By Sara Koehler

It has been said that there is a time for everything under the sun. Well, the time for dredging is definitely summertime…And, there is no better place to dredge than Happy Camp, California! “Happy Camp.” The very name makes me smile in disbelief! This place really does exist! The water is cool, but not too cold, and the weather is usually quite mild. Better yet, there are “Gold Nuggets” as big as your thumbnail! We always find enough nuggets to make every day feel like a “surprise” birthday party!

Wherever we settle in for our dredging season, we all work as a team to make our home away from home as comfortable and relaxing as it can be. The children take turns taking care of our trash, making sure we always have a nice, clean camp. Everyone takes turns doing dishes and setting the table for meals…all except for Scott and me! With six children there are plenty of extra hands, eager to be of help.

When Scott and the boys get our equipment ready to launch at the spot we have chosen on the Klamath River, we dredge for a couple of hours at the beginning of each day. We can’t contain ourselves, and check our sluice box for gold every time we stop the engine to refuel. If some of the children are on the beach and hear the dredge engine being turned off, they all dive into the river and swim up to the edge of the dredge to get a sneak preview. We lift the flare’s flap, and “Surprise,” there are beautiful gold nuggets staring us in the face!

At the end of the day, we jump in our car and drive back to our camp. We try to take turns talking about everything that had happened to us during the day. Our adventure is not just about finding gold; but, also about the frogs, the insects, the birds, the swimming feats, the great lunch, the interesting people we meet at the river, the weather conditions, and all the “little things” that make us laugh.

How did we find this place? We’ve always had an interest in gold mining and had heard about Dave Mack’s videos from a friend of my brother. We bought Dave’s video at a mining equipment store in Sacramento, and had become spellbound watching Dave’s mining techniques, instructions and demonstrations. This is the first time that we had ever heard of the New 49’ers and Happy Camp! I knew that my husband, Scott, was going to get really excited about “all this new information!” Immediately we called the New 49’er office, that very same day!

We don’t want to sound like expert gold nugget hunters, because we’re not. We don’t own any private claims. When we became members of the New 49’ers Prospecting Club we instantly had over 60 miles of mining claims along the Klamath River and its tributaries in the northwest corner of California. Thus, we began our dredging adventure –we signed up for group dredging projects, and we even ordered a 5-inch dredge!

All winter long we watched all of Dave Mack’s videos, so that when we finally got to meet him face-to-face, our kids thought that they already knew him personally. Dave was very surprised, and taken aback, by all the admiration and affection our kids showered on him. If Dave Mack had a free hand, one of my kids had a hold of it. The other ones just waited until another free hand became available so they could latch on. I have to say that Dave took our children’s affection with good cheer and appreciation.

Our six children accompany Scott and me on our gold mining adventures. I do all the cooking and run errands, but there is also plenty of time for me to enjoy reading and sewing on the beach. It is very relaxing, and when Scott comes up for a break or lunch, we enjoy just being together in these great outdoors and fresh air. The children assist in all the various aspects of dredging, but there is plenty of time for swimming, getting sunburned, and eating!

Scott spends as much time as possible under the water, “vacuuming” the bottom of the river. We started out with both Pro-Mack 2-inch and 5-inch dredges. Then the second summer we ordered a 10-inch, customized, “wonder”-dredge. It is a beautiful piece of equipment! Being on it makes one feel like a “King and Queen of the River.”

We made our first trip to Happy Camp in June of 1995. Taking our tents, tent-trailer, and dredges, we camped at the Anderson Campground, on the Klamath River. The weather was chilly and wet, but we sure did have fun anyway! We dredged, panned, and high-banked. We attended group mining projects and attended claim tours. We cooked, washed clothes, read books, talked-over ideas and created many “plans.”

During our first week in Happy Camp the Discovery Channel (Cable TV) paid us a visit at our home on the river. Their crew was producing a show entitled “Easy Does It!” They wanted to film a piece on small-scale gold mining and they spent most all of one day with us. The cameraman filmed Scott dredging and the children panning. They interviewed both Dave Mack and us. The next time we heard from the Discovery Channel was at the end of the summer when they called our home to ask how much gold we had found. A few weeks later they sent us a copy of the 5-minute segment that they had made for television. Then a few months after that we were actually on television! We were thrilled!

After our time at “Anderson Campground,” we moved to a place down-river from Happy Camp named Independence. During that same first summer we camped on a roadside turnout, 230-feet above the claim. Getting down to the river each morning, which was a difficult access from that location (downhill), made for an exciting beginning and ending of each day. Scott and the kids immediately went to work cutting a trail down to the river. It was a very steep trail, and perilously paved with poison oak! Our children became experts in identifying poison oak! The section of river we were on had small and large boulders that created a nice area for our kids to swim in, away for the rushing flow of the Klamath. It was deep enough and safe enough for Ben, our youngest, to dive off some of the boulders. At the end of the day we would all get filthy-dirty clawing our way back up to our camp. The “best,” or should I say most challenging, part of the day was that we had no running water! But, otherwise we certainly got a lot of great exercise! That particular summer was extremely hot, and there was no break from either the heat or the “jack-braked” semi-trucks. The high point of our experience at Independence was being invited by some very hospitable, new friends to take showers in their home!

The next summer, 1996, we stayed with friends in their house, and felt free to dredge anywhere that looked appealing. We learned how to work the 10-inch dredge. We couldn’t believe the attention the dredge received, running or not. It has incredible size, volume, power, and beauty! This is when we first met the Andrezejewski family for the first time.

By the beginning of the summer of 1998 our family was no longer working and functioning in isolation. We teamed up with a wonderful couple, Max and Lesley Andrzejewski, and their five children. They had driven to Happy Camp every summer for three years from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with their children. We “hit it off” immediately when we met them for the first time at a weekly New 49’er potluck. We have become extremely good friends since then! We have done so many things together; dredging, eating, shopping, making repairs, putting out fires, and even doctoring “ouch-ies.” All these activities have firmly “cemented” our friendship!

Two sets of parents, eleven children, two dogs, a pan full of gold, and a cool river on a hot day all add up to non-stop adventure and fun! We have all learned a lot from each other in many, many ways! Some of the lessons we learned together even included “bloopers,” such as: Don’t fill your dredge’s gas tank while it is still running; keep plenty of duct-tape on hand; don’t forget to wash your ears out with Domeboro after dredging; peanut butter and jam sandwiches taste best when eaten on a beach; any kind of cookies and chips will be devoured; and be sure to take lots of food to the Saturday night potlucks! Happy Camp is a great place to bring a family. There’s no doubt about it! It’s also a good place to invite your friends to come and visit. The area is really beautiful and the New 49’ers are a great group of people. They are helpful, friendly, hardworking, and adventuresome.

But, did we find many gold nuggets? Yes! We kept our ears open and heard a hot tip from Dave McCracken during one of his river tours with 20 or more people. “Go to this spot! It has nuggets along the far bank,” he said. We checked it out, and sure enough, he was telling the truth!

We’ve been coming to Happy Camp for the last four summers. We’ve camped in campgrounds and on a highway turn-out, stayed in a motel, “borrowed” and rented friends’ houses, and this year we’ll probably buy our own property. I will be glad to have a “permanent” place to call home during the summer when that “dredging itch” needs scratching, and we all climb into our car and head back to Happy Camp!

Really, though, we didn’t start gold mining to become rich. God has truly blessed us with a wonderful family and many, very dear friends—who have become family. We have already found the Motherlode!




Using Teamwork to Find High-grade Gold!…with Dave McCracken

This project included 14 persons, myself, and three additional supervisors who were helping me to manage the program – for a total of 18 people. We were using a 3-inch dredge to get beginners started, two 4-inch dredges and three 5-inch dredges. Each dredge was set up for two divers, so half our crew could be underwater at any given time.

We chose a location to prospect where others using 4 and 5-inch dredges had already located high-grade dredging deposits in the recent past. There is a large area there where we were able to camp just off the road, and also some slow-water areas where we could help beginners.

Our first morning was devoted to theory basics on dredge sampling and underwater safety. While putting the dredges into the water that afternoon, we took the opportunity to swim around the claim with mask and snorkel to get a preliminary look at the river bottom. It looked good!

Each of the following days started in camp with discusion and planning about hat we were actively doing on the river during those days. I find that the discussion is more meaningful to participants when they have to accomplish the very same things we are talking about just minutes or hours later.

The second day was mostly devoted to getting the first four dredges busy sampling for high-grade gold deposits. The prospectors who had done well there before had told us the high-grade gold had been recovered from a contact zone between grey and brown layers of streambed about 3 feet into the material. So that’s what we were looking for. Each of the dredges was finding those layers (we thought), and we were turning up some gold in each sample. But it was not the high-grade that I was hoping for.

Dave always takes special care to help beginners get started with the important basics.

I was able to help each of 5 beginners through the beginning stages of underwater mining, and everybody was helping sample underwater by the end of the second day. This was good.

The third day was basically a continuation of the sampling process. By now, I had identified the participants who were ready for deeper and faster-water sampling, and we got those samples started further out into the river. The less-experienced participants were also building confidence in the water. We located a pretty good gold deposit in deeper, faster water; but it still was not the high-grade that I was hoping to find. Although it was good enough to plan a production-run during the fourth day to see how much gold we could recover from the deposit in production. We also located another pretty good deposit of fine gold on the opposite side of the river in shallow, slower water. A production-run was planned there for the following day, too. By now, most or all of the participants were comfortable working further out into the river in slightly faster water.

“I was looking for something rich and exciting!”

The most significant event on the third day was that the team working furthest upriver on a 5-inch dredge touched down on high-grade gold (very rich) right towards the end of the day. Their gold from the little time they spent in the pay-streak added up to lots more than all the accumulated gold we had recovered on the project so far. Everyone was starting to get pretty excited.

On the morning of the fourth day, the first thing we all did was go down and have a direct look at where the high-grade gold was coming from. In doing that, we discovered that the brown layer we were looking for was entirely different from the brown layer we were finding further downstream. The pay-streak was actually coming off the top of a slightly brown layer of old cemented gravel. This bottom layer was very hard. It was something we had not seen in any of our earlier samples in this area.

After seeing the high-grade gold in the uppermost sample hole, we started another 4-inch dredge sample directly in line about 30 feet down river. It only took about an hour for that team to come up and declare that they were already seeing gold along that hard layer. That prompted us to immediately put the second 4-inch dredge alongside them to help expand the hole. We were then into high-grade gold on three dredges before mid-afternoon. The excitement level was rising!

Two of our teams were also busy doing production runs on the lower-grade pay-streaks we had found the day before, so we left them alone to see how their production would compare to what was being recovered in the high-grade deposit further upstream. We compared towards the end of the day, and decided it was better to focus all of the fifth day’s effort on the

high-grade deposit. By now, we were starting to accumulate an encouraging amount of gold in our concentrates.

By the way, we do not separate the gold from our concentrates every day on these group mining projects. The process takes too long. We save all the concentrates until the final day, and run them all at once. But we do compare what we are finding in each sample hole, and in each production run, to get an idea what is working the best during the project.

“Now we knew what we were looking for!”

The fifth day of the project found all of us very serious about working the high-grade gold deposit. Another 5-inch dredge was brought on line to sample a little further downstream from the two 4-inch dredges. Two divers were operating each of the 4 dredges all day long, shifting off between participants, only stopping long enough to fuel the motors every once in a while and look at all the gold in the sluice boxes. For the most part, we had evolved into a production dredging operation. Everyone was putting time in dredging. We did not have any beginners anymore. Each person was a partner in the race to recover as much gold as we could in the time remaining.

The second 5-inch dredge was not able to locate the cemented gravel and high-grade gold further back, because it looked like someone may have dredged there in the distant past. But the first 5-inch dredge and the two 4-inchers were producing in high-grade all day long. Everyone was talking about all the gold that we were seeing in the contact zone. Nice nuggets were being passed up to the rest of us by the divers as they were being discovered at the bottom of the river, one right after the next. At the end of the day, we had around three ounces of gold to show for our effort just from the fifth day. The excitement level was almost overwhelming!

The sixth day was devoted entirely to production using two 5-inch and two 4-inch dredges. By now, we were dialed in as a well-oiled machine. Each person knew everything that needed to be done – and did it without hesitation. When packing my lunch that morning, I made sure to fill my thermos with coffee, knowing there was not going to be much for me to do. The participants no longer needed a supervisor. They had already graduated from all that. This was another proud day for me, as I stood back and watched everyone go through all the steps we had established together earlier in the week, as if they had been doing them their whole lives. It was a great feeling watching them driven so passionately by the common goal to recover as much gold as they could get out of the high-grade deposit. I was also saddened that the project was nearly over, and the team would soon dissolve.

We recovered between 3 and 4 ounces of gold on the sixth day, including a lot of nice nuggets. It is a fantastic feeling to be in the middle of so much excitement and enthusiasm, and I can tell you that I was counting my blessings for the type of work that I do. Supervising these group mining projects is something on the order of combining team sports with treasure hunting. There is probably nothing else that could really compare. It is a very interesting and rewarding process.

We spent the final day pulling most of the gear out of the river and performing the final clean-up steps on all the concentrates we had accumulated for the week. There was so much gold, that we completely overwhelmed the Gold Extractor (concentrator) with gold once, and almost fully loaded it with gold on a second pass through the concentrates!

In the end, we had 23 pennyweight (1 ounce equals 20 pennyweight) of nuggets, allowing each participant to receive 2 nice nuggets. The largest gold nugget weighed 1.54 pennyweight. We also split off 140 pennyweight (7 ounces) of fine and flake gold. In all, each participant ended up with about ½-ounce of gold as an individual share.

Several of the participants explained to me after receiving their share that they greatly valued the wonderful experience of pulling together as a team to locate and recover a piece of mother nature’s hidden treasure, and the excitement of finding something truly valuable. Everyone finished knowing much better what they ought to be looking for when prospecting for gold on their own.

Several of the group participants remained there after our organized project, continuing to work together to recover the remaining gold out of that particular high-grade deposit. They also invited other prospectors to help them out.

Dave Mack

“Here is what others have had to say about their experiences with our group mining and prospecting programs.”


By Marc Rogers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Ulf Dannenberg

When Carl moved from Southern California to Eureka (CA) and took on a maintenance job with Mobil Oil ten years ago, he never thought that one day he would become a gold miner. Actually, his wife Judy is to blame.

She told him that “There is Gold in those hills and rivers.” On weekends they went to the Trinity River, shovel and gold pan in hand, and started digging. The gold they found barely covered the bottom of a little glass vial, but Carl thought that they were doing pretty good. One Sunday they met a man working with a sluice box, and Carl thought, “Gee, what a neat device; you move a lot more material.” So he bought a sluice and found more gold. It seems that gold miners at an early stage have to go through the different steps of growing into the “business.” In other words, your equipment grows with your experience. Sure enough, a little later Carl met a man with a 2-inch dredge; and to Carl, that was an earth-moving machine. A 2-inch dredge was the next toy he bought, and the gold he found was better. Pretty soon he had his own claim and made a pennyweight a day. To improve his knowledge about mining he read Dave McCracken’s book on Advanced Dredging Techniques.” Carl had a lot of questions and gave Dave a call. Dave at that time was just starting with The New 49’ers gold mining club. It didn’t take long to convince Carl that joining the club had a lot of advantages for him. He became a member. He worked his 2-inch dredge along the Klamath River, sticking to the side of the river in shallow waters all summer long. And, always going back to Eureka and his job on weekdays.

The next step in his mining experience was inevitable. He saw someone working a 5-inch dredge and said, “Wait a minute, there’s something wrong here. I have to have a 5-inch dredge.” Next thing, Carl was gone to buy one. He moved near the confluence of Tim’s Creek and the Klamath River on club claims, and found a virgin streak of overburden with shallow bedrock. Three and a half ounces! It was the largest amount of gold he had ever dredged up in one day. This was still part-time mining. Each weekend he and his wife Judy went home with at least an ounce of gold. When his boss put too much pressure on him, Carl felt it was time to take up dredging on a commercial scale. Subconsciously he’d known all the time that his future was in becoming a gold miner. He quit his job and moved to Happy Camp on a permanent basis. He could live easily off the gold he found and was quite happy.

One summer, however, was quite different. Not that he was running out of gold. Oh, no! But, Carl was running into all kinds of trouble. Carl became “famous” at the Saturday potlucks telling stories about his encounters with MURPHY’S LAW. These mishaps were quite funny to listen to, but only because of Carl’s unique way of telling these tales. He is definitely not the kind of guy who sheds tears over spilled milk. His kind of humor forbids that.

Here are two incidents told in his own words:

“I got here and was in a real hurry to get into the water. Found a nice spot on one of the new club claims and wanted to show this new guy how to put a dredge into the water. He had never seen this kind of operation before. I told him this is “a piece of cake”, I’ve done it many times. So, he just stood there watching us lowering the dredge down into this steep canyon. We had two safety ropes on the dredge, two guys on top of the road; Gordon and myself, guiding the rig down. Suddenly something snapped, I didn’t know what. And there it went! From zero to 60 in 6 seconds. I saw Gordon stepping away from the dredge and running away. One of the security ropes came whirling down the slope like an angry snake and nobody wanted to get caught by it. Finally the trailer with the dredge hit the bank at the end of the slope and tilted sideways.

The air compressor, gas tank and water pump all broke loose. When I got down there I couldn’t help myself. I started laughing out loud. It was a total disaster. We pulled the trailer with the dredge back up the hill and I had the dredge repaired for $280. The newcomer who watched us must have thought that we were a bunch of crazies. He had that kind of expression on his face.”

“A few weeks later I dredged with my partner Jerry just below Happy Camp. We wanted to move the dredge a bit downstream. I’m holding the dredge on a rope and my partner Jerry is out of sight behind the dredge, when all of a sudden the current caught the dredge and the safety line became tight like a guitar string. It started to slip through my fingers six inches at a time. I looked around. There was no place where I could tie the rope and I just couldn’t hold on much longer. So I let go of the rope and gripped the highline that was still attached to the dredge, and I managed to make it to shore with it. Two little bushes were all I could find to tie the rope around. But the dredge had put on speed and when the highline around the bushes tightened, SNAP! It ripped the bushes right out of the ground. The dredge was free to go and made it around the bend and out of sight.”

“Meanwhile, Jerry was standing on this large rock looking after the dredge like an Indian with one hand shading his eyes. I asked him what was going on, and he replied “It’s way down – now it stopped – no, wait a minute – it’s going again.” I knew then that I had to make it fast across the river to get to my car and drive after the dredge. Swimming through the current like Johnny Weissmuller, I barely made it to the other side and up the slope, got into Jerry’s car and drove after the dredge.”

“Every turn-out I stopped and looked. No dredge in sight. I drove on, and suddenly I saw something yellow. It was the dredge. I parked the car on the side of the road next to a Cal-Trans truck and got out. My heartbeat must have been up to 200. My knees were wobbly, I could hardly breathe, and thought I was close to a heart attack. I lay down on the road pavement to catch my breath and the driver of the Cal-Trans truck jumped out and came over to me. I was spreadeagled on the road. No breath, and my heart in my throat. So the guy asked me if he could help, if I needed something. All I could ask was, “Do you have a cigarette?” He said, “Yeah – need anything else?” So I croaked, “You got a light?” So he lights my cigarette and doesn’t know what the heck is going on. He looks over the side down towards the river and asked me if that is my dredge down there. “Yeah,” I said, “does it look alright?” He told me that my dredge was still swimming. When I finished smoking I got up and took a look. The dredge was stuck on a piece of bedrock right in the middle of the river surrounded by raging whitewater.”

“Something had to be done fast, before the current could rip it off the rock. I slid down the shale, slipping and falling through thorny bushes. I jumped into the water a hundred yards above the dredge and tried swimming across the river. I knew that if I missed the dredge I would be swept a mile downstream before I could make it up to the road again. I barely made it. I held on to a piece of bedrock next to the dredge. It took me quite a while to find a secure position and think things over. There was 600 feet of highline floating downstream in a fast current. I tell you, if you had dragged that line in, you’d know what you had done. It was a heck of a job to do. But I did it. By that time there was a crowd way up on the highway. Two Highway Patrol officers, two men from the Forest Service and also two guys from Cal-Trans. They really enjoyed the action and were applauding when I had the dredge secured. Now I looked for a spot where I could climb up the slope. I took my regulator and airline and looked for a deer trail, but all I could see was poison oak everywhere. I was in a bad mood. I could have kicked a bear’s butt and not worried about the consequences. I heard and saw rattlers on my way up through the poison oak, but I just didn’t care. Finally I made it to the top, but a few hundred yards away from the crowd. I had another cigarette and Jerry pulled up in his car. He was really scared about me. I asked him why and he said that the Highway Patrolmen thought I would kill myself, because the last thing they saw of me, was me disappearing into the bushes with a rope around my neck. Of course, the ‘rope’ was my airline and regulator and by no means was I going to kill myself over this accident. I laughed for a few minutes and it took away the tension.”

Carl works his new 6-inch dredge with great success making between three-quarters and one ounce a day. He works all summer and goes back to Eureka for the winter where he goes metal detecting along the beaches. When you happen to meet him, ask him about the many other MURPHY stories he has experienced. He will tell you in detail, and laugh about it.




By Ulf Dannenberg

When Michael Schneider and Gaby Kroeger switched on their TV one night in February of 1989, they had no idea that their lives would be changed so drastically.

Typical for that time of year, Hamburg, the main port of entry in the north of Germany, has the kind of weather everybody hates—gray, low, overcast clouds, chilling winds, and temperatures that linger around the freezing point. It can put you in a very depressing mood. The only solution to beat the cold is to turn your heater on maximum, and stay home!

The TV special lasted for forty-five minutes, and it turned out to be the most exciting minutes for Michael and Gaby in a long time. The show was about THE NEW 49’ERS gold mining organization and gold mining along the Klamath River in Happy Camp, California.

Before the show started Michael decided to tape the show on his VCR.

“We watched the show at least a dozen times over the next two weeks,” Gaby said with a smile. “We were stunned with the clarity of the underwater filming. You could see how little flakes of gold were sucked up by the nozzle of the dredge. I’ve never seen anything like it before!”

Michael put the most interesting parts of the show on “slow-motion”, giving him a better opportunity to watch the details.

“We had been looking for a change in our lifestyle for a long time,” Michael explained. “We had our nine to five routine with no way out—-so it seemed. But the gold mining special on TV changed all of that!”

“And we had to be spontaneous about making up our minds,” Gaby put in quickly. “Because when you think about the pros and cons too long you never get started.”

To most people, this is easier said than done. There were so many things to be taken care of. Michael, as a TV repair specialist with his own shop, had to sell it for a good price in a short period of time. Their car had to be sold and a solution had to be found concerning their apartment. Apartments are hard to find in Hamburg and they are pretty expensive as well. As it turned out, none of these things posed a problem for Michael and Gaby. Within three months the shop was sold and the car, too. A friend moved into the apartment, reserving it for them until they returned from their trip.

“We knew we were giving up all the ‘security thinking’ that the hard working people of Germany are well known for,” Gaby said. “This TV special on THE NEW 49’ERS was the rare opportunity that gave us the final push in a direction we had subconsciously wanted for a long time.”

Michael and Gaby had never been overseas. Travels to Morocco and Turkey were the only extensive journeys they had ever taken. After they made up their minds to go, the winter climate didn’t affect them any more. Occupied with obtaining visas for the U.S., the airplane tickets and other items they needed, the weeks until their departure flew by.

Finally, in June of 1989, they boarded the plane to San Francisco. After a pleasant flight they grabbed the Greyhound bus to Eureka. Here they browsed through the used car lots to buy a good transportation car. They picked a station wagon with V-8 power and were on their way to Happy Camp.

“The impact of nature and the landscape in this part of California amazed me,” commented Michael. “Not so crowded like in Germany.”

When they arrived in Happy Camp they drove to the mining store where the office of The New 49’ers is situated. There, they met Hoss Blackman. Hoss had the job of showing newcomers around the claims. He took Michael and Gaby on a tour up and down the Klamath River. They had taken a couple of gold pans with them and when Hoss pointed at tree roots with lots of gravel in them they eagerly panned out the black sand. A few flakes of gold appeared in the pan.

“I had never seen placer gold before,” Gaby said with a broad grin. “Those flakes just doubled my heartbeat!”

Excited, they went back to Pro-Mack Mining and bought their first basic mining equipment; pans, classifiers and digging tools. A two-week visitor’s pass that later became the down payment for their New 49’er membership was paid; and, armed with high expectations, they started going after the elusive gold. Soon, they switched to a highbanker, but Michael was more attracted by the dredges in the river.

“I knew a highbanker was not the final solution for us,” Michael pointed out. “I spoke to dredgers and saw the gold they recovered and I just had to have one of those machines.”

The opportunity came quick enough. There was a used six-inch dredge for sale in southern Oregon and Michael bought it. When I visited them on the Klamath River near O’Neil Creek they were both in the water—Gaby helping move heavy boulders and assisting Michael who was dredging eight feet down in the overburden. Everything worked fine until one morning when “Murphy’s Law” struck. The engine blew a rod.

When they took it down to the local repair shop they found out that the previous owner had tampered with the motor in an unprofessional way. Michael returned the dredge to the person and luckily got most of their money back. With the motto “miners helping miners,” they were able to borrow a five-inch triple-sluice Keene dredge from other members of The New 49’ers and keep right on working.

One day in August I visited them at Tim’s Creek Campground where they had their tent and mini-trailer set up. Gaby came towards me carrying a large ice box in which they stored their food.

“Look at that,” she said. I noticed deep scratches right next to the flip lock. “A bear came last night and visited us while we were in our tent. He must have been attracted by the smell of the ham that was inside the box.” They were fortunate. The bear left them alone after he managed to get the lock open and had a feast on ham and cheese. That was a close encounter they will not forget for quite some time.

Soon the summer was over. Fall had set in and by mid-October it was time for them to go back home to Germany.

“We had our first experience, found our first gold and next year everything is going to be a little bit more organized!” Michael told me. “Now we know all the WHERE, WHO, WHEN, and HOW!”

Now it’s 1990 and they’re back. They have a better dredge, better accommodation in a bachelor apartment, met all their friends from last year, and have a good spot in the river to work.

“We know we won’t get rich,” they both agreed, “but the many, many friendly people, the beautiful surroundings, the rugged, outdoor lifestyle, makes it all worth while to us. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it?”

I had to agree. It is my second mining season in Happy Camp as a New 49’er and I love it. I’ll be back in the years to come and I’m looking forward to again seeing Michael and Gaby, and more people like them. Maybe you’ll be one of them!





By Sandy Waldy

Our group  Gold in goldpan

Clarence and Cindy Kaiser recently arrived in Happy Camp from the state of Oregon. Neither one is a stranger to gold prospecting, from metal detecting to running a dredge and everything in between. Cindy and her mom were actually dredging for gold when she met Clarence who was coming down from the state of Washington (where he was born) doing his own dredging. That was back in 1982. They were married in 1986. After getting married, they spent the first few months out working a gold claim.

The next few years found them having their sons, doing a lot of traveling, and they even started their own jewelry business called “American Gold” from gold that they found. Many winters found them in Quartzite, Arizona selling their jewelry and mining. Then they would pick apples in the summer before returning to Quartzite. They also did swap meets along the way. They continued with the jewelry business for about 10 years.

ClarenceBoth Clarence and Cindy are from the country. Cindy grew up on a dairy farm in Oregon where she was born. She says. “The farm was a lot of physical work and definitely kept me in shape. That kind of living helped prepare me for the mining that we continue to do now.” Clarence ran a sheep and cattle ranch in Idaho, and also a dairy. So he is also very familiar with hard physical work.

Clarence actually joined the New 49er’s the first time in 1982, but they joined again as a couple in February of last year.

They began high-banking in April on the Club”s K-15A property, using a high-banking machine that Clarence personally designed. It consists of two hand sluices which have been modified and joined together. There is a PVC pipe which runs around the top of the upper sluice. This provides the necessary water. They use a green indoor/outdoor carpet which resembles grass in the top sluice box. It has been working so good for them that several other New 49″er members have asked Clarence to help modify their own high-bankers.

Working togetherEven Cindy”s mom, Adelma, (who is 78 years old) has joined them. She says that being outside and active has helped keep her feeling young.

Most days will find all three of them out at their site working away. They have been following a good-producing pay-streak for the past 4 months. Clarence says that some areas are lesser-producing than others. But he says the trick is to continue to follow the strongest portion of the gold line, and focus the work on the layers that produce the gold. So far, they have been able to accumulate over 3 ounces of beautiful yellow gold. Clarence says that the main key is to never stop sampling.



More gold  Cindy and Mom

As July rolls into August, they are taking off to pick up a larger RV, spend time with family, and take care of some business. They plan on returning to Happy Camp in September and continue with their love of high-banking. “We will be looking for a new site”, Clarence says. With his expertise, and his hard-working team, I am sure that they will find another good strike. “We love it here,” says both Cindy and her mom.

They follow the longstanding New 49″er tradition of “Miners Helping Miners” by turning over unfinished mining areas to other New 49″er members before moving onto something else.

It has been my joy to meet and speak with these wonderful people, and I look forward to their return in September. They truly lend to our Club the knowledge and love of gold prospecting.


By Dave McCracken General Manager

Dave Mack


Gold in pan
Otto's group workingDredging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Paul wavingTaking the boat

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

Nugget in hand  Otto's crew

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

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

Otto's crew 2  Otto's group 2

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

Tending the dredge  gold in pan

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

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


Jeff Bucher  Good Sample
Sampling the far bank

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

Girls in the water  Team work

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

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

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

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

Shallow water  Guys in the water

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Cleaning gold  Final gold clean-up

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

Gold on the scale  Gold nuggets

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