting a hole started along the bottom of the river. Once you have even the beginning of a hole, you get a reprieve from the fast water. They were doing it, while I pretty-much stood back and watched. It is best on these Group Projects if the participants work together to overcome the difficulties, rather than stand back and watch me or another supervisor do the hard work. I usually only jump in when my participation is needed to get something accomplished, or when a new important gold strike is made (I can’t resist being in on the discovery of all that gold!).

One of the most interesting things we discovered in the lower Mega-Hole is that most of it appears to never have been dredged before. In all our sampling down there during the past several weeks, we have yet to find very much ground where earlier dredgers left tell-tale lose cobbles behind. There seems to be a lot of opportunity remaining there!

Ray Phillips gives the thumbs-up signal just after a hot new paystreak was located.

Mid-way through the third day, the 6-inch dredge located high-grade pockets of gold on the bedrock under 3 to 5 feet of streambed material that had never been dredged before. Those guys were really feeling good about that! As soon as they were waving to us with the thumbs-up signal that they had struck gold, I went up to take a quick dive to see for myself. Sure enough, we cracked open some bedrock and watched 30 or 40 nice colors go up the suction nozzle. What a great feeling!

The 5-inch dredge was not yet on bedrock further downriver, and was uncovering rocks too large to move without a winch; so we decided to withdraw from that sample (until another day) and move the 5-inch dredge up to work alongside the 6-inch dredge. At the end of the third day, both teams were working some pretty good pay-streaks. The gold in our concentrate bucket was looking very impressive. We had made a lot of progress on the third day, and everyone was feeling pretty good about it.

During these Group Projects, we all meet at camp every morning to discusswhat we are struggling with in the field; subjects like how to move and tie off dredges in different circumstances, how to avoid and cope with plug-ups (when rocks obstruct the flow of material through a dredge system), what to look for in prospecting, how to increase the volume of production, standard operating procedures in teamwork situations; all of the important things people need to know to improve their skills in this field. Mornings are a good time, where we share our experiences, and everyone can get their questions answered.

During the morning sessions, we also discuss the progress we have made and make plans for how we will reach the next objective. Objectives change on these projects every day. First, we just want to find some gold. Then we want to find something better. Then we want all the dredges to be producing in gold. Then we are looking for a higher-grade deposit. I’m sure you get the idea. We take it a step at a time, progressing towards where we need to be at the end of the week – which is having plenty of gold to split off.

The nice thing about a Group Project, is that we have the resources to send out a sampling team to look for something even better, even while all the rest of the group is working feverously to build up the gold in our concentrate bucket.

On the morning of the forth day, we found ourselves with all of the dredges working flat-out in high-grade gold – and not much for me to do but stand around and watch. All the beginners were through all the basics and doing their share of the work on the dredges. Everyone was comfortable doing what they were doing. What was I to do? This was a first for me in these projects. Usually I don’t find myself “standing around” until the 6th day.

After some discussion about this, we made a plan for myself and two of our most experienced participants from B-Team, Mike & Jaosn Phillips, to launch a 4-inch dredge into the Glory-Hole and sample some of the deeper, faster-water areas down there – looking for something very special. While launching the 4-inch dredge, we happened across Gerald & Judy Shirey, who had just started sampling in the Glory-Hole themselves. We had no sooner put the 4-inch dredge in the water, and Gerald called us over to show us the gold he was already finding on the other side of the river. For the little bit of bedrock he had uncovered, he was already finding more gold than any of the dredges we were using in the project upstream! But while moving a rock, Gerald pinched one of his fingers bad enough to decide he ought to take a few days off to let it mend. So he offered us the use of his boat, dredge and pay-streak in our Project. How much more generous can you get?

It is well known within our industry that the membership of The New 49’ers is made up of kind-hearted, well-meaning people that always seem willing to extend a helping hand to others. The chemistry within our group is something truly wonderful to be part of. Maybe its me that has changed these past few years. I am certainly taking a much more active roll out along the river, working more closely with members, than during past years. Or maybe I just missed it before. But I have never before had so many members jumping in to volunteer their active participation to make the group programs work like what is happening these days – to the point of offering up high-grade pay streaks that have just been found! This is unheard of!

Gerald’s pay-streak was on bedrock under about 18 inches of hard-packed streambed along the far edge of the river in the Glory-Hole; an easy place for our A-Team to work if the gold proved out better than where they were mining upstream. To make sure the pay-streak was large enough to justify moving the A-Team and their gear, Mike, Ray & I spent the remainder of the 4th day bracketing the area around Gerald’s hole with more samples using Gerald’s dredge. By the end of the day, we had made 4 or 5 sample holes around the area; and while we were finding gold in every hole, it was not high-grade enough to justify any big movements by the rest of our team. It seemed like Gerald’s discovery was a rich pocket that did not extend out very far. It is good that we found this out before moving a whole team down there!

The morning of our 5th day found everyone in great spirits. The gold was building up nicely in our concentrate bucket, because both the A & B-Teams had a productive previous day. The whole group agreed that it was best to stay on track mining the two gold deposits, while Mike, Ray & I continued to sample in the Glory Hole.

The thing about the Glory Hole is that it is so rich, if you dredge in high-grade gold where no-one has dredged before, even with a 4-inch dredge, you can sometimes recover as much as an ounce per hour of dredging – or even more.

So far, in all the holes we dredged around Gerald’s gold deposit, we had not found a single place that had been dredged before. So it was just a matter of finding the strong gold path in the river. We still felt we could do that. From the previous history in that area, my feeling was that the highest-grade gold line is on the opposite side of the river to where Gerald was dredging. So on the 5th morning, Mike and Ray got an early start using our 4-inch dredge to sample over there.

After overseeing the startup of all the other activity, when I arrived in the Glory Hole, Mike was already yelling at me to hurry down and see the nugget they had just found. I thought he was pulling my leg, because they had not been down there very long. But sure enough, they had already found the high-grade gold line on bedrock under 18 inches of hard-packed streambed. Mike pulled the nice nugget right out of a crack in the bedrock. I took a short dive with Mike to have a look for myself, and we almost immediately uncovered a pocket of gold that was full of rice-size pieces of jewelry gold. There was so much gold in the pocket that it took us quite a while to get it all out. After that dive, I approved their request to be named the “Double-G-Team” (“G” for gold). They found the high-grade prize we all are looking for when we go out prospecting.

I am truly amazed at how much of the Glory and Mega-Hole areas have yet to be dredged. These are long claims. I suppose, during those early years of the Club, members must have just lost track of who dredged which areas. After a while, everybody just assumed it was all dredged out. At the end of the fifth day, it looked to me like the GG-Team had recovered more gold on the 4-inch dredge in the Glory-Hole, than all the gold that day from A & B-Teams combined! And GG-Team gold was mostly made up of small nuggets and jewelry-pieces. Everyone was getting really excited! It sure seemed like the good old “Glory Days” were back…

On the morning of the 6th day, we woke up to find that the Klamath River had risen at least a foot overnight and turned green. And it was continuing to rise. Underwater visibility was reduced to about a foot at best. This placed a dark shadow over our production-hopes for the day. Apparently, the Iron Gate Dam upstream increased the water discharge to help signal the Salmon holding offshore that it is time to begin their migration upriver. The result was that the Klamath was running quite a bit faster than the day before, with almost no working visibility along the bottom. Too bad!

During our morning planning session, each of the dredge teams agreed that they would attempt to get some production accomplished; but if it was not possible or two dangerous, they would float the equipment out to our planned extraction point. Normally the 7th day of a project is devoted to pulling equipment off the river and final clean up, separation and split of all the gold recovered during the week.

After giving it a try, both the A & B -Teams decided it was too dangerous in the places where they were dredging, so they struggled hard with the increased flow of the river to get all their gear safely to the extraction point. Further downstream, the GG-Team decided they could still be productive, because the streambed material was shallow in their location, and the river was not much faster where they were dredging. Although the production was slower, they were coping with the lowered visibility and recovering some nice gold. That prompted us to float Gerald’s dredge across the river and expand the GG-Team by adding two more people that wanted to dive. This was a very committed group!

At the end of the 6th day, the GG-Team had a respectable amount of jewelry-gold to add to the bucket. It was enough that they decided to meet at 7 AM on Friday morning (7th day) to put in one last dive before the project ended.

In all, we recovered nearly 5 ounces of gold for the week, of which 18.2 pennyweights (just under an ounce) were nuggets. Three pay-streaks were located and developed; none of which are being worked by members as I write this newsletter. The pay-streak between the two bedrock islands in the lower Mega-Hole deserves some serious work. The richest place we found down in the Glory-Hole remains relatively untapped.

 

 
 

Happy Camp is really the small-scale gold prospecting capital of America. It is a great place to be during the summer months. The area is rich with gold mining potential. Local communities are very friendly to gold prospectors. The weather is fantastic.

There were ten of us participating on this surface mining project, which included my two long-time, trusty assistants, Craig Colt and Dick Bendtzen. By surface mining, I mean prospecting for and developing gold deposits that are located outside of the active waterway. We do six 2-day (weekend) surface mining group projects and one week-long surface group mining project each season. We also do several week-long dredging projects. Everyone who participates is rewarded with an equal share of all the gold that is recovered during a project. It does not come free, though. We work hard for all the gold we recover!

Actually, how much gold we recover during the Group Mining Projects almost always comes back to how well we are able to organize ourselves into a cohesive team. All the participants on this Project showed up eager to go. Because Mary Taylor was along, I knew from the beginning that we were going to get a lot of gold! Mary is one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated gold prospectors I have ever met.

Having well over 60 miles of mining property to choose from in the Happy Camp vicinity (actually 120 miles when you count both sides of the river), we have plenty of choices where to do our surface mining projects. This time, though, we decided even before the Project that we were going to check out the far side of the river on the Club’s Wingate claim. This is located around 15 miles downstream from Happy Camp along the Klamath River. Very little has been done by members on this extensive claim over the years, mainly because a rather steep canyon separates the working-part of the claim from Highway 96. Even so, longtime members and very experienced prospectors, Rex & Earlene Kerr, had been telling us that they found a very rich gold deposit on the far side of the Wingate claim several years ago. They have since taken up dredging, so they never went back to finish cleaning up the gold. They said they were using a boat to get across the river towards the lower end of the claim.

The lesson I always try to put across to members, is that if you want to increase your chances of finding high-grade gold, do your prospecting in areas where other members have already been experiencing some success. As I know Rex & Earlene very well, when they reported finding a rich gold deposit at Wingate, I knew they were not kidding around. This is just one of the wonderful things about being associated with The New 49’ers; so many active prospectors are willing to share their success with others!

Craig Colt had the foresight to find Rex Kerr a few days before this Project and get him to go down to Wingate and show Craig exactly where he and Earlene were doing so well. So on the Saturday morning starting this Group Project, everybody was excited to go down there and get started!

Wingate is a huge claim, with most of the workable part on the far side of the river. The first big challenge in this Project was in figuring out how we were going to get ourselves and our gear over to the other side. It didn’t take us long to figure out that a small boat can be launched at both ends of the claim. We decided to start at the top. Through some energetic teamwork, we had the boat in the water, and everybody across with sampling gear, within just a few hours.

Once on the other side with lunch behind us, while Craig and a small team hiked down to see if they could find Rex & Earlene’s old workings, several others started digging out the bedrock cracks near where we landed the boat. Just within a few minutes, Mary was already whooping it up about finding some rich gold. Leave it to Mary to make the first strike! I was amazed how big the golden flakes were! Even though Craig and a few others had already headed down that way, Mary’s strike was enough to change our plans to immediately begin trying to develop something good right near the boat landing!

Expanding upon Mary’s success, we started using bars to break open bedrock cracks upstream and downstream directly in line with Mary’s spectacular find. Almost immediately, Mary recovered another pan of large, rich golden flakes. Wow! But our additional pans further away were not turning up high-grade. So we worked our way closer towards Mary, only to discover that she had located a small single deposit. Too bad! Just for a little while there, I thought we had discovered a rich deposit that was going to carry us all the way through the week. Like a dowsing rod, Mary had zeroed in right on a small hot spot!

Just as we were figuring out that Mary’s initial deposit was just a small one, one of Craig’s helpers returned to the boat for more gear. He told us that they were already into something good further downstream. That sure lifted my spirits! So I gathered up a few more helpers and off we went to see what Craig’s team had found.

Craig’s deposit was in a bedrock trough immediately upstream from where Rex & Earlene had been mining several years before. There was a thin layer of hard-packed streambed material on top of some very uneven bedrock. Through some trial and error, we discovered that the gold was coming from off the bedrock, and also out of the hard-packed material. This was good! While the flakes were not nearly as large as what Mary had found, the gold was plentiful. We devoted the remainder of the first day spreading out Craig’s discovery to make sure the gold deposit was large enough to justify bringing in a high-banker on the following day. It was!

Dennis Taylor, Craig Colt & Dick Bendtzen
working the high-banker in Craig’s discovery.

All of the bedrock irregularities over there made a perfect setting to set up a high-banker (small motorized sluice) for dredging on the following day. We did this by setting up a small water pump down near the river. By pumping water up into a suction nozzle, and allowing the water to flow back into our work area, we were soon dredging the hard-packed pay-dirt up into a sluice box. We were about 50 feet away from the river. Overflow water was caught by other natural troughs in the bedrock. This was a textbook situation for surface mining!

It is important to note that while no dredging permits are required in California to dredge in areas outside of the active waterway, there are regulations which prevent you from making too large of a hole up out of the water (without special permit), and which prevent you from putting dirty water back into the active waterway. Making sure we stay within these guidelines is one of my primary duties when we do these Projects.

By the end of the second day, we had fully worked out Craig’s discovery. We recovered a healthy amount of gold from that. But the good times were over. On the morning of day-3, we found ourselves sampling again. Deciding that we should check it out, we spent the first half of the 3rd

day sampling the upper-end of Wingate on the highway-side of the river. Preliminary sampling results looked pretty good. But the deposit over there seemed pretty spotty to me, and I was concerned to not lose a whole day or two trying to recover gold out of a lower-grade deposit, when we might still find something better further downstream. We always debate these tough decisions during the Projects, so everyone is able to take part in the process which evolves into the final result. After some discussion about our options, we split the sampling team in half, and I used the boat to place several samplers on the far side of the river towards the bottom-end of the claim. This took some creative boat work by Craig and me. We had to portage our small aluminum boat through a fairly bad set of rapids. But through some trial and error, we worked out a way to get the boat through the rapids in both directions without too much difficulty. Boating to the lower area of the claim was a heck of a lot easier than hiking down there!

Dennis Hoepfer helping to sample the lower-end of Wingate.

Down towards the lower-end of the claim, we started pulling excellent pans out of the exposed bedrock cracks right away. It didn’t take us long to discover a rich section of bedrock that was about 50 feet wide, starting about 30 feet from the active river. Most of it was exposed bedrock that had small pockets of hard-packed streambed which were loaded with fine gold. This place looked good! So during the afternoon of the 3rd day, we found ourselves relocating the whole team down to the lower end, with multiple vack-mining machines. Our mission was to discover if this deposit was worth working on the following day with the high-banker. It was!

But rather than use the high-banker, the morning of the 4th day found our whole team working together to create a mini-high-banker using a Le’ Trap sluice with a special feed from two garden hoses. The problem with this new high-grade area was that, while plentiful, most of the gold was very small in size. We could not produce enough material with the vacks to feed a normal high-banker. Because the Le’ Trap sluice recovers fine gold exceptionally well, we came up with an idea to make a special water feed so we could process material from the vacks way up out of the water. The system worked great!

 

Mary Taylor & TaTiana Serbanescu working the cracks in the hot new area.

We devoted most of the 4th and 5th days to production mining with the vacks. We all took shifts at running the machines, breaking open cracks, filling buckets, screening the pay-dirt through an 8-mesh screen and feeding the Le’ Trap recovery system. While mostly fine in size, by the end of the 5th day, there was a lot of gold adding up in our bucket!

We don’t do a final gold clean-up every day during these Projects. The process takes too long. So we allow our gold concentrates to add up in a bucket until the last day. Then we clean it up all at once and split it off. But we do pay close attention to how much gold is present from each sample – or each production day. This gold was so fine and plentiful, that the concentrates were looking very rich. We were going to have a good week!

On the morning of day-6, Dick told me he was getting a very strong feeling about an area just downstream from where Rex & Earlene had made their big strike. So he decided to hike up there and do a few samples. It was quite a ways up there; but about an hour later, I thought I could see Dick waving his arms around. So I drove the boat over there to have a look. Sure enough, Dick had made the richest strike of the week! It was under about 2 feet of hard-packed streambed on bedrock. The whole area had been buried under about 6 inches of loose sand. That was the reason we missed it the first time we were sampling around there. Dick’s samples were producing large flakes and small nuggets. It was truly a rich find! This is not the first time Dick has discovered the big strike of the week. We are sure lucky to have him on these projects!

With only about a half-day remaining, we immediately mobilized a major move from the fine gold deposit we were working further downstream, with multiple boatloads of gear and people. By lunchtime on the 6th day, we were high-bank dredging in Dick’s new discovery. This was a different kind of mining altogether from what we had been doing the previous 2 days. Although adjusting to the change did not require much direction on my part. Everyone there had plenty of experience by then. We all just stepped in to do what was needed. With only a half-day remaining, we wanted to clean-up as much of Dick’s deposit as we could. We took turns operating the dredge, while also filling buckets with material and feeding the high-banker to achieve as much production as we could. My main focus remained on filling our excavation behind us, to never allow our open hole to become very large. I was also making sure that no dirty water ever got back into the river from our high-banker.

By the end of the 6th day, we had a good showing of larger-sized gold to go along with all the fines we had accumulated earlier in the week.

Everyone was working as a team to operate the high-banker on the last day. We wanted as many nuggets as we could get!

Normally, we use the 7th day to pull all our gear off the river and put it all away. We also do the full final clean-up process. Everyone participates in every step of this. Over the many years, we have worked out a system of final clean-up that retains all of the gold without the use of any mercury or other chemicals. This involves the use of a Gold Extractor – which is like a miniature sluice with very low-profile riffles. When set up properly, this device will work all of your concentrates down to all of your gold with no loss whatsoever, along with only about a tablespoon of black sands remaining. Then this final material can be dried and run through a set of final clean-up screens. Once separated into different size-fractions, it is very easy to separate the gold from the last of the impurities. We mainly do this by blowing off the impurities, which are about 4 times lighter than the gold.

Phil Maher & Sara Rese showing off some project gold!

At the end of the 7th day, we split off the shares of the gold evenly between all the participants. Everyone was excited to get their share. We then took a moment to review our week and discuss the things that we did, and the decisions that we made along the way, which led us into our good fortune. Sampling is an interesting process whereby every key decision you make is like a crossroads that will directly affect the final outcome. Each time we do one of these projects, we come to the very same conclusion that you should never give up hope; that if you just stick with the process, you will always get right into the next gold deposit.

 

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