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 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!




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.


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.



By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack



We have learned over the years that no matter how good some mining property is, most beginners and moderately-experienced prospectors might need a little help in figuring out how to locate high-grade gold deposits. This is partly because different geographical areas may have been affected by different types and magnitudes of geological events which may have deposited gold in different ways. While the fundamentals will be the same everywhere, finding high-grade gold deposits in our part of the world may require a different prospecting focus than elsewhere.

Some people arrive in Happy Camp who have never even prospected for gold before. Some have never seen gold in its raw state. Some who arrive do not even believe there is any gold left to be found! Just about everyone arrives needing some amount of assistance in understanding how successful gold prospecting is being accomplished along our mining properties.

This is why we started organizing weekend group mining projects, and have been scheduling them throughout each mining season for the past 20 years. We know how important it is for members to get off to the right start on our mining properties. So I personally join in and supervise nearly all of these weekend projects, myself. I also get a lot of help from other experienced members who enjoy going out on a weekend and finding gold; sometimes, lots of it.

We had a number of experienced helpers along on this particular weekend project. Otto Gaither is often referred to as “The High-banker Kid.” That’s because his personal high-banking machine is always producing in good gold. Otto has been helping out on all of the weekend projects for several years. Craig Colt has also been helping for years. Craig’s nick name on the river is “The Nose.” This is because Craig can smell-out a high-grade pay-streak better than anyone else that I know. While we went into one of Otto’s favorite high-banking areas on this project, it was Craig that found the rich gold deposit. Together, we make a great management team for these weekend gold mining projects!


The way that Craig finds these gold deposits, is that he just aggressively follows our basic sampling plan. It is the very same plan that we use in all of our gold mining projects. This is a simple plan that we have developed over many, many years of serious prospecting. Because it is the plan that will get you into high-grade gold every time, we devote a big part of these weekend projects explaining and demonstrating for everyone how it is done. In fact, this is the reason we organize these projects in the first place; to get as many members as possible following a sampling plan that works!

Our weekend high-banking projects are free. But you must be either a Full, Associate or Affiliate Member to participate. Each participant receives an equal share of all the gold that we recover on Sunday.

Weekend projects begin at 9 am on Saturday morning. Participants arrive at our headquarters (from all over the world), and are directed down to the Happy Camp Lions Hall where there is a comfortable place to sit down. A fresh pot of hot coffee is always ready to go. After introductions, we devote the remainder of Saturday morning to a discussion about where we will be going, and about how we will all be working together to locate a high-grade gold deposit. Using a chalkboard to demonstrate the theory, I invest a few hours into providing a substantial explanation of what the basic sampling plan is, and why this plan will always lead you into high-grade (as long as high-grade exists within the area that you are prospecting). I make it a point to answer any and all questions.

After lunch, we meet back at headquarters and carpool to whatever mining property we have chosen for the project. Sometimes we use a boat to get everyone across the river.

This particular project found us prospecting on the Highway 96-side of upper K-15A, otherwise known as the “Upper Mega-Hole.” Participants are supposed to bring their own basic prospecting tools, and especially a gold pan. They should wear clothes and foot ware that they don’t mind getting dirty and wet. A container or two of drinking water is always a good idea!

After everyone is gathered together out on the mining property, I take a moment to relay all or most of

the important information that we have collected from previous mining activity in the area. This is veryimportant; because knowing where others have found high-grade in the past will allow everyone a head start in being able to find more during the project.

Because gold is very heavy, it follows a common path down the waterway, and nearly always deposits along the bottom-edge of hard-packed layers of streambed. So if you know where others have already found high-grade in the area, you then know where to target your samples to find it again. This is what the basic sampling plan is all about! Since we do not have much time on a 2-day project, my personal mission is to direct as much energy as possible towards the areas where the gold is most likely to be found. The following video sequence captured some of our beginning moments as we began sampling for high-grade:

Once we are out there, the first thing everyone needs to do is demonstrate that they can operate a gold pan well. The remainder of Saturday will be devoted to locating a rich gold deposit with the use of gold pans. If your panning method is not capturing every speck of gold, you can easily miss the pay-streak even if you place your samples right down in the middle of a good deposit!

So after providing a panning demonstration to everyone who wanted to see it, I devoted the first hour or so just going around and critiquing everyone’s panning methods. Otto also helps with this. It usually comes down to just a few people who need some extra help. We focus on that until everyone in the program knows how to pan for gold without losing any in the process.

Since it is also important that we find high-grade before Saturday is finished out on the river, Craig and other experienced helpers usually get started in a serious sampling effort as soon as we get out on the river. This day was no different. Craig disappeared soon after we arrived on the river. So, as soon as everyone was panning alright, I went hunting for Craig to see if he had made any important gold strikes, yet. I found him towards the upper-end of K-15A. Craig was digging around the top layer of big rocks within the top layer of hard-pack.

Hard-packed streambed viewed from the surface.
Fortunately, most of the high-grade gold deposits that we find in surface mining (out of the water) are located around the top layer of imbedded rocks. I say “fortunately” because it means you usually do not need to dig very deep to recover the gold. We believe most of the gold that we find in this top layer of hard-pack is gold that has washed down during large winter storms. This is why some prospectors call it “flood gold.” Imbedded rocks which protrude up through the surface layer form natural riffles. Gold being washed downstream during high-water becomes trapped between the rocks. Sampling is mainly a matter of freeing-up the top layer of embedded rocks, and panning the gravel-material that is between and just under them.

Craig was busy following the basic sample plan when I found him. He had placed himself in the same path, just a short distance upstream from where some earlier prospector had made a strike. Craig was gathering his sample along the bottom of the same layer of streambed that the other prospector was finding his gold. As Craig was digging in hard-pack, he already knew that no other prospector had been there since the flood layer was created by a major flood storm (probably the great flood of 1964)

In gold prospecting, the bigger the sample, the more accurate and dependable the result is going to be. Since we cannot make our gold pans bigger, we compensate by using a classification screen to eliminate larger-sized gravel and rocks. This allows us to double or triple the amount of gold-bearing-sized material that we actually process in the pan. Craig was screening his sample into his gold pan through an 8-mesh screen. The larger-sized material was being tossed to the side of where he was digging.

I showed up just in time to watch Craig work his sample down in the gold pan. And sure enough, there was a good showing of gold in the pan; 3 or 4 nice middle-sized flakes. Craig told me that the previous several pans were about the same. So Craig had already made a strike for this weekend project, just in case we were not able to find something better during the next few hours. This was good; my worries were pretty-much over for this project! Craig is my personal insurance plan that we will always recover some amount of gold on these projects!

Having been managing these prospecting events for more than 20 years, my worries come down to: (1) don’t hurt anyone, and (2) make sure everyone leaves knowing how to operate a gold pan, and (3) send everyone home with as much gold as possible!

Wandering back down to where most of the others were actively sampling, several participants already had some pretty encouraging results of their own to show me. This is always the most rewarding part of the weekend for me. My job out there is to look at and compare the results of all the sampling. Someone is always finding something that looks encouraging. So, I ask others who have not been finding very much to help expand the sampling effort where we are finding more gold. Within an hour or so, we usually have everyone out there doing pan-samples in several different strikes. There can be a lot of excitement to go along with this. This is especially true with people who have never found their own gold before!

Here is a video sequence that captured how we were all working together to establish some high-grade gold:

One of the most valuable things we do during these weekend projects is show all of the participants exactly what hard-packed streamed is. “Hard-pack” is streambed that is formed by a major flood storm after pay-streaks are already formed. There is a world of difference between loose material or tailings from earlier mining activity, and naturally-formed streambed material (hard-pack). It is vital to know the difference, because almost all of the high-grade gold you will find along New 49’er mining properties will be located at the bottom-edge of one or more layers of hard-packed streambed. Knowing what to look for allows you to target your sampling activity at the right areas.

Another very important thing we do in these weekend projects is demonstrate how to place a relative value upon the amount of gold that is being found in a pan-sample. It is not unusual for a person to walk up with a great sample result, and say, “I didn’t get very much!” And it’s true that there is not very much gold in the pan. But that small amount of gold is only from about a single shovel of streambed material. That is a very small volume! Getting 4 or 5 nice little flakes of gold in a single pan can relate to a half-ounce or more of gold on Sunday when we have a dozen people shoveling the very same material into a high-banker!


A small showing of gold in a single pan-sample can add up to a lot of gold once you start processing more volume!

So, one of our goals during these projects is to help all of the participants gain the ability to relate how the gold found in pan-samples (on Saturday) will add up in a high-banker that will process more volume of the same material (on Sunday). While I am evaluating pan-sample results on Saturday afternoon, I make it a point to show around the sample results coming from the areas that we will work as a team on Sunday. I also try and get everyone to do some personal panning in those very same areas. This goes a long way to help beginners form a personal judgment about what is a good sample result when panning.

But on this particular day, most of the participants were totally absorbed in all the gold they were finding. Everyone gets to keep for themselves all the gold they find on Saturday afternoon. There was a lot of excitement going on; some people were yelling out their enthusiasm, having found their first-ever gold!

We do a weekly potluck gathering at the Happy Camp Lions hall nearly every Saturday evening during the season. The gathering starts at 6:30 pm, and we start dinner at around 7 pm. Then we do a short meeting and have a prize drawing. We have a lot of fun, and it gives members a chance for a weekly get-together.

Some members look to the Saturday evening potluck as the highlight of their week!

To give everyone some time to clean up and pull something together to contribute to the evening meal, we wrapped up the sampling program out on the river at around 4:30 pm. Some participants were having too much fun out there to quit when we did. Still, I did notice that they made it to the potluck in time for dinner! We filled the Lions hall that evening, as we usually do.

Sunday morning found our energetic group packing several motorized high-bankers over to where we had made our strikes the day before. A high-banker is basically a sluicing device which can be set up near to where you want to dig. This way, your pay-dirt can either be shoveled or dredged directly into the recovery system, rather than packed some distance across land. A motorized pump provides water to the system through a flexible pressure hose.

With all that help, it did not take us very long to get things set up. We split the group into three different teams, each to operate their own high-banker. It wasn’t long before team leaders on each crew organized the activity. Some people were tossing the top loose rocks into piles. Others were using picks and pry bars to loosen-up the top layer of hard-pack. Others were filling 5-gallon buckets about half-full and packing the pay-dirt just a short distance to the high-bankers. Others were pouring a steady feed of material into the high-bankers. There was a whole lot of productive activity going on! Check out the following video sequence:

Once I was sure the high-bankers were operating with the proper water flow, and that they were being fed with pay-dirt at a good speed (not too fast, not too slow), my focus turned to the tailings water coming off the high-bankers. Dirty water is not allowed to flow back into the river. This is something that always determines where we set up the high-bankers in the first place! In this case, we had found a location where natural contours up on the gravel bar had already created a place that would trap the dirty water. That water was seeping into the gravel bar about as fast as we were pumping it up there. So we were not going to have any worries about washing dirty water back into the river.

The other main job I have is to keep an eye on what participants are shoveling into the 5-gallon buckets that will be fed into the high-bankers. We only want high-grade material in those buckets! Once in a while, we get someone trying to help things along by shoveling sand or low-grade material into the buckets. That is counter-productive, because those low-grade buckets will ultimately be processed instead of other buckets that would contain high-grade material (more gold). Why do people do this? It’s usually because the loose material is easier to dig, and everyone wants to feel like they are helping.

You learn early in gold mining that you can work all day and not recover very much gold if you are shoveling the wrong kind of material! But this particular group had been listening when I talked to them about this, and they were focused upon filling buckets with material from the layer of streambed that we had identified as being the pay-dirt.

After a few hours of good hard work, we shut everything down for lunch and took a look in our recovery systems. There was lots of gold to be seen there. Some people were hooping and hollering, which is music to my ears. Enthusiasm is a good thing!

We don’t normally clean-up the recovery systems at lunch. This is because the process generally is time-consuming and would likely subtract from the amount of digging we can accomplish after lunch. After seeing all that gold, everyone ate just a little faster than normal so they could get back to work! This is pretty normal. Several participants were already filling buckets even before I finished my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Gold fever! Everyone was pretty excited!


We processed more pay-dirt for another hour and a half after lunch. I closely watched how things were going. It gets pretty hot out there on Sunday afternoon. When people start slowing down, I know its time to begin shutting things down for the day.
Of course, the first part of shutting things down involves removing all of the gold concentrates from each recovery system. This was the part everybody had worked so hard for all day! The following video sequence captured some of those magic moments as we all got our first good look at the gold that we had recovered:

While one part of the crew cleaned the concentrates from the recovery systems, everyone else pitched in by back-filling our excavations with the rocks that we had been carefully placing in piles all day. By the time we left the area, you could not tell we had ever even been digging or prospecting there. This is the right way to leave a prospecting excavation when you are finished with it!

This is what an area should look like after you have finished prospecting there!

Note: I returned there a few weeks later with the top minerals officer for the Klamath National Forest, and he was not able to point out any of the places where we had been mining!

We timed things so that we were back at headquarters in Happy Camp with our final concentrates at around 2:30 on Sunday afternoon. What do I mean by “concentrates?” Like most other gold recovery systems, high-bankers do not just recover the gold. They recover a concentrate of all the heavy materials which have been shoveled into them. Concentrates normally consist of some (iron) black sands, along with the gold that has been recovered.

Back at our headquarters in Happy Camp, our mission for Sunday afternoon was to separate all of our gold from the other concentrated material. We have a special garage area in the back of our building where this final clean-up process is accomplished. As this is something that every prospector needs to know how to do, we always invite all of the participants to either watch or help with the process. This enthusiastic group was all too ready to help!

We use a special device for final gold separation which is called the “Gold Extractor.” This is basically a finely-tuned, narrow sluice that uses very low-profile riffles. In 30 years as a serious prospector, I have never seen a more effective portable tool for reducing concentrates down to a very small volume (about the amount of a rounded tablespoon) – with zero loss of gold during the process. The whole idea is to reduce the amount of concentrates down to a small enough volume that can be dried for final separation.

Our most experienced panners went through the tailings from the Gold Extractor and were not able to locate a single speck of lost gold. Everyone was happy about that!

After drying our final concentrates, we passed them over a set of final clean-up classification screens to separate the material into several different sizes. The different sizes of concentrate were then placed on separate clean sheets of paper so we could carefully complete the final separation – mainly by gently blowing away the iron sands. This is usually not very hard to do, because the iron is about 3 times lighter than the gold.

By around 5 pm, we had all the gold cleaned up and on the weight scale. It weighted out at about 13.3 pennyweights. That’s almost 3/4 of an ounce. This was pretty good for about 3 ½ hours of hard work! It was especially good, being that none of us even knew that particular gold deposit existed on Saturday morning!

After taking a few moments to pat ourselves on the backs for a job well done, I carefully weighed the gold into equal shares for everyone who participated. I like to place the gold shares in small glass sample viles. But some people prefer to keep their shares in small zip lock baggies. Here is a video sequence that captured part of the final clean-up:

The project was over by 6 pm on Sunday evening. Some participants went away with the first gold they had ever found. Most went away with big smiles on their faces. Everyone went away with a full understanding of how successful gold prospecting is accomplished, from pan-sampling, to production-mining on a small scale, to final clean-up and gold separation. That was going help each of them to become more successful in their own prospecting activities.




by Ulf Dannenberg

The morning chill had not quite departed when we gathered outside The New 49’ers headquarters in Happy Camp, California. A crowd of people had arrived from all parts of the country, including one from Switzerland, and were chatting happily as they sat on benches underneath the few apple trees.

It felt like being back in school again, with the large chalkboard looming in front of us. Dave McCracken, founder of The New 49’ers and known worldwide for his abilities in gold mining, started off the day by asking all participants to introduce themselves and talk a little about where they had come from.

Some of the participants were active members of The New 49’ers organization, but many others were here to try out the hobby of gold mining for their first time. There were people of all ages in the class.

After giving his personal story of how he became a gold miner, Dave got down to the business of his two-hour lecture on the basics of mining for gold–where the gold is in the river, and why it is in one spot and not in another. Even for me, some aspects of the theory were new, although I have been a gold miner for a couple of years. The lecture was quite refreshing in that Dave kept returning to the fundamental that each person only does as well as he or she applies oneself to the task of gold mining. By the end of the lecture, this was clearly true to all of us.

Dave encouraged all participants to ask plenty of questions during the lecture and this enabled people to really get down to what was on their minds. Some had prior experiences and were looking for answers on how to improve their skills.

At noon we took an hour off for lunch. Later in the afternoon we found ourselves in practical application of what we had covered earlier. This included a hand-on demonstration of gold panning, vack-mining, and sampling. Our destination was the Glory Hole, one of the richest mining claims owned by The New 49’ers.

Equipped with shovels and pans, classifier screens and crevicing tools, we spread out on the bank of the river trying

to find a good spot for the highbanking operation which we would be participating in on the following day–first we had to locate gold!

It was a nice, hot sunny afternoon. some of the participants took breaks to go swimming in the river. We were finding gold as well! Every pan held at least a few tiny specks. Dave and his assistants, after giving demonstrations, set everyone to work in a contest to find the richest area, with the winner to end up with the biggest nugget on the following day. Dave then proceeded to observe and give further assistance to anyone who needed it in their panning and sampling techniques.

One thing we learned is that you need to decide what your satisfaction level is going to be. For some gold prospectors, it is enough to find one pennyweight (1/20th of an ounce) a day. Others are disappointed with two or three pennyweight. Make up your mind about how much gold you want to find. If one spot doesn’t seem good enough, look for a new location. And always do your testing before setting up your highbanking equipment.

Proper testing tells you how rich one specific spot is in comparison to other locations. The river bed and gravel bars might look good, but there is no way to really tell without adequate testing. Since generally, there is flood gold almost everywhere along the Klamath River, the main difference is in the concentration (richness) of the gold deposits.

By the end of the afternoon we had found a spot that looked quite promising. It was producing from 50-200 colors to the pan along with some fairly good-sized flakes. At around 4:30 pm, we knocked off for the day to give those of us who wanted to go, a chance to get ready for the Saturday night potluck and get-together which is sponsored each week by the 49’er members. Everyone was invited to attend. And it was a very pleasant experience. Newcomers were introduced, jokes and “Murphy’s Law” mining stories were told–which had everyone laughing. The food was abundant and quite good. Dinner was followed by a substantial drawing of prizes, and further games and cards for those who wished to play. Quite a nice experience and friendly crowd!





By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack


Ray and Dan
Working  Feeding high-bankers

Weekend projects are always a lot of fun. This is especially true when plenty of enthusiastic members show up. With 86 members present on Saturday morning, this was probably going to be the largest turnout of the season!

Without a bunch of experienced helpers present, I would not be able to manage a mining project with so many people. So I would like to take this opportunity to give a big thank you to the following members who routinely participate on these projects, providing helpful guidance and coordination to make the program fun and exciting for everyone: Craig Colt, Rich & Connie Krimm, Lee Kracher, Ray & Eimer Derek, Alan Mash, Chuck Montgomery and John & Diane Leslie.

We always begin these weekend projects on Saturday morning with introductions over at the Lions hall in Happy Camp. It is very interesting to hear where people have arrived from. People come from all over the world. As we all go around the room introducing ourselves, I have the opportunity to size up the team and plan better how to move forward once we get out on the ground.

A nice smileOver the years, I have discovered that every single group is different. It is something about how the combined social chemistry comes together. This all gels during introductions on the first morning. Some groups are more enthusiastic than others. Enthusiasm drives success in gold mining. This is especially true on these group projects; because, with coordination though my helpers, we can direct the enthusiasm into the necessary physical effort to locate and process pay-dirt out on the mining property. The more of the right kind of pay-dirt that we process, the more gold we will split off on Sunday afternoon.

Fortunately, this was a highly-motivated group. When I see that on Saturday morning, I already know we are going to have a good weekend. After introductions, I took some time to introduce how and why The New 49’ers came into existence, and why we schedule 5 or 6 of these weekend projects every season. Then, I launched into a 2-hour discussion on how to prospect for gold. The purpose is to explain the reasons for what we will be doing during the remainder of the weekend.

Saturday afternoon found us all up on K-15A, otherwise known as the “Mega Hole.” This is one of our more popular mining properties these days for surface mining activity like panning, sluicing & high-banking.

We always start the afternoon by explaining what we know about where gold is already being discovered on the property. On the upper portion of K-15A, while we have found good gold in deeper layers, we focus our efforts during the weekend projects to finding the high-grade gold deposits which are common in the upper-most layer of streambed. This is because we do not have enough time over the weekend to develop deeper layers. We leave those to members that will be around for a while.

At least in our area of the world, nearly all high-grade gold is found concentrated on top of bedrock, or on top of the different hard-packed layers of streambed. The gold is not distributed evenly all throughout a layer. In fact, it is only rarely that you will find enough gold up inside of a storm layer to make mining worthwhile. The high-grade is nearly always located at the bottom of a layer. This is because the gold is so much heavier than average streambed material, it nearly always deposits down along the hard surface of whatever the layer is resting upon. This is one of the most important things we try to teach to beginning miners. If you know where the gold concentrations are most likely to be, then you know where to focus your sampling efforts.

Pay dirtAnother of the first things we do once out in the field, is to show everyone what hard-pack streambeds are, what the different layers look like, and exactly where we have been finding the high-grade out there. By “where,” I am mainly talking about the layer which is producing gold. In this case, we have been having our best results by mining the top layer of hard-pack down to where it rests upon a different layer of dark brown material. The depth of this layer change can be from several inches to two feet, depending upon where you dig.

If you want to do effective sampling using a gold pan, you want to get as much of the right material into your pan as you can. By “right material,” I mean two things: First, if you are going to sample the bottom of a particular layer, you want to clear away most of the material which is over top of the surface that you are targeting for a sample. The reason for this is that most of the gold concentration will be sitting right on top of the surface which the layer is resting upon. There will not be much gold up into the layer. The more low-grade material which you place into your pan from material above the surface, the less gold-bearing material you will process in the pan, and the less gold will end up in your pan-sample. Bottom line: While you can never get it perfect, you should try to clear away as much of the material above the surface as you can before placing surface material into your pan.

The second part of this has to do with screening. If 99% of the gold you are going to recover while sampling will pass through a #8 classification screen, then you should be classifying (screening) all of the +8 material out of your sample. Otherwise you are filling your pan mostly with pebbles and rocks which are almost guaranteed to include no gold.

Knowing how to sample classified material off the surface of targeted layers in the streambed is the main key to being able to discover high-grade gold deposits. This is so important, before setting everyone on their own, I always provide a demonstration of how to clear away the material from the contact zone between two separate layers and collect a sample. Here is a video sequence showing me demonstrate this very important principle:

Sample panSince there are always beginners present, I also provide a panning demonstration for those who want to see it. Panning is not difficult. It is basically a process where you place your sample material in suspension within the pan. This way, the gold can work its way down deeper into the pan through other materials which are not as heavy. Then the lighter materials are swept out of the pan. While the process is rather easy, it usually requires some practice; and you have do it for a while to build confidence that you are not losing gold. My helpers and I devote a good part of Saturday afternoon helping beginners with their panning technique. This is because you cannot sample unless you can operate a gold pan without losing the gold. We don’t like to let anyone get away without learning the technique!

Here is a video sequence which captured me demonstrating the panning process to the participants:

Even before we all arrived on the very large gravel bar located at the upper-end of K-15A, my helpers had already confirmed an entirely new line of gold that we did not even know existed before. One of our very supportive members, Danny Collins, along with a few other members, had already been working the new gold line – which was even further away from the river than the gold line that we had established on the earlier weekend project. That’s the thing about having so many experienced miners in our Club; there are new and exciting strikes being made all the time!

The new strike was also right on top of the dark brown layer averaging about a foot below the surface. We must have had 60 people out there sampling into that layer! My helpers were busy forming up their crews for the following day. They had already made a plan to set up 4 high-bankers to process pay-dirt from two separate pretty good strikes.

Since we were prospecting on the road-side of the river, participants can stay out there as long as they like on Saturday afternoon. You get to keep all the gold you find on the first day. There were quite a few members still out there panning when I called it quits.

Saturday night potluck was held at the Lions Club. There were so many members present; we had to set up some extra tables outside. Man, was there a lot of food! There was also a lot of excitement and good feelings in the group chemistry. I have been managing this organization for 25 years, so I have an acute sensitivity to how the group is feeling. There were a lot of happy people here. This was good!

Everybody working  Connie

Since the hot summer weather had started just a few days before, the team leaders were asking everyone to meet out at the work site at 7 O’clock on Sunday morning. The idea was to get the hard physical work done before the worst heat of the day. Most participants arrived even before I did. Team leaders had their crews digging down to the top of the brown layer, filling buckets half full with pay-dirt, packing the material to the high-bankers, and feeding pay-dirt into the recovery systems. Everything was running K-15Asmoothly. Here are three video segments which captured some of the action:

We had set up several shade areas where participants could get a break from the sun.

Because Danny Collins was planning to switch to suction dredging on the Rogue River the following day, he handed over his active high-banking hole to the weekend project. That was a perfect example of our Club Motto: Miners helping Miners! For that, I placed Danny in charge of that digging team. He then made it his personal mission to make sure that team was going to recover the most gold.

Dan and Derrick  Gold in the Pan

We always designate a few experienced members to continue sampling the material that we are digging on these projects. This is because sometimes the gold concentrations in the streambed just disappear on you. The only way to know that you are still digging pay-dirt is to keep testing it every once in a while. You can do this with a gold pan. You can also clean up the upper portion of the recovery system on your high-banker every once in a while to make sure the gold is adding up. Danny was doing all of this for his digging team, and showing them the results to keep them motivated. It was working! This video segment captured some of the excitement we were all experiencing:

Lots of smiles

Craig Colt and Lee Kracher were sampling for the other digging team. That group was also doing well.

It always pleases me to see whole families coming out on these projects. Sometimes the kids outwork most of the adults! Other times, the kids do not fully appreciate the activity until it is time to collect their split of the gold at the end of the project. But I am certain that all of the kids who participate will fully appreciate the experience at some later point in their lives. After all, how many kids have an opportunity to go out and successfully mine for gold? I have been doing this so long now, sometimes I am rewarded to meet someone who I first knew as just a young kid, but who has since grown up and returned with young kids of his or her own. Kids grow up so fast! Here is some video we captured of the Miller family on their first gold mining adventure:Craig Colt

In addition to showing members how to prospect and mine for gold on these weekends, we also demonstrate how to operate within our surface mining guidelines. Mainly, this is a matter of not allowing our excavations get too large (we back fill the holes as we go), keeping our excavations well away from the river, and not allowing dirty water to flow back into the active waterway. Rich Krimm plays an important role in the Club’s internal affairs, so he usually takes on the job of making sure that we allow the water from our recovery systems to settle out up on the surface. This is pretty easy to accomplish along the upper portion of K-15A. Here is some video we captured of Rich while he was looking after this responsibility:

Gold on the mat  More gold in the pan

Participants bring a lunch out with them on Sunday, but we seldom shut everything down for lunch. People just take a break when they are ready. We did shut down the high-bankers several times to see if the gold was adding up in the recovery systems. It was! Here follows my explanation of what was happening out there:

Thumbs up

Our team leaders have good judgment about when we should begin winding things down out in the field. This is usually when the buckets are not getting refilled fast enough to feed the high-bankers! As long as the gold is adding up alright, we do not see any reason to overdo the physical exertion. Some people are not used to doing hard physical labor out in the hot sun. So we knocked off at about noon on Sunday. But later, after everyone realized how good the gold added up, there was general consensus that we should have kept going for another hour. Oh well; we will work harder next time!

We invested a little more time out there to dismantling the high-bankers and back-filling our holes. This didn’t take long with as many people as we had.

An hour or so later found us all together doing final clean-up steps at the Lions hall in Happy Camp. This is where we demonstrate how to separate the thousands upon thousands of small flecks of gold from all the other heavy materials which collect in a recovery system; mostly particles of iron. We use a simple system which does not require the use of any chemicals.

Final gold  Happy girl

In all, we recovered 12.8 pennyweights of gold, including 23 beautiful gold nuggets. That’s a little less than ¾ of an ounce. There were 71 smiling faces present to collect an equal share of the gold. And that was the end of another wonderful weekend on the Klamath River!



By Dave McCracken General Manager





Group Photo

I kind of buy into the idea that what goes around, comes around; that the whole universe has a way of equalizing things out in the end. But looking back on my own life, I cannot see any really important thing that I did, or even the accumulation of smaller good things that I accomplished, that blessed me and The New 49’ers into the acquisition of our mining property at K-15A This property has been being wonderful to us since Eric Bosch and I dredged up 100 ounces of gold there in about two weeks all the way back in 1984.

During earlier years, the primary focus of this property was suction dredging for high-grade gold. In 1987, the first New 49’er member in there, a guy who was in his mid-70’s, made a dredging strike with a 3-incher in shallow water that prompted a full-on gold rush. Later that summer, the U.S. Forest Service floated down in rafts and interviewed 130 different New 49’er members, all who were dredging high-grade!

These days, the primary focus is on high-grade high-banking ground. I am talking about hand mining with digging tools and buckets.

There is a huge gravel bar towards the upper-end of this very long property which went pretty-much ignored until about 3 or 4 seasons ago. Prior to then, we were using boats to ferry members across the river to a gravel bar located further downstream on this same property during our weekend group high-banking projects. There is plenty of high-grade gold on the far side of the river. But we were getting so many members involved with the weekend projects, the time involved with transferring participants across the river and back was subtracting too much from how much work we were able to get accomplished.

As far as I know, long time member, Otto Gaither, was the first person to make a great strike on this bar. Otto’s strike was so good, I had to really put pressure on him to show me where his “secret spot” was. Once he did, we have not done a weekend or week-long high-banking project anywhere else since. That’s just how good this place is. It is also very large.

Initially, we worked a discovery down towards the lower-end of the bar, near to where Otto had been mining. That line of gold was closer to the river. It took us a several seasons to work out most of the line. Lots of members continue to work an area after we do a weekend project, so steady work was being done down there, both during the summer and winter months. A natural line of trees and other vegetation between the gold line(s) and the river make it very easy to trap and settle water from our recovery systems. The place is ideal for surface mining activity.

Then, even before we finished the first gold line, maybe two seasons ago, someone discovered an entirely new line of high-grade gold that ran the entire length of the bar perhaps 30 feet further inland from the first line of gold. That is the line of gold that we were mining all last season. As this second line had not been worked very much towards the upper-end of the bar, my plan has been to focus our high-banking projects up that way this summer. There is still plenty of gold to recover there.

Another blessing in my life these days is that we get quite a few very experienced members helping to manage the weekend projects. They have asked me numerous times what I intend to do when the gold plays out on K-15A. I answer that we have about 140 miles of potential high-grade mining property on the surface (out of the active waterway) if you count both sides of the river.

Still, one of my biggest worries is going out with a bunch of members on a weekend and not recovering enough gold to split between all the participants. In 24 seasons, that has never happened. I do not want it to happen – ever!

This all leads up to the first weekend project of this season. Just a few days before the project, a major storm front moved through and dumped several inches of rain in parts of northern California and southern Oregon. This caused the Scott River to flood its banks and raise the Klamath River by several feet along K-15A. I went down to look at our planned work area for the project on Friday, and the location where I wanted to dig was all underwater. Great!


We had 55 members signed up for this project, and all of them showed up on Saturday morning. This was a really good bunch; everybody had their smiles on and seemed eager to review a few hours of theory which I presented with a blackboard down at the Lions hall. After lunch, we all went out to K-15A. This is a property which is located about 12 miles upstream from Happy Camp.

Very experienced prospectors, Rich Krimm, Craig Colt, Alan Mash, John & Diane Leslie and Ray, Peggy and Eimer Derek were all out on the bar ahead of us. They were going to help manage this project. We have found that it is helpful and more productive to separate participants into smaller groups with assigned team leaders to keep the work coordinated and focused. This is especially important when we are sampling.


These projects would not go off nearly as well as they do if we did not have wonderful, experienced helpers like this who are willing to come out and help. It is the friendly members that make The New 49’ers a wonderful experience!

The first thing my helpers told me when we got down on the bar was that we could not do the project in the location where we had planned. While that area was no longer underwater, there was a water table that submerged any hole being dug there. It is difficult to dig and sample with a shovel underwater. Material gets washed off your shovel. If you are recovering gold, it is hard to figure out exactly where it is coming from. This was the first time I can remember seeing the Klamath River run high and muddy in June since 1987.

It is a really good thing we were not doing a dredging project; whew!

So we were going to have to find an entirely new strike further away from the river; yikes! This is something we have not had to do on these weekend projects for 3 or 4 years. Since being on the upper-end of K-15A, we have always known, more or less, where we could get into gold on every project.

Once we were all organized down on the bar, from an excavation that my helpers had already opened up for me, I pointed out to participants exactly what hard-packed natural streambed is, and also how it lays down in different layers. This is very important to see, because we recover nearly all of our high-grade gold from the contact zones between different layers – and sometimes directly off the top of the upper layer of hard-pack. It is one thing to read about this. It is quite another when someone can point to it and show you exactly what you are looking for.

I then showed the participants exactly how to gather a sample by first clearing material out of the way so that you can accumulate most of your material from the contact zone where high-grade is most likely to be. Then I provided a gold panning demonstration.

After that, all of the participants began a coordinated sampling program with some guidance from our team leaders. Since things were very wet over towards the river, the only direction to go was further inland on the huge bar. As far as I know, we had never sampled up that way.

I confess that I did not really have my hopes up very high that they were going to find high-grade further inland on the bar. Why is that? Actually, I have done quite a lot of introspection on this very question. Gold is so valuable, if you have not made a discovery yet; you tend to believe it is not going to be present. That would be just too good to be true! I have seen this with most prospectors; especially those who have not found their own high-grade, yet. In fact, it is the personal doubt (that high-grade gold will be there) that gets into the way of most sampling programs.

Mainly, You have to push through with enthusiasm. Then, once you begin to turn up positive signs, you try to follow them into high-grade if it is present.


It is always a really nice surprise when high-grade materializes in a sample hole.

And that’s the way it was on this Saturday afternoon as soon as our participants began digging a little further inland. They started coming up with good pans right away. At first, I thought it was just an anomaly; perhaps a little gold located off the main line. Then, others started recovering the same kind of gold. The average pieces were larger than from the earlier line that we had established down closer to the river. Wow, this was a real bonus!

Here is a video sequence with Alan Mash and some of his helpers showing the excitement of the new discovery:

I devoted the remainder of Saturday afternoon encouraging the team leaders to have their crews sample in both directions along the bar. Before I departed, it was clear that we had established an entirely new line of high-grade gold running down the bar for at least 200 yards; probably even longer. This adds another two years of productive high-banking activity for our members just in this single area.

I was out there trying to remember something I did when I was younger that was a really good deed; something to deserve this wonderful blessing. Not being able to come up with anything, I am now hoping this is not some form of credit that I will be obligated to pay for later. I cut up my credit cards a long time ago!

Saturday night’s potluck get-together at the Lion’s hall was a full house. We had 88 members there. The food was great, and there was a lot of excitement going around in anticipation of how well we would do on Sunday.


Our team leaders had already set up the equipment on Saturday afternoon as soon as the new strike was made. So Sunday morning found lots of members out there filling buckets (half full) and feeding pay-dirt into three different high-bankers. Everybody was working. There were people moving rocks out of the way. Others were digging pay-dirt and placing it into buckets. A few people were packing buckets to the high-bankers. Some were feeding the high-bankers. A few people were taking pan samples of the pay-dirt to make sure we were still into the gold. We were! It was like a big oiled machine. Man was this an enthusiastic bunch of people! Please check out this video segment with Ray Derrick explaining what was going on:

This new pay-streak is positioned along the bottom of a top layer of hard-packed streambed, which is sitting on top of a really hard layer of dark brown material. Sometimes, the lower layer looks like dirt. It is very easy to see the layer change. Most of the gold is

sitting right on top of the brown. Some of the diggers were actually seeing gold sitting right on top of the brown. The depth of the pay-dirt changed from one place to the next, anywhere from about 12 to 18 inches. Sampling had already shown that it was notproductive to process down into the brown layer beyond what gold we could scrape off the surface.

The whole key to effective production is to fill buckets with the material you have identified as the pay-dirt. This entire crew was keyed into that. Their team leaders were really doing their job. Because pay-streaks are not always consistent, and sometimes they are spotty, it is important that you do continuous sampling to make sure you are filling buckets with material that contains gold. The following video sequence caught Craig Colt in the middle of this process while working with his own crew:

If you want to get a lot of gold, much has to do with how deep the pay-streak is. For example, this pay-streak was coming out of about a foot of material. If we had to process two feet of material to get at the same pay-streak, ultimately, we would only be recovering about half the gold in the same time period. A foot of material is really good for hand work. When you work a foot of material properly, you also never create much of a hole that you have to back-fill later.

The depth of the pay layer also makes a difference in how much gold you need to see in your pan when sampling. The deeper that you have to dig, the richer the pay-dirt must be to make a mining program pay off to your satisfaction. Finding this whole new line of gold on K-15A was truly a stroke of luck. Here follows a video segment capturing my own explanation as all the action was happening:

We like to process material through the high-bankers for a few hours on Sunday morning and then take a break. This gives everyone a chance to have some lunch and sit back and enjoy this wonderful outdoor paradise where we spend our summers along the Klamath River.

After a light lunch, we start up again and run for another hour or so. To keep the motivation levels up, we always clean-up the high-grade section of one or two of the high-bankers so that everyone can see some of the gold we are recovering. When we shut down this time, we could see gold nuggets! This caused quite a lot of excitement. In fact, as shown in the following video segment, after seeing the nuggets, at least one crew immediately resumed processing pay-dirt, even before Craig had finished panning the high-grade that was removed from their high-banker!

Normally, we shut the high-bankers down at around 2 PM on Saturday afternoon. That allows us time to put the gear away and go around to make sure that we have back-filled our holes and smoothed things back to normal out on the bar. Then we meet back over at the Lions Hall in Happy Camp to do the final clean-up separation and split the gold. Everyone has an opportunity to participate in this, and everyone who works on the project is entitled to an equal share of the gold. For many who participate, this is the first gold they have ever found.

In all, we recovered 16.4 pennyweights of gold. That is more than ¾ of an ounce, or $1,000 at the current gold price. There were 14 nuggets. This is pretty good considering that we operated three high-bankers for several hours. Here follows Rich Krimm’s introduction to the final clean-up and gold split. We had a lot of fun. Check it out:

It was around 6 PM when we ended off. There were a lot of smiling faces; some who were planning on moving their own gear into the new strike at K-15A on the following day. That seemed like a really good idea to me!