New 49'er Newsletter

SECOND  QUARTER, MAY 2012                                VOLUME 26, NUMBER 5

  Happy smiles Running high-banker

Successful gold mining on any scale must be accomplished in two separate steps.  The first is prospecting. We also call this sampling.”  We sample to try and find a high-grade deposit.  The idea is to not invest very much of your time into any given location until you find something that is going to pay off.  Once we find a good location through sampling, we switch gears into what we like to call “production.”  During the production phase, we try and process as much of the high-grade material as possible given our rather limited resources.

Nearly the entire focus of our Weekend Group Projects is on these two phases.  And it was no different on this particular project.  After reviewing the theory Saturday morning using a backboard demonstration, all 48 of us met after lunch out at our famous K-15A property, otherwise known as the “Mega-hole.”  While the theory is important, nothing can compare to actually doing it out along the river with experienced prospectors.

Once out on the river, the first thing we always do is provide a substantial demonstration on how to take a proper sample.  Sampling is not just about shoveling some streambed material in your pan.  You have to focus on gathering up targeted material.  Since we know that the gold on K-15A is concentrated directly on top of a special brown layer which is about a foot deep in the streambed, the best sample will be from filling our gold pan with that particular material.  We do this by first shoveling aside the material which is on top.  Once we get down to the target area, we carefully gather up the material which is in the contact zone between the two different layers.

Then we pan that material very carefully.  We need to be careful, because the sample is so small.  We cannot afford to lose a single speck of gold if we want to have an accurate look at how much gold is in the contact zone.  Sometimes a sample pan will just turn up a few specks.  Seeing those specks might prompt you to take a few more samples.  Then one of those additional samples might show a better result.  The better result might prompt you to process 25 or 50 buckets of the target material through your high-banker to see how good the area really is.  This is how high-grade deposits are found.

 Sample result Showing gold

After providing this group with a sampling and panning demonstration, we passed the pan around to show how much gold we recovered.  It was better than an average result.  Doing this provides newcomers a baseline in two important ways:

1)      They can compare how much gold they get in their own pan samples to what they saw me recover.  Then they have an idea if they are getting an acceptable result.

2)      They will be able to compare how much gold we get in our single sample pans to the amount of gold we recover when processing the same material in volume on the following day.  Tying the sample result to the production result gives a prospector judgment in what he or she is looking for during prospecting.

After seeing my result, this enthusiastic group spread out across the bar and started doing their own pan samples. Thankfully, I had eight experienced members helping me with this particular project.  While half of them were helping beginners with their panning techniques, the others set up our high-bankers for the following day. A “high-banker” is a gold recovery system which can be set up some distance from the waterway, which will process much more volume than a gold pan. This means pay-dirt does not have to be carried very far, or can actually be shoveled directly into the high-banker.

About half of the participants in this project were beginners.  So my helpers and I stayed out on the bar on Saturday afternoon until everyone out there was panning correctly.  Since many were recovering their first gold, which was theirs to keep, there were still plenty of people going hard at it when we departed.

Saturday night potluck at the Grange Hall in Happy Camp lured in most of the participants, along with plenty of other members who either live in the area or were doing their own mining programs.  There was more food to go around than we needed, and morale was very high – which always makes me happy.  We had a short meeting and ended with a prize drawing.  These weekly potlucks have been a New 49’er tradition during our busy months all the way back to our first season in 1986.

We were shifting over into a production mode on Sunday. So my helpers put their “Team Leader” hats on and split the whole bunch of people down into smaller, more efficient groups.  We started early, about 7 o’clock, so we could get most of the hard work done before the worst heat of the day was upon us.

 Connie People digging

All of the gold we recover on Sunday goes into a common bucket.  Everybody who helps will get an equal share at the end of the day.  The production focus on Sunday switches to volume of the target material.  We want to fill buckets with as much pay-dirt as we can, and process it through the high-bankers.  Having said this, there are three important points that we stress:

1)      Processing volume is most-effectively accomplished by reaching way out and dragging a bunch of material into the hole.  We call this a “top cut.”  Once in the hole, it is easy to remove oversized rocks from the loose material and shovel the remainder into buckets. Then we do the same thing again with a “mid cut.” The wider you are making the top cut, the easier it is to take apart the puzzle of rocks that are wedged together.  This method is much faster than just working one rock loose at a time, a practice we refer to as “nitpicking.” Here are some demonstrations from me of how to use a hand-pick to get optimum results:


 Richard, 2 buckets Three guys

2)      It is important to not fill the buckets with low-grade material.  By this, I mean loose sand or gravel on the surface seldom have enough gold to justify being processed through a high-banker.  But because beginners want to feel productive, sometimes we really have to impress upon them to stop filling buckets with non-producing material.  Since we will be feeding the high-bankers at full capacity, every bucket of worthless material will subtract from a bucket of pay-dirt.  This will directly affect how much gold we will recover at the end of the day.  The same principle applies to the material which is below the contact zone.  The amount of gold we will recover is directly related to how much of the target material that we process. Here is Ray Derrick’s explanation of the way we like to do it:

Feeding high-banker

3)      To get the most out of a high-banker recovery system, you must supply it with a steady feed.  Dumping a whole bucket in there at once will overwhelm the system, and some of your gold will wash right out into the tailings.  You can tell where maximum capacity is by watching to make sure the riffles do not get overwhelmed and pack up. Here follows Richard Krimm’s explanation of the proper way to feed a recovery system:

We normally do not break for lunch on Sunday.  It is understood that everyone will take breaks whenever they need them.  Otherwise, we just try to keep the high-bankers running.  When they run out of fuel, it gives us an opportunity to clean out a front portion of the recovery system from one of the high-bankers.  We work this down in a pan and show the gold around to all the participants.  This goes a long way to convince everyone that their effort is adding up to something good.  It also always motivates another 150 or 200 buckets of pay-dirt after we refuel.  The following video segment captured the mid-day look at how we were doing:

Pan of goldIt starts getting pretty hot out on the bar by about noon.  So that’s normally about the time we are shutting things down and going into our final clean-up stages.  By clean-up,” I mean removing the gold and other heavy concentrated material, mostly iron, from the recovery system, and going through a step-by-step process to reduce it all the way down to just the gold.  We begin this process out on the bar; but the final part, and the gold split is completed in Happy Camp.

The main purpose of these Weekend Projects is to expose our members to all of the essential parts of a successful small-scale gold mining program.  It begins with sampling. Then it switches to production. And then we go through the final clean-up, separation, weighing and gold split.  All participants are invited to participate in every step.

In all, we recovered 285.5 grains of beautiful gold. That’s about 6/10ths of an ounce, or about $1000 at today’s gold value.  Not too bad for less than four hours of production work.  There were also 23 natural gold nuggets.  There were a lot of smiling faces as we split the gold evenly amongst the participants.

Final gold

High-banking in California this Season

While Oregon is more user-friendly towards suction dredging; our best high-banking opportunities remain along our extensive properties on the Klamath River in northern California.  Therefore, Our Weekend Group Mining Projects will take place during 2012 near our headquarters in Happy Camp.  They are scheduled as follows: June 2 & 3; June 23 & 24; July 14 & 15; August 4 & 5; August 25 & 26. These events are free to all active Members, and everyone is invited to attend.  Please contact our office in advance to let us know you will be there: (530) 493-2012.

New Legal Fund Prize Drawing

On behalf of The New 49’ers and some individual members, our attorney filed a legal challenge to California’s new dredge regulations last month in concert with a “takings” claim against the State of California. If we cannot overcome the incredibly-restrictive regulations, then we will force the State to buy all of the mining properties which have been rendered valueless. Defending the rights of small-scale miners, this now places us in three separate litigations, in three separate jurisdictions. Since costs are mounting, we greatly appreciate your participation in our legal fund drawings!! 

Gold Eagle Coins

We will be giving away 15 prizes in our new legal-fund raiser:

Grand Prize: 1-ounce American Gold Eagle
Four ¼-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1/10th-ounce American Gold Eagles

The drawing will take place at our weekly potluck in Happy Camp on Saturday, 7 July (2012).

The girls in our office automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution that we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets, etc).  There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win. Contributions can be called in to our office at (530) 493-2012, or they can be mailed to The New 49’ers, P.O. Box47, Happy Camp, CA 96039.  Or you can do it on our web site by going here:  Make a Donation

2012 Group Insurance Policy

All Members are eligible to sign up for $10,000 of accidental medical Insurance which covers you while camping, prospecting for gold, and also during any activities which we sponsor. Dental accidents are included, along with $2,500 for accidental death or dismemberment.  The policy has a $100 deductable.  It is an annual policy which extends through January of 2013.  This insurance is available for $30 per year, per person. More information can be found here.

Sign up for the Free Internet Version of this Newsletter: We strongly encourage you to sign up for the free on line version of this newsletter.  The Internet version is better, because you can immediately click directly to many of the subjects which we discuss; because the on line version is in full color; because we link you directly to locations through GPS and Google Earth technology; and because you can watch the free video segments which we incorporate into our stories.


The New 49’ers Prospecting Association, 27 Davis Road, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012




We expected an information-packed, tiring weekend. Even as we planned our trip and packed the car, however, my wife Robin and I never imagined how enjoyable it would be to attend a New 49’ers mining project. Each summer, Dave McCracken of the New 49’ers holds an assortment of weekend Group Mining Projects and group-participation operations covering different aspects of gold prospecting and gold mining. As weekend prospectors ourselves, we were nonetheless delighted to be able to visit Happy Camp, California this past summer.

While witnessing firsthand the exceptional benefits of becoming a member of the New 49’ers, we also experienced the enduring peace and beauty of the Klamath River. From its origins in Oregon, the Klamath runs some forty-odd miles south into California then turns west to meander its way to the Pacific Ocean. With the morning sun rising behind us, we entered the river valley. Tendrils of mist rose from the water as we followed the twists and turns of the Klamath past steelhead river resorts, picturesque flood plain meadows, and finally into Happy Camp itself.

Arriving in Happy Camp at 6:30 a.m. Friday morning, we ate breakfast in an antiquated coffee shop we discovered on Highway 96. The menu cover sported a picture of the 1964 floodwaters covering the streets and lapping at their front door. After 10 hours in the car, we really appreciated the substantial and hearty food and the friendly and talkative locals. Breakfast over, we still had time to spend. Since the New 49’ers main showroom would not open until 9:00 a.m., we took the opportunity to scout the town. Happy Camp itself is picturesque as only a historic mining and lumber town can be in the forested wilds of northern California’s coastal mountains. We found the small library tucked along a side street, a grammar school that looked to date back to the heydays of the local logging industry, and the shell of a long unused barn flanked by neatly kept newer homes. Besides the local population and tourists in town for steelhead fishing, we couldn’t miss seeing dozens of Club members camped in Club-managed primitive campsites right along the banks of the Klamath.

At 9:00 a.m. sharp we pulled up to the New 49’ers’ headquarters. The building was easy to locate, being immediately next to the post office. Kay Tabbert greeted us with a warm smile and was first to say hello as we entered a showroom filled with rows of mining equipment, (from full scale dredges to pans, and everything in-between). Glass cases held gold nuggets, nugget jewelry, and historic mining displays. Along one row we found a collection of historical Gold & Treasure Hunter magazines on display and for sale. The Club’s headquarters also include a small viewing room with a library of Dave McCracken’s and other prospecting videos that both educate and show the successes of others mining the Club’s claims along the Klamath and feeder creeks. Within minutes we found ourselves speaking with none other than Dave McCracken and Bill Stumpf themselves. We were quickly taken under wing by Bill and started on our New 49’ers weekend seminar adventure.

Bill’s tour of the campsites and gold claims took about an hour and a half. While Robin set up camp, Bill guided me to numerous sites along the river under Club claim. Several places in close proximity to the Club’s claims have chemical toilets and campsites worked into the rugged brush and rocks that form the river bank. More developed campsites, with tables and river rock barbecues, are provided by the U. S. Forest Service. If you have the advantage of a camper, camp trailer or motor home, you’ll probably prefer the convenience of camping on the claims themselves. We did do more driving back and forth during our stay because we chose a forest service camp ten miles upriver from Happy Camp.

As we toured the river’s course and mining claims held by the Club, Bill offered a historical perspective of local mining, showing me places where the old-timers used hydraulic mining methods. While this type of mining was stopped in the early 1900’s in the Sierra Nevada, it was allowed to continue along the Klamath until the 1930’s. The hydraulic mining sites appear to be a major source of “new” gold getting itself washed into the river. Gold in rich abundance has been and is presently being found. As much as 100 flakes of gold found in a single pan is being reported at the Club’s newest claim. The particular area of that find is difficult to reach and the claim opened only recently, but it makes a dramatic point. It is quite possible to find large amounts of gold in New 49’ers Club claims.

Saturday morning found Robin and me attending Dave McCracken’s seminar on gold mining. Dave opened with a brief glimpse of his personal history, when and why he began the Club and some of the difficulties he encountered and had to overcome to make the New 49’ers the success it is today. After the background information, he got into the true pay dirt of the seminar. Dave is an engaging speaker. We listened closely as he went into great detail about how to determine likely locations for finding gold in a streambed based on past and present water flow (important information for the beginning miner). Robin was particularly taken with Dave McCracken’s extensive knowledge. We live in the Sierra Nevada gold country ourselves and speak to other miners every chance we get. Where Dave’s information differed from that of our own local miners on the Fresno River, his simply made more common sense to my wife. We couldn’t help listening intently as this man of many years experience explained the basics of gold mining in a most informative and enjoyable way.

With an abundance of new knowledge crammed into our heads, the seminar attendees separated for lunch and then regrouped at the New 49’ers office in Happy Camp. We traveled in caravan to a Club claim on the Klamath known as Savage Rapids. Many pounds (yes pounds) of gold have been taken from Savage Rapids over the years. While at one time it was said to have been worked out, I personally talked to one miner who had an impressive show of gold for only seven hours of dredging. Once again the point was driven home: The Klamath and its feeder creeks still have undiscovered pay dirt waiting to be found.

As a group, the seminar’s participants clambered into Dave’s boat and crossed the rushing waters of the river. First Dave pointed out earlier prospecting sites. Then he scooped up a pan full of exposed riverbed, demonstrating his own panning techniques. After that we scattered out along a couple hundred feet of river bank, each of us prospecting for the best location to do some motorized sluicing the next day. We labored under a hot sun, dripping with effort until late afternoon. Dave watched over our shoulders and gave pointers. By the end of the day a spot was located where as many as five flakes of gold were found in each of several pans.

After we all got a chance to sample the site, we broke for the afternoon and rowed back across the river. The next morning we would set up surface sluicing equipment to work the day’s find. Saturday evening is New 49’ers potluck night. With Club members spread out along miles and miles of river, we were surprised at how many gathered for the evening’s social event. The company of so many gold prospecting couples and families was rousing. People had traveled from all corners of the country. Robin was so impressed that she slipped out to the parking lot with a pad of paper and pen in hand. The license plates of the vehicles parked in front of the hall told the story; Rhode Island, Nevada, Minnesota, Florida, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Ohio. Once again we were struck by the friendliness of the New 49’ers. However long a drive had brought them to Happy Camp, California, each person I talked to showed as much interest in my finding gold as they had excitement in their own success. To top off the enjoyable evening, the Club raffled off mining videos, T-shirts and books, the proceeds to be donated to the local community as a gesture of goodwill.

At about 9:00 o’clock Sunday morning we reassembled at the river crossing and worked diligently for roughly six hours, pouring bucket after bucket of gold-producing material through the surface sluicing equipment. With expectations high, we watched as Dave used a concentrator to separate black sand from the gold. In that relatively short period of time we retrieved nearly half an ounce of gold from the Klamath River bank.Back at the showroom again, Dave showed us how to clean the gold of impurities. After weighing out the gold and splitting it equally among those of us who had worked under a hot summer sun to mine it, each of us was given our portion of the gold in a glass vial to show off our share. Robin and I couldn’t stay nearly as long as we wished. If not for the call of responsibilities at home, we could have easily agreed to spend the remainder of our lives in this idyllic setting among friendly New 49’ers.

The drive out of the Klamath River Valley in full daylight did show us much of the extent of the Club’s holdings. All along the riverside were claim signs tacked to trees designating the upper and lower ends of Club-held claims. All of the Club claims are open to Club members. My wife and I can’t help thinking what a boon these claims represent. At a time when many previously gold-bearing sites around California and the rest of the country have been “panned out,” the New 49’ers Club has claims still producing gold. In some of the locations there have been large parties of miners working for some time. Other areas along the Klamath and its feeder creeks have only been touched, just enough to know that gold does exist there. New strikes and new claims are constantly being opened. There is no doubt that New 49’er claims have many years of productive gold mining left in them.

At our next opportunity, Robin and I will be joining other excited New 49’ers searching for the only known remedy for gold fever. Hope we meet you there!


By Jude Colleen Kendrick

“Ever have a prospecting trip where everything went wrong?”


Image 1Three months of planning, over a thousand miles of traveling, anticipation of gold pans shining with stringers of gold — then, almost everything went wrong!

It had been quite a while since I had taken a 12-day prospecting trip. I am tied to work obligations, as most of us are; and it is rare to have an opportunity to escape and do what I love for that length of time.

The plans began several months ago, when my prospecting partner, Gail Butler, and I were invited on a nugget-shooting hunt. Two friends of Gail’s, Marc Davis and W.R.C. Shedenheim, of Rock and Gem Magazine, had researched the old dredge tailings near Sacramento, and had asked us to join them this past October for a group hunt.

Gail and I decided we would “dig our way” up from Los Angeles and do a little bit of high-banking on the Stanislaus River, near Columbia, before heading up to Sacramento.

Image 2The trip to Columbia was uneventful; but it was a very, very long drive. We finally arrived at the road which would lead us down to the river. As we descended, we saw ahead of us large billowing clouds of smoke coming over the mountain ridge. We could not believe that we had driven all this way and the mountain was on fire! This was not a canyon that you would want to get trapped in. As we watched the smoke increasing and nervously viewed a bomber plane flying overhead, a truck was approaching us, coming out of the canyon. We waved the man down and asked if he knew what was happening. He replied that it was just a controlled burn — we were extremely relieved. That relief quickly disappeared when the man left us with the statement “But those burns don’t always remain controlled.” What a comforting thought! We decided to go down anyway, finally finding a clearing near the river which looked great for camping and high-banking.

Opening the back window of my truck shell was like releasing the top of a Jack-in-the-Box. I had decided not to take my tent trailer, because we had planned, on the return trip home, to do a little gold prospecting in an area above Death Valley. The roads there are not very kind to tent trailers. So, my truck was packed with every camping item you could imagine, along with high-bankers, sluices, metal detectors and all our personal belongings. Once I removed the much-needed bungee cord, out popped everything.

The first sign of bad luck hit us just after setting up camp. With the truck now empty, I discovered that I had forgotten most of my clothes. Ten minutes later, when I attempted to take a picture of camp, I found that my camera was broken. I joked with Gail about “What else could go wrong?” The answer came the following morning. We woke up to an pretty substantial rain storm. Gail’s hat was floating around in a pool of water that was on the floor of the tent. I had owned this tent for years; but it had never been rained on before. The ceiling wasn’t leaking, but the side-seams certainly were! Everything on the floor was soaked. Everything outside — the stove, the lanterns, and supplies — was soaked. This was not fun!

Within an hour or so, the rain finally let up enough for us to head for the river and start high-banking. After setting up all the equipment, I proceeded to crank-up the engine and guess what? It would not start! The engine had not gotten wet and it had never, ever acted like this before. After about 45 minutes, I finally got it to turnover.

The rain continued on and off for four days. I don’t recall that we were ever reallydry. We found one nice nugget, but it was very difficult trying to shovel mud into the high-banker.

About two days into this wonderful trip, we met two other prospectors who were camped downstream from us. Larry and “‘Half-Bucket,” as he called himself (because he only moved a half bucket of dirt a day), kind of felt sorry for us and thought it would be nice to cook us a dinner. They had RV’s, so they did not have to cook under a tarp.

Gail and I are not in the habit of accepting invitations from strangers, but these gentlemen were gentlemen, and we felt it was all right to go for a dry meal. At dinner, Larry brought out some Irish Crème that he had made himself. Neither Gail nor I are really drinkers, but it sounded like a great idea on this cold and rainy night.

After drinking about a quarter-Dixie cup full, I realized something was very strange. I could not feel my legs! I was told later that I was walking and stepping as if I was trying to walk up steps — but there were no steps! I finally asked Larry how he made his Irish Crème, and he confessed that in place of whiskey, he used 190-proof moonshine that was being made by some hardrock miner down the road. I am not sure how Gail felt, but I felt as though I was under anesthesia for the next two days.
On the fifth day, our day of departure, we woke to rain again.

Have you ever tried to pack-up a six-person tent that is soaking wet? Not easy! We barely had enough dry clothes to wear for the trip up to Sacramento. I could not wait to get to the hotel. When: we arrived there, we immediately found a Laundromat to wash all of our “mud clothes.” Can you imagine looking so bad that people in a Laundromat were staring at you? And these people were campers as well!

After a night of rest in dry beds, Gail and I connected with Marc and W.R.C. for our first day of nugget shooting. Rain was again threatening, but we all figured we would go for it anyway. Marc had gone to great lengths to secure permission to detect the old bucket-line dredge tailings that were located on private property. But at the first site, after gearing up and getting started, we were asked to leave. Apparently, several owners were involved, and the two owners who had granted permission to Marc had not told the third owner of their actions.

On the second day, after arriving at an area that we could hunt, we found an incredible valley that went on for miles, covered totally with old bucket-line dredge tailings. Again, the weather was threatening; but the landscape was so beautiful, you could almost forget about the impending storm.

Most of the tailing piles were over 10-to 15-feet high and covered with various sizes of river rock. About mid-day, as I attempted to climb one of these, I lost my balance and fell forward, head first, and then down on my stomach. Down the tailing pile, I slid as if my body were a sled on a snow hill. When I finally hit bottom, as I lay there, I was looking around to see if any of the group had seen me exhibit this graceful attempt at metal detecting. I was a bit banged up, but nothing serious. We found no gold; but it certainly was not because we didn’t try.

On the last day, heading back to the hotel, it started to hail and I wondered — when were the locusts coming?

Gail and I decided on that last evening that we had better go back to Los Angeles for a couple of days, dry everything out, and then proceed on to the area above Death Valley. We re-mapped so that we could return on Highway 395, and I could drop Gail off in Upland.

Well — the curse was obviously not through with us! Just about eight miles out of the town of Mojave, we smelled something burning in the truck, and snap went the fan belt! There we were on a stretch of Highway 14 right between two high mountain peaks.

I mention that because, of course, my CB radio was worthless to me in the canyon. It was very windy and cold, and I was out making hand signals to the drivers of the big rigs to call for help. I am not sure how this looked; because some of them looked at me like I was crazy. I was crazy!
Finally, we saw a California Highway Patrol (CHP) car on the opposite side of the highway. He looked over at us, got off the freeway, came back on our side and drove right past us! We could hardly believe our eyes.

To make a long story short, a Deputy Sheriff finally stopped and called for a tow truck. He was kind enough to stay with us until the truck arrived. During the wait, CHP and other Sheriffs then stopped to see what was going on. It looked like a crime scene!

After a couple of hours in Mojave, and an unwanted repair bill, we finally headed back home. I enjoyed every minute of my two-day “drying out” time at home. The second leg of the trip would only be an overnighter, so at least I didn’t have to pack very much.

I picked Gail up and we were off to an area in the Clark Mountains above Death Valley. We had planned to go to an old abandoned mining camp that Gail had found and written about a few years earlier. This camp had been deserted for over 40 years; but when we got there, the old buildings had been replaced with new ones and the old mining equipment replaced with a new backhoe and trucks. There were “NO TRESPASSING” signs everywhere. We had just driven six hours to do some metal detecting at this place!.

We do not give up very easily, so down the road we went to investigate some other old mining areas. Darkness came quickly, and we had to find a place to camp for the night. After settling behind a large knoll, we emptied the truck only to find that the lantern had no mantles and the flashlight batteries were dead! We had not brought spares of either item. Can you believe that?

We left early the next morning for home. This was the last leg of our 12-day trip; and although we had our share of bad luck, we did have some good times, as well. That was, until while driving home on Highway 395, just five miles out of Kramer Junction, the clutch on my truck decided that it would quit working. This was just to show us that we were not yet done with our “trip from Hell!”
So remember O’Reilly’s Law, Murphy was definitely an optimist!

But don’t ever give up! My next trip, and all of our trips, will always bring a moment of joy that only we prospectors and treasure hunters understand. Good Luck!!




I’m not exactly certain just when my dream of gold mining began, but last year I said to my wife, “prospecting for gold is something I’ve always wanted to do. I don’t know how or where and have no idea who to contact to find out. If that opportunity ever knocks, I will definitely open the door.”

Just one week later, while going through the mail I noticed an article in the latest issue of Reader’s Digest, “Is There Gold In Your Backyard?” It mentioned a place called Gold n’ Gems Grubbin in Cleveland, Georgia; a working mine where you can actually pan and sluice for placer gold and gem stones. One quick look at my wife for approval and within minutes I was talking to Susan Devan at the G & G.

I explained that I knew absolutely nothing about gold mining from bedrock up, but that I wanted to visit the mine and find out. I asked if she could recommend a source of information regarding mining and gold recovery. She suggested that I read a book called “Gold Mining in the 20th Century” by Dave McCracken. She said the book would explain everything I ever wanted to know about small-scale gold recovery from panning to dredging. The book arrived within days, and I read it at least a dozen times.

In September I packed my truck and headed for Cleveland, Georgia. I was going to learn how to pan and find some gold. The spark had suddenly burst into flames.After I returned from Georgia, I placed a call to Dave Mack in Happy Camp to thank him for writing his book (one of many), and helping me to get started on my new adventure. I subscribed to “Gold and Treasure Hunter” magazine and read all about the New 49’ers. Then I ordered Dave’s video about prospecting along the Klamath River. However, that was 2,500 miles away. But the flames had spread like wildfire. I was ready to go it on my own, somewhere, and a chance to relive a part of the past with a pick, a pan and a shovel.

Then I remembered what Dave Mack had said at the end of his video-“Why not take a couple of extra days and come to Happy Camp. We have miles of proven claims, experienced instructors and no questions regarding property rights, just miners helping miners and …gold.” So, in April, after several months of planning, I started my trek from Louisiana to Happy Camp, California.

Soon after I arrived, New 49’er representative Bill Stumpf helped me set up a motorized sluice to use on a New 49’er claim. I couldn’t have done it without his help. As we set up the equipment, he explained the procedure step by step and the importance of settling dirty water up out of the active waterway. Then we washed a couple of sample buckets just for practice. Although Bill covered all aspects of using a motorized sluice, I must admit that I really didn’t get into that until later in my trip. I’d been panning, trying my luck at crevicing and working moss, and stocking up on material to take home. Maybe I was just reluctant to try motorized sluicing on my own.

Finally, I made up my mind to give the sluice my best shot. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And after all, I didn’t drive 2,500 miles just to collect dirt and scrape moss off a rock. I dug and filled my containers with about 20 gallons of material out of surface gravels up out of the water, and set up the sluice near the river, connected the hoses, anchored the intake line, primed the pump and cranked the engine just like Bill had instructed…and cranked… and cranked… for nearly an hour. The engine wouldn’t start. I thought maybe I had flooded it. Needless to say, I was glad no one was within earshot. I got so frustrated that I decided to find me a big, flat river rock, put on my clown nose and sit it down for a while to try to regain my sense of humor.

After I calmed down I walked back to try again and just happened to glance down at the side of the engine where the switch is located and realized that, like any engine, if you want it to start…YOU HAVE TO TURN THE SWITCH ON…like Bill had instructed. After that I managed to find considerable color the remainder of the day.

The next day, because the sluice was situated in such a rocky area, I decided to make it a little easier on myself and took the time to move it about 50 yards down river where I could maneuver without tripping over every Tom, Dick and river rock. After stockpiling another 20 gallons of material, I secured the engine, connected the hoses and anchored the intake line. That’s when I noticed the clear tubing had come loose from the priming pump. No problem. I reconnected it.

Then I pumped… and I pumped…and I pumped; and then started looking again for that same river rock. I must admit that I nearly lost it for good that time. Suddenly, it dawned on me…there are two connections that look identical near the pump handle. Maybe, just maybe, I had connected the tubing to the wrong one. So I changed it, and first pull on the pump…PRIMED! Cranked the engine…STARTED!

Then, can you believe this-the initial force of water going through the hose caused the elevated sluice box to tip over. I’d placed it so it would flow into a settling area and didn’t have it leveled. Now let’s go through this one mo’ time. Turn off the pump, run up the hill, upright the sluice, run back down the hill, check the prime, crank the engine…After that, all worked well.

By late afternoon I was into some serious sampling on the down river side of a large tree in the tree line. Remembering what I’d read in Dave’s book, that rocks sometimes act like riffles, I washed several pans and did get some nice color. Problem: I was 75 yards down river of the motorized sluice, and it was getting late. I decided that come first light I’d move it all, one more time.

I prayed a little on the way to my worksite next morning. “Lord, I only have three more days of vacation left. I have lifted, carried, pumped, primed and cranked until I’m about worn out getting ready to get worn out. Please, let it all go right.” I moved the rig, dug a few containers of surface gravel, connected, anchored, primed and cranked-AND IT ALL WORKED! How sweet it was. He must have been listening. I turned to and was diggin’ like a Siskiyou mole when I heard somebody yell, “You’re diggin’ in the wrong place!” Say what? Whoever it was, they were pushing their bodily well-being at this point.

It was Chuck Tabbert, a New 49’er member, who’d been laid up with a bad back, easin’ down the trail road, bad back and all. He introduced himself and said he wanted to meet me before I left Happy Camp. I said, “I’m sure glad you have a smile on your face, but what do you mean I’m digging in the wrong place? This is where I thought I was suppose to dig…out of the surface gravels and down towards the bedrock.” Chuck said, “That’s right. Gold is down on bedrock. But where you’re digging it’ll take you a month to get down there. You’re too high on the bank. Why not move closer to the river? Just below the flood gold stage, about in line with that tree, right there. All you’re going to find where you’re digging is seed gold from the spring flood-pinhead size pieces.” I must admit it did make a whole lot of sense because that’s exactly what I was finding. Chuck said, “Move down by that big tree, the one with the big rocks jammed against it.” Wouldn’t you just know it, that was the same place, same tree, where I was the day before.

Chuck said, “Get me your shovel.” I said, “Are you crazy, with that bad back?” He said, “Just get me your shovel and I’ll teach you something, real quick.” He took the shovel, walked to a sandy area near that tree and started “chunkin” the shovel into the sand like a probe. I said, “I thought you couldn’t find gold in river sand.” He said, “You probably won’t, but watch this.” Chunk, chunk, chunk…CHANG! Chang, chang, chang. “Hear that? That’s bedrock. About 6 inches under this sand. That’s where you’ll find larger gold. Clear off an area where you can work on top of this bedrock and dig along there. Look for those small, coin-sized river rocks and stay on bedrock.”

Just as in Dave’s book, Chuck explained the importance of getting to know the area where you are going to work being able to recognize tree lines caused by mineralization; how gold travels in a line; taking the time to sample; being familiar with your equipment (I had too steep an angle on the sluice box) and above all, remember the AU rule: “Gold is always in the bottom of your pan and on top of bedrock”. Chuck departed and I, with an abundance of renewed self-confidence, went back to work.

Just before the sun went down, with the body starting to stiffen from getting up and down, and from carrying containers to the sluice (makes one appreciate what the old timers must have had to endure), I cleaned the sluice, took my concentrates down to the river and began to pan down.

That’s when it all came together-Dave’s concept of miners helping miners. Thanks to the book, Bill’s seminar on setup and sluicing procedures and Chuck’s on-site instructions and suggestions, I managed to recover not only nice flakes but also the nicest string of fine gold that I had found around the back of my pan since I’d arrived in Happy Camp.

I don’t have to tell you that I was up Friday morning at the crack of dawn with only two days to go. I loaded my gear and provisions and was ready to go the whole nine yards right after I stopped at the prospecting store in Happy Camp. I knew that I wouldn’t see the staff on Saturday and wanted to personally express my appreciation for the first-class treatment I received. Then, I headed upriver.

Friday and Saturday went as smooth as worn bedrock. I managed to wash about 60 gallons of material altogether. Every evening I sniffed some of the nicer pieces of gold out of my pan and put them in my sample bottle. I brought the remainder of the black sand home for final clean-up. I’m still sniffing out the gold…one teaspoon of black sand at a time.

Nice part about my last day was that Chuck and Kay Tabbert brought their picnic lunch and came down to moss and crevice near the area where I was working.

I finally had to give it up about 3 p.m. Except for dredging in the river (due to very high water) I had done it all and enjoyed every bit of it, especially motorized sluicing.

Then it was back to the Angler’s Motel to finish packing for the long trip home. I took some time to relax and visit with the owner of the motel, a most gracious and pleasant hostess. Accommodations at the Angler were just right-not too little, not too much. Just enough country to be comfortable.

Leaving Happy Camp and all it has to offer-the sunrise on that snowcapped mountain as I headed upriver each morning; the blacktail deer and gray squirrels along the highway; that breathtaking valley view along the way before crossing the bridge at Thompson’s Creek; the solitude of experiencing my first morning along the river watching an eagle glide silently down river; Canadian geese honking their way upriver; the young king snake I disturbed when I lifted the rock under which he was sleeping, and quickly replaced (along with a few more); an osprey diving from atop a dead fir tree into the river to catch a fish, and more species of wild ducks and songbirds than I’ve ever seen in one place before-and even a potpourri of lizards engaged in their territorial disputes along the streambank.

Add to that the apple blossoms, the lilacs, and the dogwood in spring bloom; the bluebird flitting about in the tree outside my motel kitchen window; or, just sitting on the patio at the end of the day watching the sunset over the Siskiyou Mountains; savoring the peace and contentment-no, leaving Happy Camp wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life. But thanks to Dave, all the New 49’er staff, and especially my wife, I had lived my dream.

The first question I get asked about my trip: “Did you find a lot of gold?” Well, that depends on what you call a lot. “Did you find the big one?” That depends on what you call big. “Did you have a good time?” Now there’s something you can take to the bank! It was without a doubt the most exciting outdoor adventure I have ever experienced in my life. Long haul, yes. Physically tiring, yes. Worth the effort, you better believe it! And yes, I found some flakes and a lot of fine gold, some color in every pan. But what I found most were more important things than you will never find until you visit one of God’s very special places- Happy Camp, California.

As for the dream…it’s still burning bright as ever…and probably always will. But somehow I managed to bring it under control and my dream became what I wanted it to be…a reality.



Who would have thought that only a few short months ago I would be paddling across the Klamath River in my own little rubber raft to my sluicing and dredging operation. Particularly since when my husband, Little Tony, first presented me with, “Let’s go for the gold,” I thought he had completely gone off the deep end!

He tried to indoctrinate me by placing treasure and gold mining magazines on my night stand; the stack getting so high I couldn’t see the alarm clock, which needed to be set to make sure I got up in time to go to work. Being the curious, adventuresome person I am, Tony didn’t have to do too much fast-talking to get me to agree to give it a try. My feelings were that I could always go home.

Of course, my family, friends and co-workers gave me some strange looks, and I knew they were whispering behind my back that perhaps I was only temporarily mad for quitting my two jobs to go off in the wilderness with my crazy husband to look for gold. After all, everyone knows the gold is all gone; the miners took it all in the early “Gold Rush Days.”

We quickly prepared for our adventure, shopping for what looked liked a year’s provisions. Three of our sons, Tim 18, Ron 16, and Robert 13 and family pets Willy, Muffin and Treasure, were all packed. The caravan was ready to go.


Shortly after our arrival into Gold Country, I was anxious and full of enthusiasm, ready to learn what I needed to know about gold mining, which prompted me to enroll in a Gold Dredging Workshop”, being put on by Dave McCracken, founder of The New 49’ers Prospecting Group.

I must say, I quickly met head on with my first challenge. Half way through the training program, we were to have lessons in diving underwater in the river. After a short 15 minute deep water dredging lesson with mask, regulator, wet suit and 65 pounds of lead weights strapped around my waist, I bravely descended into the river following my leader into the 14-foot dredging hole. Within minutes, I knew I was out of my element. I couldn’t breathe as my face mask and regulator filled with water. Forgetting all my topside instruction, weights and all, I headed for the water’s surface, as I knew I was going to drown. Luckily, the training program included capable helpers who were right there to help me out. Nothing short of a fist fight would have gotten me back down into that hole! Thus ending my career as a deep water dredger. However, Dave did tell me I was very brave. That made me feel a little better.

Now, you have to understand, I have always preferred being a participant rather than a spectator. There was no way I was going to spend the entire summer on the riverbank safely reading the many treasure magazines that somehow seemed to have found a place in the camper conveniently on my side of the bed.

A few days after my underwater experience, there was a rumor in camp that “Highbanker Bob” might have his successful sluicing & dredging equipment for sale. Thus began my friendship with Bob and my love affair with the Klamath River and surface sluicing.

No longer caring what time it is, as that seems so unimportant here on the river, I fill my thermos, fix a lunch, hop into my swim suit, shorts, and soggy tennies, still wet from the day before. After asking my partners Willy and Muffin (whose percentage is what a dog’s should be), “Are you ready to go to work?” with a wag of their tails and barks, they agree it is time to leave.

We head up the road to the “Mega Hole“, where the river and raft are patiently waiting for us. Forgetting all troubles and worldly affairs, I quickly prepare to make the raft trip across the river. Donning my wet suit top and stowing a gas can, my trusty bag that holds lunch, treasures and supplies, then telling my partners to jump into the bow of the raft, with a little shove, I quickly jump in the stern and we’re off! Forgetting my past fears of the river, I begin to paddle slightly up stream so the current can help bring us to our cross-river destination.

Upon arriving, I eagerly prepare for the day’s work, anxious to know what treasures lie hidden beneath the rocks and dirt, hoping to recover a few. Not being a mechanic, I am very thankful when the engine to my portable water pump starts with the first pull of the cord. I welcome the purr of the engine, as it is pumping the water through the maze of hoses to my sluice box.

Sometimes, I shovel dirt into the sluice box. But I usually prefer the dredging method, allowing more material to wash through the sluice box. This is where the water pump powers a small dredging unit that I use in shallow pools of water up on the stream bank. The material I dredge is directed through a hose into the sluice box.

More often than not, I find myself daydreaming, enjoying the sun’s rays on my body, not caring that I have mountains of rocks to move, many of which find their way into my pockets.

I Often have to remind my partners they are not doing their share of the work. They are too busy chasing toads and dragonflies, and occasionally startling a rattlesnake, one of which bit Willy on his muzzle and chest. Fortunately on that day, Ron and Robert were helping me. They killed the rattler with my mining shovels, Robert proudly showing his trophy of nine buttons. I bravely buried the snake’s head and body in separate holes, as I was told this was the proper thing to do.

Needless to say, I thought this would end my friendship with Willy and his mining career. However, being the macho poodle he is, he survived the bite and has gained the respect of his fellow miners. This was a good lesson, as he is now more cautious, watching carefully for any movement, often letting me know of any other snake’s presence.

Occasionally, a nosey bear comes wandering out of the woods, only to make a hasty retreat with Willy and Muffin in close pursuit.

Judging from the sinking sun and my sore aching body, I realize it is time to clean up the sluice and get a closer look at the gold I recovered. For me, this is the highlight of the day. I carefully pan the concentrates, soon revealing my finds for the day, hoping that perhaps today I will top my all-time high of 83 beautiful flakes of gold. The greatest thrill was finding not one, but two, nice gold nuggets in one day. I soon realized I don’t have gold fever; because the nugget I prize as the most, is a tiny quartz nugget nestled inside a lacy gold flake.

I am proud to say there has not been a day that I have not found gold sluicing along the Klamath River. I experience a great “high” when I see the color in my pan. I know personally each flake of gold that I carefully place in the one-ounce glass vial, filling it ever so slowly. One day, when the vial is full, I will have reached a goal I set for myself with mixed emotions, realistically knowing some of the gold will have to be sold.

After having the day’s treasure finds placed safely in my bag, some of which are old square nails encrusted with rust and rocks, I get a welcome reminder from the Blue Heron telling me it is time to go home. He has allowed us to intrude on his domain as long as he cares to.

With the sun quickly fading, I take a last look around, drinking in the beauty and serenity of the forest and the rushing river. Happily, we head for the raft, feeling good about our day’s accomplishment.

When I begin to quickly paddle the raft that will safely get us back across on shore, I can’t help but chuckle when I remember my first attempt at paddling back across the river and going nowhere but in circles. Oh, how far I have come in a short period of time!

Back at camp, we are greeted with, “How was your day? Did you find any gold?” I smile and say, “It was great!”

Regardless of the varied backgrounds of all the gold miners, we have a common bond that has brought us together. Gold!

I know when the time comes to make the return trip home, I will not only take my treasures of gold, rocks, nails and such, but the feeling of richness from having made new friends, remembering the shared stories, poems, music, food and all the laughter. All of this I will take home, looking forward to next year’s gold mining season. I will no longer be a greenhorn but a seasoned miner who has paid her dues.

Dave Mack

“Sluicing for gold is the next productive step up from gold panning. Sometimes this activity is also referred to as “high-banking.”


By Sandy Waldie

“It’s that incredible feeling you get when you find your own gold,”

Rip traveled all the way from Maryland last season just to attend one of the New 49’er surface (out of water) group mining adventures. That was his first high-banking experience ever; and needless to say, from that moment on, he was hooked.

So Rip returned to Happy Camp early this season and proceeded to buy his own prospecting gear along with a used pick-up truck. He has been having a ball ever since.

Rip was born in Brooklyn New York, his east coast accent sounding out when he talks. He is now retired after 22 years as a life insurance salesman. He also owned a book distribution business where he supplied a variety of books to schools. Rip’s wife, Wanda, was born in Washington State and has a unique business which rents doves for various occasions, such as weddings, funerals, graduations, and more.

Rip and Wanda are planning to relocate in the Happy Camp area next year, and Rip already has some property picked out. He has fallen in love with this place in a big way, and he knows that his wife will feel the same way, once she gets here.

Both Rip and Wanda are avid metal detectorists. They have found lots of lost treasures while out walking the Maryland beaches. Rip cannot wait to get Wanda high-banking with him, knowing that she will be as “hooked” as he’s become. Not to mention all of the great places to metal detect around Happy Camp, as well. “It’s that incredible feeling you get when you find your own gold,” says Rip. “Especially the golden nuggets; that first moment of discovery creates a fantastic feeling of personal satisfaction.”

Rip really enjoys the great outdoors, the river and the abundant wildlife. He’ll tell you himself how prospecting is keeping him young, healthy, and definitely fit. You would never guess him to be 67 years old, and he has been known to run circles around some of the 30-year-olds in the area. Rip definitely has the right approach.

In doing this particular story, the one thing that really struck home with me is that this is a man who is truly happy. While I’m sure the gold is icing his cake, Rip is someone who has found peace and contentment in his life. His happiness with Happy Camp and The New 49’ers was captured pretty well (including the birds he listens to in the forest) in the following video sequence:

Although he started with the traditional method of high-banking (feeding the hopper with buckets of pay-dirt), Rip has moved on to his real love which is “booming”. This process uses the high-banker to feed water into a hole

(well up away from the active waterway) where pay-dirt material is then fed into a suction nozzle. Since his discovery of this technique, traditional high-banking is second place.


The area Rip has been working did not allow him to hold very much water up on the bank, so he devised a method of pumping water up from the river into his excavation area, and then moved his motorized pump up into the excavation so he could recirculate his own water as he worked the pay-dirt. This kept all sediments within his excavation, and the water was simply reabsorbed into the ground when he was finished each day.

Rip tells me that everything he knows and has learned about gold prospecting is thanks to Dave Mack’s books, DVD’s, and the talks that Dave gives before all of the outings. The biggest impression has been about the absolute necessity of sampling. Rip says that this one lesson alone has saved him full seasons of wasted time and effort.

Still, as Rip took the time to explain his personal mining program to me, it quickly became apparent that he has become somewhat of an expert in his own right. Dave would be the first to say that while the basic explanations are present in his material, the real key is in a person’s willingness and ability to apply him or herself to each separate situation. I found it very enlightening when Rip explained that he developed his own technique of finding gold traps along the bedrock by removing his work gloves and “looking” through the dirty water with the perception of his hands and fingers. He found some of his best gold nuggets using this technique!

We captured this following video sequence with Rip explaining how he located a thin layer of hard-packed streambed (pay-dirt with beautiful flakes and nuggets of natural gold) under about 2 feet of loose sand. Because of all that sand on the surface of the ground, this is a place where others never thought to search for gold. In looking around Rip’s work area, I could clearly see an extensive area along the property which has yet to be sampled by members (actually, this is pretty-much true along most of the Club’s 60+ miles of mining property!):

Rip is temporarily leaving Happy Camp to get things in order for his move out west. He has become such a fixture down on K-22, and around the office, that we will all miss his smiling face while he is gone. It has been fun watching his growth as a gold prospector this year.

We are happy to welcome Wanda to the New 49er family and look forward to seeing them both in the spring.


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.



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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Craig’s team started recovering beautiful nuggets right away!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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