By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack

 

 

There were 23 participants on this surface mining Project, including myself. We decided to do it on the Club’s K-15A property. Our shore boss, Otto Gaither and several other New 49’er members had discovered high-grade gold on the gravel bar towards the upper-end of this very long mining property the season before. Since K-15A is such a long mining claim, we figured the small amount of earlier mining activity could barely have scratched the surface of the larger gold deposits which were sure to extend across the entire gravel bar.

The secret to our continuous success on these Projects is that we just follow through on an aggressive sampling program into areas where other New 49’er members have already discovered gold during the past.

Once again, Otto suggested that we set up our camp on one of the Club’s long-term camping areas on https://www.goldgold.com/k-15a-mega-hole.html K-15A. This is one of our favorite camping areas, because it has so much natural shade.

We devoted the first day (Saturday) on this Group Project to organizing our group camp, and to get all of our mining equipment set up along side of the river. With all the enthusiasm of this group, we still had time to start sampling on Saturday afternoon before we knocked off to attend the weekly potluck. Using gold pans to test with, it did not take long for this crew to establish that high-grade gold was present where we intended to start up the high-bankers on the following day.

My trusty assistants, Craig Colt, Mike O’Connell, Pat Harris and Leif Sollier were all present on this Project to lend a hand. Our shore boss, Otto, was also there to help organize all of our ongoing support needs, participate in the mining activity and help with everything else that needed doing. Since Otto was basically turning one of his own high-grade gold strikes over to this Project, we were depending upon him during the first few days to help us start building up some gold in our recovery bucket.

We always try and start off these high-banking Projects using gold pans to do some preliminary sampling. This is mainly to make sure that all participants are competent with a pan in the beginning, because we will depend later in the week upon each person’s individual skills. It is also to help each participant identify what hard-packed streambed is, and what layer within the streambed that the pay-dirt is located. It is vital for each participant to be able to relate how much gold is being seen within a pan-sample to the amount of gold which can be recovered from the same location when a high-banker is being used. Here is a video sequence captured while I was talking about this very important subject on the second morning:

Our plan was to start the week off mining the pay-streak that Otto had already located. Then, we would send sampling teams out across the (very) extensive area in search of perhaps an even richer gold deposit. It is always nice to start one of these Projects mining gold on the very first day. That gets things off in the right direction from the very beginning. Then, through some aggressive sampling, we are nearly always able to find one or more additional gold deposits nearby that are just as good or better than the one we started with. Finding a new gold deposit always adds a great feeling of success to the Project.

We devoted the second and third days to dialing in some team production using three separate high-bankers. Through a little trial and error, we established that the high-grade gold was located within a contact zone between two different layers of streambed, only about eight inches beneath the surface. This made for some pretty easy digging! It didn’t take us long to work out a system of filling buckets with pay-dirt to be run through one of the high-bankers.

Suction dredge attachments were connected to the other two high-bankers. Those were positioned so the water discharges could be directed across the top of the pay-dirt. This allowed us to set up two small dredging Projects well up on the gravel bar, increasing production so much that we had to slow down to keep from overloading the recovery systems. I found myself on the third day continuously telling the production crews to slow down, but they just thought I was kidding. Gold was really adding up in the recovery systems. Nothing was going to slow this crew down! Here follows a video segment that was captured as we were working the first area with the high-bankers:

The nice thing about using the dredge attachment on a high-banker well up on a gravel bar in California is that the activity does not normally require a dredging permit. But you must make certain there is no discharge of dirty water or other material off the stream bank into the active waterway. Fortunately, natural contours on the upper gravel bar at K-15A provide a huge settling area where this can be accomplished. We worked out a rotation so that everyone was able to spend some time working the suction nozzles on these high-bankers.

   

We do not do full clean-ups on our recovery systems every day on these Projects, because the full process requires too much time. Rather, we dump-off the high-grade portions of the recovery systems at the end of each day so we can get a pretty close idea how we were doing. The gold and other heavy material from each day get placed in a single bucket which remains in my personal care until the end of the week. Here follows a video sequence which was captured as we cleaned the high-grade sections of our recovery systems at the end of our third day:

Earlier in the week, we had pulled two of the Club’s rafts out of storage in anticipation of maybe using them to do some sampling in some of the more-remote high-banking areas located on K-17. I know of one place in particular down there where we could likely get into a pretty good deposit of nice gold nuggets. Earlier in the week, everyone was pretty excited about the prospect of a nugget deposit (and an exciting day rafting down the river). But on the morning of the forth day, Otto informed me that this group had already voted unanimously to save K-17 for a later Project. They decided we were finding too much gold to leave the place we had started and go on a rafting trip somewhere else!

With that in mind, on the forth morning, Craig and Leif both led separate prospecting teams out across the huge bar on K-15A. They were in search of new and better high-grade gold deposits. While Leif’s team was starting to turn up some positive signs in one area, at about mid-day, someone from Craig’s team came down and told me that Craig had located a rich virgin gold deposit up towards the very top-end of the bar. Off I went to see what he had turned up. It was quite a ways up there; this is a very large high-banking area which is sure to keep a lot of people happy for many years to come!

Sure enough, Craig was turning up some nice gold out of a top flood layer that was about twelve inches deep. Then he was getting even more gold inside of an orange-colored hard-pack that was sitting down on top of yet another layer of ancient gray material. The orange

material was also about twelve inches thick. By the time I arrived, Craig had already identified around two feet of streambed material which was paying quite well. This was a very exciting development! Here follows a video sequence capturing Craig just as he made the discovery:

Since we were already getting so much gold using the dredge attachments on the high-bankers further downstream, we decided the smart thing to do was to just move the third high-banker to Craig’s discovery as the first step. But after running the first production sample up there, we realized that we could get more gold in the new location. Shortly thereafter, our entire crew was busy moving all of our gear to the top of the bar. Since we were finished in Otto’s initial discovery (until we go back there some day), we carefully filled in the excavations so no open holes would be left behind.

 

There is a turning point in every one of these Projects when some new development changes the group chemistry into something new and different. This usually happens when sampling turns up a new, richer gold deposit. The new discovery often triggers a sudden cumulative motivation to recover as much of the gold that we can get in the time remaining in the Project. Everyone gets into the spirit of this. I patiently wait for this transition on every Project, sometimes worrying that it will not happen.

On one of the dredging Projects last season, since the river was still too high and fast to allow us to sample out in the middle of the river, our sampling team was experiencing frustration all the way through the fifth day, because I kept pulling them out of the lower-grade gold deposits they were finding, in hopes of finding something better. We finally touched down on high-grade on the morning of the sixth day. We then had all the participants go down and experience what it feels like to see bedrock cracks which are laced with rich, beautiful gold and nuggets as we uncovered a treasure of Mother Nature’s natural wealth. Then, everybody understood what we had been holding out for all week long. As a very determined team, they pulled themselves together and recovered more gold in several hours than we had already accumulated in five days of hard work! Once that kind of motivation kicks in, I usually just step back and let it go.

 

The fifth and sixth days on this high-banking Project found our entire crew working together to keep two hungry high-bankers well fed with good pay-dirt that was being excavated from three separate holes. We were digging deeper in this new location, so we decided against using the dredge attachments. Dredging would have filled the deeper holes with water, preventing us from being able to effectively deal with the bigger boulders in this place. Indeed, Craig had located an old original (never been touched by earlier mining activity) streambed which was packed-up with medium-sized granite boulders. In order to open up the excavations so that we had some working room, we set up a portable grip-puller, hand-operated winch so that we could pull several of the boulders out. With some teamwork, this did not take very long. As usual, Leif (nick-named “Hercules”) insisted upon doing most of the heavy work. Here follows a video segment that was captured as we were working the newly-found pay-streak. Check out the size of those boulders!

 

Mainly, the fifth and sixth days of this Project involved non-stop filling, packing and pouring of buckets-full of pay-dirt into the high-bankers. It was hot out there in the sun, so one of the participants treated us to the use of his shade canopy where we could eat lunch or take a break. We only shut down the high-bankers once during the day to fuel the motors and do a quick clean-up of the high-grade portions of the high-bankers to get an idea how much gold we were recovering. We were doing pretty well! And we were also getting some nice gold nuggets! Everyone was pushing as hard as we could to break a production record in gold recovery. The previous high-banking record was 64 pennyweights (3.2 ounces). Going into the sixth day of this Project, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the hardest-working high-banking team I had ever been with!

The high-banker clean-ups on the fifth day were as good as we had done all week. But we spent too much time digging in the ancient gray layer which was under the orange material. That stuff was hard and slow to dig! But it sure looked rich! Because we were spending so much time in it, we decided to have several participants do some very careful pan-sampling of the gray to see how much gold was being recovered from it. This took some doing, because it required extra care to remove every bit of the orange layer (which contained a lot of gold) off the top of the gray, without allowing any gold from above to drop down into the gray and give us a false result.

By the end of the fifth day, we had determined that we would recover more gold if we just processed the layers which were above the gray. So we focused all of our energy into that on the sixth day. This paid off with the best clean-up for the week on Thursday afternoon. We were all hopeful of breaking the Club’s previous record. There were a lot of really good feelings going around as we performed the final clean-up on Thursday afternoon. Here follows some video which was captured as we finished our last day out on the river:

I have come to know the spirit of team camaraderie that a tight group of people experience together when we have done something extraordinary together. It is a great feeling which is always just a bit different from one group to the next. Being part of these groups is a humbling experience for me, and I always feel a little sadness with the realization that a group Project is nearly over. Here is what several participants were feeling as we were finishing up the week:

Each participant is invited to participate in the final clean-up steps. This is because there is a lot of work involved with separating all of the gold from all of the black (iron) sands. This usually all takes place on Friday afternoon after we have removed the Club’s mining equipment from the river. Since we were not far from Club headquarters, we decided to do the final clean-up in the back shipping area where we could be out of the sun and in a more controlled environment. The team pulled all the supplies together for a barbeque that would follow the week’s gold split.

 

Final gold clean-up and split-off is always one of the best parts of these Projects. It is a time when we can all relax a bit, knowing that we worked as hard as we were able, and everyone has an opportunity to google a bit over all the gold that we recovered together. It is a time for some light joking around and expression of friendship and shared group camaraderie; a magic feeling that is timeless at the moment you experience it.

The following video sequence captured the steps that we usually follow during a final clean-up. Background sounds in the video tell the story about how we all felt perhaps even better than the visuals! Witness the expectation and exultation that we all felt when we all realized that we actually did break the Club’s high-banking record!

 

 

 

Waving  Final gold

There were 28 members who participated in this group outing. We also had two journalists along for the adventure. One of the journalists, Steve Werblow, is a freelance writer for Homestead Magazine which is an affiliate of the John Deere Magazine. He was writing about the “New Gold Rush” and the people who it has brought out prospecting. We also had a journalist all the way from France named Camille Le Pomellec. Camille was producing a documentary on the The New Gold Rush for a television station in France which is much like our HBO. They, and all of us, were in for a treat when Dave Mack decided to demonstrate the technique of “booming” on this group mining adventure.

As usual, we met at the New 49″er office in Happy Camp on Saturday morning so that all participants had an opportunity to register for the project and pick up any necessary supplies or equipment at the Pro-Mack store. Then we headed over to the Lions Club for Dave”s talk. For those who have never had the opportunity to attend one of these talks, or an outing, I would strongly urge you to fit it into your schedule. The valuable information and hands-on experience you receive will help you immensely in all your pursuits of gold. I”m not just saying this. Having attended all or most of the outings during the past two years, I believe that everyone who participates would agree that the experience is very valuable. Dave schedules five or six of these weekend projects every season. They are free to all New 49″er members. Each person who participates receives an equal share of the gold that is recovered.

Dave”s talk (about how to locate and sample for high-grade gold) ended at around noon on Saturday. The group broke for lunch and then proceeded out to K-15A to do an afternoon of sampling. This consists of panning materials and comparing the results from numerous places along a gravel bar to figure out where the strongest line of gold is ” and at what layer within the gravel the gold is located. By following this simple process, anyone can track down a good location where you can focus productive activity and recover more gold for your effort. Whether you are panning, sluicing, high-banking or suction dredging, a simple sampling program is the key to locating the higher-grade gold deposits.

K-15A has been one of our more popular mining properties this season. I believe this is mainly because Dave has directed multiple group outings along the upper-part of the property, each time with the participants recovering substantial amounts of gold. Members can then go out on their own after the organized project is finished.

A lot of members had been out there since our last project, so we were having trouble making a strike during the first hour or so on Saturday afternoon. While everyone was recovering some amount of gold, we were not getting the results that are needed to make the gold really add up in a high-banker on the following day.

Hard-pack“ is one of the most important things Dave demonstrates during these group outings. This is compacted streambed which has been deposited by a major flood storm. Since large volumes of gold only move in a waterway during major flood storms, Dave explains that high-grade gold deposits are nearly always located either on top or at the bottom of a hard-packed layer of streambed, or in the contact zone between different layers when more than one is present. This is one of the most important points that Dave stresses during these outings. He is always saying, “You are not even in the game unless you have found some hard-pack!” It”s one thing to read about this in a book. But it is incredibly valuable when you are just getting started to actually be able to see and dig in the right kind of streambed material! Luckily, I had the video camera handy while Dave was showing newcomers this important point:

Because gold is very heavy, it tends to travel down river along concentrated paths during large flood storms. Finding one of these paths is the first step in a sampling program. Since other members had pretty-much mined-out the rich gold deposit which we located during the previous outing, it was time to establish a new one. So Dave called team-leaders, Bruce Waldie, Terry McClure and Richard Krimm together and asked if they knew of any other gold lines along the gravel bar that had previously been established through sampling.

Both Richard and Bruce suggested that we move the sampling-effort down a bit closer to the river, in line with an area where we had done very well last season. Bruce had done some sampling down there earlier this year, and he was saying that the results were pretty good. As Dave explained during his lecture earlier in the day, getting hot tips like this from other members is one of the fastest and easiest ways to locate new high-grade gold deposits. So we gathered up the participants and redirected our sampling efforts to the new area.

Teaching gold panningThere is another very important thing that Dave demonstrates during these outings. He keeps saying, “Proper sampling is a very exact process.” Since most high-grade gold deposits are located either on top or at the bottom of a compacted flood layer, it is important to be very careful to first clear any sand, loose gravel or other low-grade material from the surface that you want to test. Then, you pass the exact material that you want to test through the proper size of classification screen. This way, you end up with the most concentrated sample that you can fit in your gold pan ” the stuff that is most likely to contain gold if it is present. As Dave explained to the group on this day, preparation of a pan sample in the first place is very likely to make the difference of finding or missing a pay-streak if it is present. Here follows a video sequence showing Dave and some helpers prepare a pan-sample off the top of a layer of some hard-pack:

Several experienced prospectors were out there helping newcomers dial-in their panning technique, and the very first pans in the new location started showing some really good results. Richard Krimm came up with a pan which was actually the best Dave had seen all season. That”s when I picked up the video camera and started capturing all the excitement. Here follows a video sequence with Dave explaining what was going on:

One of the reasons Dave was so excited is because the terrain within this new location was going to allow us to feed the high-bankers using suction nozzles. This is similar to suction dredging out of the water. But Dave was quick to explain that there is a big difference between dredging and booming. The term “booming” refers to how you use the suction nozzle attachment of the high-banker up on dry land. It actually has nothing

to do with an active waterway. .

BoomingThe truth is that it takes quite a lot of effort if you just pick up the suction nozzle outside of a waterway and start sucking material with it. This is because you have to lift the full weight of the nozzle, pressure hose and suction hose ” which are all filled with water. That”s a lot of weight to manipulate around if you want to operate the suction nozzle as we would normally do when dredging under the water.

In booming, you position your high-banker in such a way that the water which is flowing off the end of your sluice box can be utilized to wash your pay-dirt to your suction nozzle. The nozzle is set in the water (that runs down from your sluice box), while all the pay-dirt is pushed or raked into the flow and is then sucked up by the nozzle and directed to the high-banker”s recovery system. For the most part in booming, the nozzle remains stationary and your effort, along with the water-flow, is used to move the right kind of material to the nozzle.

In essence, you are re-circulating the water which comes off the sluice box. As in normal high-banking, the gold is separated and drops into the various types of matting inside your sluice box. This technique, when done correctly, allows you to process more pay-dirt than you would normally be able to accomplish with a pick, shovel and some buckets. It is wet, dirty, hard work, but sooooo much fun!

bucket brigade  Feeding high-banker

Everyone was anxious to get started on Sunday morning, so the day began at around 7:30 AM. Rich Krimm, one of the team leaders on this outing, had his high-banker in motion and the buckets were already moving steadily when I arrived. Other able bodies were put to work rolling aside rocks from the areas where the booming would occur. If you can remove as many big rocks as possible from your path, it will help you to process much quicker once you begin. Bruce Waldie, Terry McClure, and Ron Beondik assembled the other two high-bankers with their suction nozzles and prepared to begin booming.

Once the areas were cleared, Dave gave everyone direction on exactly what they would be doing, how they were to do it, and where they should start. Since we had established on the previous day that the high-grade pay-dirt consisted mainly of the top one-foot of material, Dave”s main direction to everyone was to not direct material into the high-banker from more than about one foot deep. The high-bankers can only process so much material in several hours, so we want to feed it only with the best material. This would mean that our personal gold-shares would be more valuable at the end of the day. Everybody liked the sound of that!

Soon, the water was flowing, mud was flying, and people were getting down and dirty! I have never seen people working so hard and having so much fun. They could have cared less about getting wet and dirty. It was all about moving as much material as they could towards the nozzle, allowing the water to accomplish a lot of the work. There was a continuous need to move rocks out of the way as they were uncovered; those that were too big to be sucked up the nozzle. Everyone was truly enjoying the day and each other.

Here follows a video sequence with Dave demonstrating what was going on, how a high-banker works, and how to do booming:

Le Trap sluiceAt lunch time, even after over three hours of mud, sweat, lots of water and moving rocks, I could not get anyone to break for lunch. No really; they did not want to get out of the water! Finally, they decided to break in shifts so they could keep the nozzles working. Stops only occurred when the engines ran out of gas, and once when we lost a hose clamp. What a dedicated group of people (or was it just gold fever?).
When Dave gave the signal to stop you could hear, “Ah please, just 5 minutes more”, “Not yet, we just cleared this area”, “It can”t be time already”, and so on. So Dave gave them their requested 5 minutes and then the motors were shut down. The clean-up from all three of the high-bankers looked really nice as it ran through the Le Trap concentrator. We were seeing some chunky gold and several nuggets.

Gold on white paperOne of the most important things I have learned from these projects is that successful gold mining is not just about hard work. To recover a lot of gold, you have to work hard at locating and processing the right kind of streambed material. Once you locate good pay-dirt through sampling, then you have to focus your work on processing just the high-grade material. Here follows a video sequence with Dave demonstrating this most important point:

Everyone pitched in to get all the equipment put away, clean up the area and fill in the holes that we had dug. There were a couple of working faces left open for those who would be returning to continue mining on their own. By “working face,” I mean the part of an excavation which meets up with pay-dirt that has not been worked, yet. Several participants were saying that they planned to return on Monday and pick up where we left off.

Team leadersAbout 30 minutes later, we found ourselves back at the Lions Club in Happy Camp where we were able to complete the final clean-up using a Gold Extractor. This is a specially-designed final clean-up device which eliminates most of the remaining black sand from your gold.

Then, as we were pouring the clean and dried gold through the final clean-up screens, we found that 9 beautiful pieces would not go through the 10-mesh screen. Those folks, are gold nuggets! That was a record for this year and brought on several hoops and hollers, not to mention lots of smiles. All in all, our total gold added up to ¾ of an ounce. Split up amongst 28 participants, everyone received a real nice share of gold for the work we had accomplished together.

“Terry McClure and Bruce Waldie enjoying the moment”

Gold nuggetsThis was my forth outing of this season, and I am so glad that I was able to be a part of it. I have met the greatest people, had a wonderful time, and I am a little sad each time an outing participant says goodbye for awhile. I can only tell you from my experience that if you find yourself with time, please come on out and visit with us, join us on an outing, enjoy the beautiful area around us and take home some fantastic memories. You won”t be sorry you came, and you will leave with more than you came with, in more ways than one. Please contact us to make reservations in advance!

Until the next outing, happy hunting.

 

 
Dave Mack

This entire group, including myself, was comprised of 22 people. We started with 13 participants, but my two assistants (Craig Colt & Shawn Higbee) were there to help coordinate the activity. George and Heidi Hurteau contributed to a lot of the dredging activity using their own dredge. Scott Langston was already present with his personal dredge when we started, so we invited him into the group project. And a real strong member named Leif (we call him Hercules) from Sweden also jumped in to give us a hand. All in all, we used a 3-inch dredge (to start less-experienced participants), four 4-inchers, and a 5-inch dredge. It was a pretty sizable project!

Since the area was so accessible for our group, we decided to sample one of the areas along the Salmon River. We had heard that there had been some successful dredging there in the past, so we were hoping to get in on a piece of that action.

We started the week sampling the upper end of that area, just below the set of rapids. It was a good place to allow our more-experienced participants to begin the serious sampling activity, while I could start working at getting less-experienced helpers comfortably into the water.

Hercules (Leif Sollier) at work!

In supervising these group dredging projects, I am finding that my biggest personal challenge is to balance the need to get an effective sampling activity going as quickly as possible (followed by some volume production to accumulate some gold to split off at the end of the week!), while also helping less-experienced helpers get through the initial stages of panic and fear. It also takes some time and effort to groove more experienced participants into the finer points of underwater production techniques.

In the foreground, Dave Mack is giving direction to New 49’er member, Fred Zajac, who participated in this group mining project.

Total recover for the week weighed in at 2.5 ounces. Half of the weight was in nuggets!

It took me the first few days to size everyone up so that I knew how I could effectively (and safely) utilize the human resources to get some good sample holes completed. As the less-experienced helpers gained more experience, we moved them further out into the river. And it was not long before, as a team, we started to figure out where the gold is (and where it isn’t) on that portion of the Salmon River.

By the end of the 2nd day, even though we were accumulating some flood gold in our concentrates, we had pretty-much established that the area just below the rapids had been dredged before – probably back in the late 1980’s. Just about all our sample holes were finding loose cobbles and boulders (with light sand or silt around them) along the bedrock.

Since Scott Langston’s dredge was in good hard-packed streambed material about 120-yards behind us, and he was getting a pretty good showing of gold there, during the 2nd day, we broke out the new Griphoist (pretty-serious hand-operated rock winch) and invested several team mates there to get Scott’s sample hole enlarged. That proved to be a smart move, because Scott’s dredge immediately began recovering good gold (with nuggets) as we got down to bedrock through about 3 to 4 feet of material.

The success on Scott’s dredge prompted us to immediately drop all the dredges back down the river about 100 yards, and we started a whole new series of samples on the 3rd day, all which were going down into hard-packed material – meaning that no-one had been there before us with a dredge. This was good!

While we were getting pretty good gold out of each sample, by the 4th day, we established that the gold was richer towards the other side of the river (on the side away from the road). This caused us to abandon two excavations and start new ones further upstream. Early success in these holes motivated us to rig up for more serious winching on the 5th day. I have a 4-ton electric winch mounted on the back of my flatbed truck. We set my truck up

on the side of the road and double-pullied back to increase pulling power. Then, after some discussion about winching techniques, by half-way through the 5th day, participants were slinging boulders like they had been doing it for years.

Vincent Xavier, from San Diego, gives his “thumbs up” on his day’s mining experience.

Marge Strutt gives her approving smile of the day’s clean up.

By the end of the 5th day, our accumulated concentrates for the week were looking pretty good. We had pulled several gold nuggets (from small up to 2.5 dwts), and we had pulled two platinum nuggets (the larger one weighing in at 8.5 dwts!). Other than a few less-experienced dredgers that I was continuing to work with near the bank, all of the participants were taking shifts out in the deeper-water holes. We were operating four dredges in gold, and winching rocks using two winches.

I’ll say that the 5th day was one of the most hectic and stressful days I’ve had in a long time. That is a lot of action to keep track of! My main concern was that no-one got hurt. I ran and swam around non-stop trying to stay on top of everything. As it turned out, the participants had everything under control.

On the 6th day, after a short talk about safety and teamwork, we set out to work knowing that this would be the only real full production-day of the week. By this time, group-participants were doing nearly all the work like a well-seasoned crew. We had established a pay-streak through sampling. Everyone understood where the gold was coming from and how we found it. The participants set up all the winch rigging, did all the start-up routines with the dredges, worked out the dive teams, and were into production as if they had been working together for years.

I spent most of the 6th day sitting on a rock-perch calmly keeping a watchful eye over the whole program. It was quite impressive. Boulders were being winched simultaneously from both sides of the river. Four dredges pumped material non-stop, with shifts changing one person at a time. Signals were given flawlessly. And I proudly watched it all unfold, in awe that 21 people could be brought together and shaped into such a fine team in less than a week. I was also already feeling sad that just as the team was really pulling together, the project would end soon. We recovered 4 or 5 nice gold nuggets on the 6th day, the largest being 1/4-ounce. There was lots of excitement and team-pride at what we had accomplished.

Scott Langston proudly holds the week’s 2.5 ounces recovery from the dredging project.

Dave Mack and Eve Kihn take a moment from the training to smile for the camera.

I spent most of the 6th day sitting on a rock-perch calmly keeping a watchful eye over the whole program. It was quite impressive. Boulders were being winched simultaneously from both banks. Four dredges pumped material non-stop, with shifts changing one person at a time. Signals were given flawlessly. And I proudly watched it all unfold, in awe that 21 people could be brought together and shaped into such a fine team in less than a week. I was also already feeling sad that just as the team was really pulling together, the project would end soon. We recovered 4 or 5 nice gold nuggets on the 6th day, the largest being 1/4-ounce. There was lots of excitement and team-pride at what we had accomplished.

We spent the 7th day processing all the concentrates from the week, and pulling most of the dredging and winching gear off the river. Total recovery for the week weighed in at 2.5 ounces. Half of the weight was in nuggets. Group participants performed all the final clean-up steps, and we split the gold. By unanimous consent, the participants drew chances on the 10 largest nuggets. Everyone was happy with the final result. It was a good week!

Ryck Rowan, from Washington, is focused on the pointers Dave Mack is giving from his years of dredging experience.

Team members closely watch the final clean-up activities of the week’s dredging.

 

 

 

By Sandy Waldie

Taking a break Feeding Le Trap

We had 54 New 49’er members participating on this particular group gold mining project. While this was not as many people as we had on the previous weekend project , they were every bit as enthusiastic and excited as those in the earlier group.

Saturday morning started out at the Lions Club facility in Happy Camp to hear Dave Mack talk about gold, how to find it, where to look for it, its properties, and mostly about how to follow a simple sampling plan in search of rich gold deposits. Since the majority of those who attended were new to the whole mining experience, this led to many questions during the talk. As always, Dave’s presentation held everyone captivated until it was time to break for lunch.

After lunch, we all headed out to K-15A. This is one of the Club’s (many) productive mining properties. We had already done really well out there few weeks ago on a project with over 100 people. So it seemed wise to return to the same location.

Working in the shadeOnce we arrived there, Dave and his experienced helpers divided everyone into four separate groups, each with their own team leader setting the pace. Then we all launched into a carefully-coordinated sampling program.

Dave really stresses that knowing how to gold pan well is essential to an accurate sampling program. Therefore, several experienced helpers were positioned by the river exclusively to teach and critique anyone who needed help with their panning technique. When the helpers felt comfortable that everyone had a good basic understanding and sufficient practice in panning, those people were plugged into the ongoing sampling program. Pretty soon, everyone was helping to move the sampling program along. With so many people helping, there was an overwhelming sense that we were going to find something really good.

Sample panBy sampling, I mean that the team leaders were comparing the results of pan tests that were being made in numerous small holes up and down the (very large) gravel bar. Seeing where the better results were coming from, they would then ask others to do more testing in those areas; and step-by-step, they were able to follow the traces of gold into high-grade gold deposits. This is a process which is very valuable to watch play out; because it gives you first-hand knowledge and increases your confidence that you can then go out and find high-grade gold deposits on your own.

Dave Mack and the New 49’ers are very lucky to have so many experienced members that are willing to participate in these weekend outings and show others how to prospect. There must have been at least a dozen helpers out there guiding the sample program along.

Because we had already done so well here, we started sampling in the same general areas that had been worked on the previous project. Once again, long-time member and experienced prospector, Craig Colt (known around the Club as “The Nose, because some say he can smell gold) almost immediately started bringing up good results out of one area. That particular location was also an excellent place to demonstrate for beginners what hard-pack streambed is, and how to see the difference between storm layers, loose material, sand and the tailings from earlier mining activity. As Dave Mack stressed during his talk, the main key in sampling for high-grade deposits is in knowing that most gold concentrates either on the top or the bottom of hard-packed layers of streambed. Here follows an explanation on video which was given out there by very experienced prospector, Dave Beatson, from New Zealand:

Feeding the high-bankerSeveral other areas were being sampled by the other team leaders and their crews also turned up good results. By late afternoon on Saturday, we were already setting up the high-bankers so they would be ready to go on Sunday morning. We like to end off out there by around 4 pm on Saturday afternoon. This allows everyone some time to clean up and pull something together for potluck on Saturday evening. Most of us walked away at the end of the first day with smiles, with some gold in our sniffer bottles from pan-testing, and plenty of excitement about what the next day would yield from the gold deposits we had found. Some people stayed behind to keep panning, perhaps until dark!

As always, our potluck gathering at the Lions Hall on Saturday evening was lots of fun for everyone, and there was plenty of great food.

Moving rocksSunday morning, I arrived out on K-15A at 8:15 am,

early I thought, only to find over half the group already there and working hard. Almost all of 100+ buckets were already full of pay-dirt and waiting to be loaded into the high-bankers – which were already running. Boy, were things in high gear!

Long time members, Rich & Connie Krimm, were supervising one team. Also, very experienced and long time member, Lee Kracher had a second team in full production. They were working a deposit of gold side-by-side. Their groups had actually started at 7:15 am on Sunday morning. WOW, talk about enthusiasm!!

Another long time member and very experienced miner, Ray Derrick’s team was also busy working the high-grade deposit which Craig and Dave Beatson had confirmed on Saturday. Here follows a video segment with Ray’s explanation of what they were doing:

Richard's high-banker

Otto Gaither’s team was also working the same gold deposit. Here is what Otto had to say:

Between all the discussion, laughter and some moans and groans, the buckets were filled (only half full to keep the weight down), carried and loaded into the high-bankers, and then carried back empty to be filled over and over again. The weather even co-operated by being a bit hazy and keeping the sun from parboiling us.

Luckily, one of the high-grade pay-streaks we were working was under the shade of a big tree. So that’s where nearly everyone congregated when it was time to sit down for a break.

When we stopped for lunch, we all had our first look at what all the morning’s effort had produced. Clean-up was only done on one of the high-banker scalpers. Wow, we were doing pretty good! Here follows a video sequence of team leader, Richard Krimm, cleaning out the scalper-section of his high-banker:

Guys with a high-banker

Seeing all that gold in the black gold pan was more than enough to overcome our aches and pains. Some people were already up and filling buckets again even before I finished my sandwich!

We like to end off out in the field at about 2:30 pm on Sunday afternoon. This allows us plenty of time to back-fill our excavations, put up the gear and get back into town where we can do a final clean-up of the gold and split the gold evenly amongst all the participants.

After the concentrates were removed from the high-bankers, they were carefully fed through a green “Le Trap” gold sluice to remove a large portion of the black iron sands.Oohs and Aahs could be heard throughout the group that was observing the process. The gold was looking really good, and anticipation was high for the final clean-up when we returned to town.

Craig Colt cleaning up the gold extractorOnce all the holes from the digs were filled in and the debris picked up and packed out, we headed back to Happy Camp where we would complete the final clean up and split. A “Gold Extractor” was set up in the shade at the Lions Club. The purpose of this device is to separate even more of the black iron sand from the gold. Afterwards, the final concentrates were dried, and the mixture of black sand and gold was poured into some clean-up screens. These screens separated the gold into 10, 12, 20, 30 & 40-mesh sizes, which then enabled the black sand to be blown away rather easily — leaving only the gold.

We ended up with a total weight of about one ounce, along with two very nice nuggets. This was then split up between the 54 people who had participated on Sunday’s dig. There were a lot of smiles and looks of satisfaction. A lot of these people had never even mined before. Now they were receiving their first golden reward. By the looks on their faces, it would not be their last.

Final gold separation Gold on white paper

Here follows a video sequence which captured the spirit of all the fun and excitement we share together on these weekend projects:

After hugs, exchanges of phone numbers, and promises to keep in touch, everyone headed on their way. Many people were talking about how much fun they had and how much they had learned over the weekend. There were several who said they would be back for the next weekend group mining project, as well.

Final clean-up gold

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


 

 

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 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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