New 49'er Newsletter

FOURTH QUARTER, DECEMBER 2019                              VOLUME 33, NUMBER 7

Dave McCracken


Newsletter By Dave McCracken General Manager


We organize weekend group gold prospecting adventures during the summer months. All active members are encouraged to participate. There is no charge for active members. We appreciate it if you call ahead with your plans so we can plan in advance for how many people will attend.

The initial purpose of these projects is to provide hands-on learning experience under the guidance of multiple experienced members in hopes that it will improve your own ability to go out and find high-grade gold. This has been an important part of our successful operating basis for more than 30 years.

Opening image gold Nuggets on a scale

More recently, because the State of California has forbidden small-scale gold miners the use of motorized systems within 100 yards of a waterway, The New 49’ers, with our substantial resources, have the capability to increase gold recovery because we can fabricate specialized gear, we have intimate knowledge of where the gold is traveling in, and to the sides of the river, and because we are fortunate to have a dozen or so very experienced members who come out and help manage the program. Everyone who participates on Sunday receives an equal share of the gold that we recover.

This was the final weekend project of last season. About 70 members participated, including at least ten experienced helpers. We used my jet boat to ferry participants almost directly across from a primitive river access downstream from the very large parking and camping area on our very popular Wingate property.

Normally, myself with several helpers, verify in advance that the gold deposit we will work is going to produce well for the group project. Once we are sure about the area, a day or two before the project, we pull a larger group of members together and move all our gear to the site. If the area is somewhat difficult, or if it is on the far side of the river, we drop the gear off at an easier access point and use my boat to move the gear to the site. If the floating sluice is being moved, we can transfer everything to a new location in three boat loads.

The gold is plentiful all along the extensive Klamath River properties and side tributaries which we make available to our members. High-grade gold it is generally, but not always, more plentiful and easier to find if you can get across the river. This is, in part, because fewer people have prospected on the other side. There is also something mysterious about the nature of raw gold in that the best deposits usually are located in the places that are more difficult to reach.

This prompted us many years ago to buy a variety of different kinds of watercraft to help us move people and gear across the river; or sometimes, to places along the river that you cannot reach without a boat. Diane Helgesen captured Craig Colt and I hot-dogging it a bit on the river. This is extreme adventure at its best. Though we normally do not run around like this when we have project participants in the boat:

In addition to the increased access which the boat makes possible, adding some boat voyages along the river adds more substance to the outdoor adventure for everyone involved. We also use the boat to help disabled members gain easier access by picking them up and dropping them off at the closest developed river access where vehicles are able to reach the river. In this case, there is a semi-developed campground and river access about a quarter mile upriver from our project site.

Having fun Having fun
Exposed bedrock

This rich gold discovery turns out to be a massive area of exposed and shallow bedrock on the far side of the river.

Special mention should go to the dozen or so very dedicated helpers who contribute their valuable time to devote an occasional weekend helping less-experienced prospectors learn, and to help me make sure that the projects come out well on Sunday afternoon. This means minimizing any accidents (once in a while, someone will take a fall on the rocks), making sure participants are digging the best pay-dirt we have discovered at the site, and watching closely to make sure we are not feeding the recovery system too fast or losing gold in some other way.  We could not put on these weekend projects without our volunteer helpers.

We did not need to sample this site in advance of this particular project. This is because we were out on the same site with a group earlier in the season. Once again, Dr. Gold made the discovery by bringing down a bunch of beautiful gold nuggets that he was picking right off the bedrock. I wrote that story up in our August newsletter.

While expanding on Dr. Gold’s discovery, we realized that there appears to be a vast area of exposed bedrock which has gold lying all over it. Some areas have some shallow streambed on top of the bedrock which is also producing gold. The area is perfect for crevicing and non-motorized mining. Most importantly, we discovered on this project that it appears the historical miners decided to work the gold deposits on an upper plateau and throw their tailing cobbles down the hillside on top of virgin, shallow bedrock Virgin streambed” is stream bottom that has never been mined before. This is a very important development, because we seldom find virgin streambed up out of the water where the historical miners were able to reach. Check this out; you can see it for yourself:


Some of the sample pans were looking like this or better!

We always begin these projects on Saturday morning in a classroom setting in Happy Camp where we can do introductions and start building the team spirit which will flourish as soon as we begin recovering gold out of the ground. Then I take until lunch to present a simple talk on how to follow an organized sample plan, step by step, into high-grade gold deposits.  Other than relying upon luck alone, the sample plan is a proven method of following the positive signs to discover the path that gold is following down the river and its banks, and what particular layer in the streambed contains the concentrations of gold. This information becomes more meaningful when we get out in the field and begin sampling.

Saturday afternoon is meant to be light duty. Mainly, we are trying to pinpoint the places where we will dig on Sunday. We also want to make sure everyone knows how to effectively manage a gold pan. Learning to pan for gold is the first important step in the learning curve. Said another way, if you cannot pan streambed material without losing gold, you cannot do a proper job of sampling. Sampling is the whole key to finding rich gold deposits.

We were getting some of our best samples by digging the gold right out of the bedrock
person digging close up of digging

There was already a member out there who had set up his own hand-sluice in the shallower water near the edge of the river. He showed us the gold he had recovered on the day before.  It looked really good! Here it is on video:

gold in pan

Gold one member recovered with his hand-sluice!

We don’t like to push it too hard on Saturday. This is because some people will not be used to this sort of physical activity during the hottest part of the day. But when you start uncovering gold in your pan, it’s a real challenge to not turn up the steam! Often, the ones who overdo it on Saturday don’t show up on early Sunday morning. Sunday is when we all pull together as a team to recover as much gold as we can in several hours of steady work. Everyone who is out there helping on Sunday is entitled to an equal share of the gold we recover.

Nearly every pan was producing a good showing of gold. There were only a few people on this project that needed some help with their panning. So we were only on the far side of the river for less than two hours. I was seeing some nice gold, including nuggets.

To get a head start on Sunday morning, my helpers and I carefully moved our floating sluice out into the river and set the water flow for optimum gold recovery. This is a larger sluice recovery system that we float right at the water’s surface. We can adjust how deep the front of the sluice dips into the moving water to set how fast our pay-dirt will be washed through the recovery system. Here was some of the action on video:

Fortunately, the boat landing was almost directly across the river from where we would be prospecting. Participants were following a primitive path to and from their cars.

I started bringing people back across the river at around 4 PM on Saturday afternoon. It took maybe ten trips to move about 70 people across the river. It all happens pretty fast because my helpers fit everyone into a life preserver before I return for the next load. There was plenty of time remaining for everyone to freshen up and pull something together for our Saturday evening potluck in Happy Camp.

Potluck was more than a full house of enthusiastic members. There was a large variety of food; plenty for everyone. I guess because I was so pleased during the previous potluck because someone brought a full plate of nicely-cooked beef, someone brought me a fat, juicy steak that was cooked rare, just the way I like it.  I ate the whole darn thing!

We try to keep these potlucks short so people can get plenty of rest and sleep to be ready for the real action that will take place on Sunday morning. We start early so we can finish the physical work before the heat of the day reaches the project site.

Cooking for potluck Senior Citizens Hall

I arrived down at the landing at 6 AM exactly on Sunday morning. This turned out to be a mistake; something I don’t remember that we ever encountered before. Because we were in the later part of August, it was still nearly pitch dark out on the river. I have been driving boats on the Klamath River for so long, I can do it in the dark! But that’s when there is enough water in the river to float the boat.

Sometimes late in the summer, the authorities fluctuate the amount of water discharging from the first dam upriver. These important changes either increase or decrease the speed and depth of the river.  Out there in the dark, I did not see that the river had dropped by four or five inches overnight.

Oh Oh!

I didn’t realize the danger until we encountered the first of several aggressive sets of rapids. Late in the summer when the water in the river is low, there often is just one way through the shallow rapids. My challenge is to speed through the deeper water that lies between the shallow bar (all rocks) on the road side of the river and the truly dangerous fast water that is flowing over and around huge boulders on the far side. The margin for error is very close. Going downstream, I doubt that the boat will survive getting caught up in the boulders on the far side.

It is pretty easy for me to power the boat down the safe path when I can see where it is.

It was impossible to determine the safe path through the rapids because the river had dropped and changed all the flow dynamics. In the dark, the river was taking us downstream too fast to figure out the safest path. I knew we were in trouble. There is no changing your mind once a powerful river is washing you down through angry water. You just have to make the best of it – which means being prepared to abandon ship if the boat gets flipped over.

I will trade a few more dents on the bottom of my boat any day rather than take a chance on sinking it with a full boat of disabled passengers! I think my passengers believed that this was just a normal part of the adventure – until we started bouncing over rocks…

With five disabled people in the boat, since I could not see the slightly deeper slot out in the middle, I decided it was better to err on the shallow side of the river where the rocks are smaller.

Boom! Slam! Smash!

I cut the corner too close; and the boat was slamming over the rocks as we were swept downriver by the extremely fast, shallow water. Even though we were bumping rocks in the shallow water, I used the powerful motor to keep the boat pointed down river and away from the dragon tooth boulders that were looking to eat us for breakfast. Luckily, we made it through without doing any serious damage to the boat. By “serious,” I mean the engine will not run, or the boat is sinking. Serious damage would put an end to the Sunday program on the far side of the river. Fortunately, none of my passengers were hurt, though they were shaken up a bit. So was I!

Work partyWe rounded the next bend to find the entire landing site crowded with people out there standing in the dark. Talking about dedication; everyone showed up early! The landing site was not in direct view of where the boat stumbled over the rocks. So they did not see our rocky ride. But they heard the noise of our collisions from about a quarter mile away. They said it was quite loud and sounded like we met our end. But that was not enough to keep the first bunch from putting their life preservers on and being ready to board the boat!

Thirty minutes later, we had the entire crew over on the other side of the river. Our project helpers organized everyone into teams, working several different locations that produced nice gold nuggets on Saturday afternoon. Some people were digging. Others were carrying half-filled buckets down to a large classification screen which is designed to split the pay-dirt into two sizes: (1) the material passing through a quarter-inch mesh screen, and (2) the larger sized material. Everyone was busy. Enthusiasm was everywhere. That’s saying a lot for first light on a Sunday morning! It was a cold August morning out there!

View of screenAs the pay-dirt was run over the screen, others were filling buckets with the screened material. That’s the normal material that we feed into our recovery system. We usually don’t do anything with the oversized material that does not pass through the screen. But in the previous project we did in this location, we recovered dozens of nuggets – some which appeared too large to pass through a quarter-inch screen. We are not accustomed to digging in places which have so many gold nuggets.

When we were doing that earlier final clean-up, it occurred to me we should be panning the oversized material. So we started doing that on this project. One helper recovered four nice gold nuggets in just the first two buckets of oversize that he panned! Diane captured some video of my explanation and demonstration about the importance of processing larger-sized material when you are digging in a gold deposit that is producing nuggets. As long as things are going smooth, we do joke around a little bit to keep the mood upbeat and fun:

Another problem we have been struggling with as these projects are becoming more popular is that the participants can dig more pay-dirt than our recovery system can process. I’ll bet we left 25% of the pay-dirt we dug just sitting there on the bank during the previous project. Some participants were so jacked up to process the pay-dirt we left behind that they skipped the gold split altogether and swam over there with their gold pans!

Separating  Separating closeup

We reduced the volume of pay-dirt by allowing the river’s flow to wash away most of the lighter fine particles.

This time, we tried something different. The dry, screened material was put into buckets which were submerged in shallow water. Swirling the material around caused the lightest material in the bucket to wash out. Gold is far too heavy to wash out of a bucket in this way. This method reduced the ultimate volume of pay-dirt to less than half. In this way, we were able to process all the heavier pay-dirt that we dug. Here we caught this on video:


Diane Helgesen

Diane Helgesen is one of our most loyal and supportive members. She never misses a New 49’er event. She is designated as the “Gold Girl” during these projects. The Gold Girl keeps a plastic bucket with locking lid. Every time someone comes up with a nugget, or a handful of nuggets, or a good gold pan, Diane is right there on Sunday making sure all the gold ends up in the bucket. She also takes over the camera when I am going to give an explanation or demonstration.  We have a lot of fun with the camera. Some of our fun usually is not appropriate for these newsletters. If you believe I went too far this time, drop me an email and let me know.

During the summer months, there is usually a steady stream of rafters floating down the river. These days, they are all mostly friendly. It didn’t always used to be like that. When we first began on the Klamath River in 1984, we were pretty-much the first modern day gold miners along the river. We were newcomers to long-established rafting companies who were not accustomed to sharing their river experience with us. But that was so long ago, we have now been on the river longer than most of today’s rafters. If we have gold to show, we always invite them over to have a look. Most of the rafting guides these days appreciate that our gold mining activity creates more interesting things for their customers to see. Here is some of that on video:

In fact, just in the last two years, I have noticed that there appears to be some kind of Renaissance happening that is lightening up the mood of our members, and even the people outside of our association. I say this because I have devoted nearly my entire adult life to helping others find gold – which is a very emotional activity. Especially when someone is not finding any! Diane captured the following video as I summarized what was happening further up the hillside and then got off on a sidetrack about how much more friendly people seem to be getting. We decided to not edit out my joking around to demonstrate that I have a lighter side even though it is not always visible:

Craig Colt is a longtime loyal friend and helper who is perhaps the best prospector I know (except for Dr. Gold).  He was up the hillside near where the handfuls of nuggets were recovered on the previous project. And sure enough, several guys who were following Craig’s direction were recovering nuggets off the bedrock one right after the other. I snapped off one image of a bunch of nuggets in one person’s hand!

Craig led a team to the pay-dirt where one guy was recovering nuggets that could be picked off the bedrock!

Hand full of nuggets Craig having fun

We have been doing these group projects every season since 1987, so we have the program dialed in pretty well. Though we continue to learn more each time we do it. As overall project leader, I am down to two nagging worries that are not entirely under my control. The first is the possibility of someone getting hurt out there.  We are walking around on uneven ground with loose rocks. There have been some falls over the years; none worse than the falls I have taken. Still, the possibility of someone slamming his or her head into the rocks is an ever-present concern. We insist that all participants wear shoes or sneakers to try and avoid as much of this as possible.

With more than 70 miles of gold properties available to our members, there are no shortage of places where we can find plenty of gold.

My second worry is that we will not recover enough gold to split amongst all the participants. This happened several times during our early years when we were not as familiar with our mining properties. These days, we have year-around members present that do nothing but prospect on our properties. In turn, they whisper to me about the hot spots they have found that can be worked on these projects.

While individual prospectors only need a small pull-off on the side of the road to park their car, and can dangle a rope to get up and down a steep embankment; these projects require lots of parking area, a rather easy trail down to the river, a toilet that is not far away; and using the boat if necessary to get back and forth to a river access where we can launch gear and recover it later.

Numerous members have made good discoveries along our Wingate property. With only one or two exceptions, our members have access to the entire Klamath River from below Wingate to well above Happy Camp. This is about 15 miles. That’s 30 miles if you count both sides of the river, just in this single stretch! The area is so vast, just this one stretch will not be adequately prospected during our lifetimes. There is a perfect landing site for the boat, lots of camping and parking, and plenty of room for participants to process pay-dirt.

Work site Here is some video we captured of how participants were doing out there on an early Sunday morning:

When I saw the nuggets being recovered, and the gold in the sample pans, my worries about not finding enough gold were nothing to be concerned about on this day. Here is what we were recovering from the average bucket of screened material:

This was the average amount of gold we were recovering out of a bucket a screened pay-dirt!

Once I was certain the program was completely under control, I took the boat back upstream to make certain I was going to be able to get through the rapids that surely added a few dents on the bottom of my boat that morning. Besides the darkness, we were also going through a period where the river level was dropping. There comes a point where it is too shallow to drive the boat through. Before driving several disabled members through that danger zone, I wanted to be sure we could make it with minimal risk. In the daylight, it was no problem to drive the boat through there. Whew!

Still, when it was time to go, I noticed there were two missing from the group of disabled persons. They likely decided their chances of staying alive were better by getting some help climbing the path to where the cars were parked. I can’t say that I blame them! But I will say that it turned out to be a piece of cake to drive the boat up to the developed river access.

On this note; because the river is shallow, I must go up through a set of rapids at full power. This keeps the boat shallower in the river. Here; Diane positioned herself on the side of the river and captured us as we flew by:

Boat in fast water

If I can make the time, I also like to step up the adventures for some of our younger members by allowing them (closely supervised) to drive the jet boat up and down through a set of rapids. Here we caught some of the fun on video:

We called it quits at around noon. By this, I mean it was time to stop digging for the project so we could finish processing all the pay-dirt. Holes needed to be filled in, and tools all placed in a single location so I could boat them up to the landing once all the members were transferred across the river. We made plans to meet at our facility in Happy Camp later in the afternoon to do the final clean-up.

Adventure for all ages Landing boat

Something important to know about operating motor boats on a river is that the motor must be kept out in the deeper water. Therefore, when launching, you have to push the boat backwards out into the river so the motor does not get caught up in rocks, sand or gravel closer to the edge of the river. Otherwise, the river’s current will push the back of the boat into shallow water and the jet boat will suck in rocks or vegetation and cause the motor to stall. It is not good when this happens, especially when just up river from shallow rapids! Here is some video showing us recover from one of these very situations:

After all the pay-dirt had been processed, we pulled our floating sluice up into a calm, shallow area, disassembled the recovery system, and washed our final product into a large tub. There was a lot of gold visible in the sluice box. Cool!

This image is of our concentrates as we cleaned them out of the recovery system. If you look close, you can see the gold.

These gold recovery systems are designed to trap the heaviest material that is washed through them. Gold is the heaviest stuff out there, it being about 19 times heavier than water. Iron is around eight times heavier than water, but it is much heavier than the average material found in most streambeds. The weight of average material differs from one location to the next; but on the Klamath, average gravel weight is around four times heavier than water.  So a typical recovery system will recover all or most of the gold, along with a bunch of iron sand – called “black sand.”

We could see a lot of gold in the recovery system. The entire contents went into the Gold Girl’s bucket and Diane asked me to put it safely away in the boat. I took careful control of the gold bucket through the remainder of the day.

We all met at our facility later in the afternoon to do the final clean-up and gold split. We do this in the shade of a tree that adjoins our picnic area. By “final clean-up,” I mean separating all of the gold from all of the black sand and other impurities. Over the many years, we have developed a process to accomplish this without the use of any chemicals.

This is accomplished by classifying the concentrates into several specific sizes and passing each size over ever-slower, more refined recovery systems. We begin by screening the concentrates through an 8-mesh screen. This is usually done out on the river after we have removed the concentrates from the recovery system.  Gold nuggets are picked off the screen and put inside our gold bucket. These gold nuggets a are cause for a lot of excitement!

When we meet later in the day, the first thing we do is classify our concentrates through a 10-mesh screen (close to window screen). The material which stays on top of the screen is spread out in a gold pan and the nuggets are picked out with tweezers. This is fun, because the pieces of gold are also rather large and exciting.

Feeding LeTrap Concentrates in Le Trap

The material that passes through the 10-screen is slowly fed through a Le Trap gold sluice. This is a very well-engineered plastic sluice box which provides nearly perfect gold recovery while reducing the volume of concentrates to about a handful. Craig Colt, then pans the tailings from the Le Trap so all the participants can see how effective the recovery system is. If we find one or two flecks of gold, they are added to our remaining batch of concentrates.

Gold in Le Trap Group watching

After a while, my assistant, John Rose and helpers came out with all the nuggets we recovered in a small, metal finishing pan. It was a lot of nuggets! All of the participants were excited about that!  Participant excitement is like the sound of beautiful music in my world!

 Pan full of gold nuggetsThe remaining concentrates are then washed over a smaller, more refined recovery system called a “Gold Extractor.” This is a small sluice with very low profile riffles. If not fed too fast, the Gold Extractor will reduce the volume of concentrates down to about the volume of a tablespoon or two – with zero loss of gold. Craig also pans the tailings from the Gold Extractor to demonstrate to the group how effective this recovery system is. Craig did not find a single speck of gold in the tailings. The following video captured most important parts of the final clean-up:

We transfer the final concentrates into the small, steel finishing pan with the nuggets, and then I dry the final concentrates over a butane stove. Note that anytime gold is heated up, the process should be done outside in a well ventilated area. We are only heating the concentrates enough to dry them out.

Then the dry concentrates are passed through several different mesh-size screens. Each size is placed on clean sheets of paper inside on a secure table (no chance of it falling down or getting knocked over), away from the wind, dogs, and especially kids that are horsing around. This includes grown up kids!  I’m serious about having tight control over the final clean-up steps; because this is the time when some participants really start getting wound up. Sometimes we all get wound up!

We use a magnet to remove perhaps half the remaining concentrates (magnetic iron sand). Then, light blowing over each size easily separates the gold from the remaining impurities. We invite participants to join in this final process.

All of this part is done in the shop-portion of our facility with the large outside doors open so people can come and go as they please. There was a lot of excited chatter as most people gathered around to watch us turn the remaining concentrates into raw gold.

I was really hoping we were going to meet our goal of recovering more than an ounce of gold. But as the blowing process was finishing up, I could see we were not going to make it.  It is easy to be fooled into predicting a higher end result when the black sand is adding to the volume.

Final goldIn the end, to my surprise, we recovered a little less than 3/4 of an ounce. It should have been more. The reason I say this is that I watch all or most of the sampling that happens on Sunday morning. We take occasional samples out of the buckets being directed to the floating sluice. We take samples of the raw material people are putting into buckets up on the hillside. The sample results on this project were as good as I can remember. Plus, there were the nuggets.

We are very careful to capture all the gold and keep it secured in our gold bucket – which remains under very tight control throughout the project.

So are we just over-estimating how much gold we are recovering because we are getting more larger-sized flakes and nuggets? Or are we losing gold in some part of our process? The only place this could have happened in our process is when we were removing fine material from our buckets out in the river or when we washed the pay-dirt over our floating sluice.

As I ponder over this, it occurs to me it is very possible that we fed the sluice too fast. We removed most of the fine sand before processing the pay-dirt. Therefore, the material would have been quite a bit heavier than normal. In some cases, so much fine sand was removed that the pay-dirt was reduced by about 80%. As I think back on it, the final pay-dirt was mostly black-colored like a set of concentrates. We could see gold in with the dark sand.

If you feed a sluice too fast, especially with heavy material, you can overload the riffles to the point where there is no recovery system at all, and the pay-dirt will wash right through into tailings, gold and all.

For example, we could never feed the floating sluice as fast as we do with concentrates out of a recovery system. The riffles in the sluice would become overwhelmed with black sand almost immediately. Perhaps this new method of removing lighter material from our pay-dirt will require us to slow down how fast we are feeding the floating sluice. We will need to be more mindful of this in the coming season.

In the end, there were enough nuggets that everyone ended up with at least one. Some got two. In addition, everyone received a portion of the remaining gold. The shares looked good. Everyone expressed gratitude to me and my helpers. I think most people were happy that the weekend project was finally over. Most people, including me, are not used to the physical activity required in gold mining.  Bur if the State would allow us to suction dredge again, I would be back in shape in a matter of weeks!

Recovering gold is very satisfying. But there are other benefits to going out with us on these weekend prospecting adventures. Happy Camp and the Klamath River provide some of the most spectacular Pacific Northwest scenery and wildlife that you will find anywhere.  Something about the golden adventure pulls participants together in friendships that will last a lifetime. I caught some of the feelings that members take away with them in the following videos:

But the day was not yet over. Since this was our final weekend project of the season, we pulled all of our gear and the boat off the river after we ferried all the participants across. All that gear had been backed to the rear door of our facility. We were asking for help packing it up the stairs where we have safe, dry storage.  There were so many helpers, most people did not need to pack gear upstairs more than once.

Then, with lots of thankyou’s and hugs, everyone went away and left me to enjoy a quiet Sunday evening. This was another very productive mining season for me, and I was thanking my lucky stars for the way I make my living. I consider myself to be very lucky! 

2020 Schedule of Events 

There is a learning curve to successful gold prospecting. One of the most effective methods of progressing through the learning curve is to go on prospecting adventures with others who more experienced than you are.

Our 2-day Group Mining Projects are one of the primary benefits of New 49’er membership which set us apart from other mining associations.  All weekend events are free to Full & Associate Members. All participants share equally in the gold we recover.

Group projects are limited to a certain number of participants. Scheduling in advance is strongly advised to ensure a position on any specific weekend project: 530 493-2012  

2020 Schedule of Events: June 20 & 21; July 18 & 19; August 22 & 23. 

Planned Office Hours for the Time Being

The upcoming holidays will have our offices closed on December 23, 24 & 25 for Christmas, and January 1 for New Year’s Day.

Until further notice, we will continue opening the doors between 9 AM and 4 PM on weekdays.  The office will be closed on weekends, except for the morning hours during the Saturdays when we are sponsoring the coming season’s Weekend Group Projects.

Members are invited to sign in your whereabouts on our properties over the phone in case there is some reason we need to find you.

Our mining properties are freely available to all members in good standing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, unless the Klamath National Forest is closed due to wildfires.

For any problems, our Internal Affairs is available over the phone: Richard Krimm is our Director of Internal Affairs, email or call (510) 681 8066 (also available after hours and on weekends).  

Industry Legal Situation 

As many of you know, we have been fighting for more than ten years to overturn the California and Oregon moratoriums on suction dredging. We struggled all the way up through the California Supreme Court – and lost there by a unanimous decision – even when all of the existing law is on our side. Sadly, a substantial portion of America’s judicial system favors the progressive agenda (socialism).

We have struggled to petition the U.S. Supreme Court twice to settle mining right differences on the federal lands between the federal and State governments. The problem is that the Supreme Court only agrees to take up around 5% of the cases requesting a final Decision. In today’s troubled politics, the Court chose other cases which it deemed more important to all of America.

Therefore, until the laws or regulations are changed to our favor, we are not allowed to use any mechanized system to extract or process minerals within 100 yards of any waterway in California and most of Oregon.

We will have another opportunity to obtain a hearing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. It is just a matter of when.  Think of it: The bottom of (many) California and Oregon waterways are loaded with gold. Gold is raw wealth. It is the world’s most important and longstanding financial currency. The gold is there for the taking.

We proved in every study (many) over 40 years that when suction dredging is done according to reasonable regulations, we have never harmed a single fish. But those who have the power to regulate us at the State level do not care. They just want to put an end to us. Truth and justice have nothing to do with it.

For a while, I had strong hopes that the Trump Administration would adopt federal rules which would shield us from the anti-mining interests that are controlling State governments. But “the swamp” may have turned out to be more prevalent and invasive than even Mr. Trump anticipated – and they have, to a large degree, kept him bogged down and distracted by baseless (but serious) accusations during his first three years in office.

At the moment, it is looking hopeful that Mr. Trump and his team could turn the tide on the swamp creatures who have been attacking him. Their addenda is to turn America into a socialist country. We can forget prospecting for gold and most of the other personal freedoms that made America great if the democrats succeed in winning the presidency in the upcoming election. If Mr. Trump holds office for another term, I predict there is a reasonable chance that we will see mining reforms which will limit State authority over federal mining projects (prospecting and mining on the federal lands).

I personally thank all members who have been supporting us with dues payments. The New 49’ers Prospecting Association is doing just fine.

But Legal Fund contributions have dropped off dramatically this past year. We need to encourage more participation if we want to maintain the non-profit status of The New 49’ers Legal Fund. This is important, because the non-profit is basically the only way to raise money for legal matters. Trying to do this through a for profit private company will get us in bigger trouble than we are trying to resolve in the first place!

In case you did not see this, the winners of our October 18 legal drawing are as follows:

Ten 1-Ounce American Silver Eagles: Carol Hatley, Scott McGrosso, Robert Maytum, Bill Jarrell, William White, Stephen Keenan, Brent Harshbarger, Patrick O’Brien, Phillip F. Myska and Robert Rackley.

Ten 1/10th-Ounce American Gold Eagles:  Phillip F. Myska, Matt Cottrell, Robert Maytum, Larry Sharpe, William White, Richard Culley, Patrick Matheny, Paul Fender, Walt Morrison and Tom Chambers.

Four 1/4th – Ounce American Gold Eagles:  Lenny Rock, David Barna, Joseph Sawyer and Phil Robinson

The Grand Prize: 1-Ounce American Gold Eagle:  Christopher Newman

If your name is on the list above and you have not heard from our office, please give our girls a call: 530 493-2012.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this legal drawing!

The problem is that we are only attracting enough contributions to equal the value of the prizes.

Here is my sincere request for you to continue supporting our political and legal efforts at least until we see what the national political landscape is after the elections this November. I am talking about only three more legal fund-raisers: 14 February and 19 June and 16 October, 2020.

All of America will be substantially affected by the results of the coming election. 

Thank you for sticking with us by helping as you are able! 

Note: This is not about The New 49’er Mining Association which has thousands of members and makes more than 70 miles of gold-bearing mining properties available to our members.  This is about the non-profit fund-raising apparatus that is fighting for reasonable regulations that will allow us the use of mechanized gear and suction dredges so we can regain access to the richest gold deposits – which are mostly at the bottom of existing waterways.

 The New 49’ers Legal Fund-raiser!

There will be 26 prizes in all:
Two Grand Prizes: 1/2-ounce American Gold Eagles
Four ¼-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1/10th-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1-ounce American Silver Eagles

Our office will automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets).

This drawing will take place at 2 pm on Friday, 14 February 2020, at our headquarters in Happy Camp. You do not need to be a member of our organization to participate. You do not need to be present to win.  There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win.

Legal contributions can be arranged by calling (530) 493-2012, by mailing to The New 49’ers Legal Fund, P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039, or online:

  $10.00 each – Enter the number of tickets you wish to purchase into the quantity field then click “Update” before checking out. Our office will automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win. Your contribution to The New 49’er Legal Fund is tax-deductible.

The New 49’ers Legal Fund,

Happy Holidays to all you guys out there!

Dave McCracken

President, The New 49’ers, Inc.



New 49’er Gold Prospecting Association
27 Davis Road P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012

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New 49'er Newsletter

FOURTH QUARTER, OCTOBER 2019                              VOLUME 33, NUMBER 6

Dave McCracken


Newsletter By Dave McCracken General Manager






So far, there has been very little participation in this drawing! This substantially increases your chances of winning…

There will be 25 prizes in all:
Grand Prize: 1-ounce American Gold Eagle
Four ¼-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1/10th-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1-ounce American Silver Eagles

Gold and Silver Eagles

Our office will automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets).

This drawing will take place at 2 pm on Friday, 18 October of this year, at our headquarters in Happy Camp. You do not need to be a member of our organization to participate. While you are welcome to attend, you do not need to be present to win. There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win.

Legal contributions can be arranged by calling (530) 493-2012, by mailing to The New 49’ers Legal Fund, P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039, or through the following PayPal link:

Purchase Tickets for the next legal Fund-raiser Drawing

  $10.00 each – Enter the number of tickets you wish to purchase into the quantity field then click “Update” before checking out. Our office will automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets, etc). There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win. Your contribution to The New 49’er Legal Fund is tax-deductible.

The New 49’ers Legal Fund

2020 Schedule of Events

 There is a learning curve to successful gold prospecting. One of the most effective methods of progressing through the learning curve is to go on prospecting adventures with others who more experienced than you are.

Our 2-day Group Mining Projects are one of the primary benefits of New 49’er membership which set us apart from other mining associations.  All weekend events are free to Full & Associate Members. All participants share equally in the gold we recover.

2020 Schedule of Events: June 20 & 21; July 18 & 19; August 22 & 23.

Group projects are limited to a certain number of participants. Scheduling in advance is strongly advised to ensure a position on any specific weekend project: 530 493-2012  

Montine Blevins Needs Help!

Thank you very much to the gals in our office for creating this letter to try and help Montine and Rusty cope with the ever-rising costs of medical treatment for Montine’s condition. Montine managed our New 49’er “welcome program” for many years. Prior to this last year, I am guessing that she has spoken with nearly all our active members. 

We Still Have an Opportunity to Open Suction Dredges on the Federal Lands!

Those of you who have been following our newsletters will be aware that the substantial effort by our industry to regain our mining rights (the use of motors) on the federal lands in California and Oregon in both the State and federal courts have not produced a positive outcome so far.

We are now appealing to key officials in the executive branch (Trump team) of the federal government to perform a formal Rulemaking which will forbid States from enacting laws or regulations that prevent or prohibit mining on the federal lands to a greater degree than the federal mining law(s) allow to the federal agencies.

Once again, initially prompted by the small-scale mining organizations in Oregon, here is our latest effort to keep our issues on the front lines of the Trump Administration’s efforts to reduce or eliminate over-regulation which provides no measurable benefit.

Small-scale mining creates actual wealth and improves the lives of working Americans. This is an industry-wide effort.

While our efforts will continue, it is difficult to get a read on how effective we are being. This is because the Trump Administration is being attacked so viciously by the very same organizations that have made modern methods of mining, more or less, against the law.

If Mr. Trump survives the continuous attacks against him, it is reasonable to predict that America’s federal land management agencies will attempt to assist us. This is what we are hearing from the agencies. Please stay tuned. We will provide updates as they happen.

Your contributions to keep our Legal Fund alive (drawing above) will help us keep the battle going on our side. Anything you guys can do will be greatly appreciated!

Dave McCracken

General Manager, The New 49’ers Mining Association



New 49’er Gold Prospecting Association
27 Davis Road P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012

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New 49'er Newsletter

THIRD QUARTER, AUGUST 2019                              VOLUME 33, NUMBER 5

Dave McCracken


Newsletter By Dave McCracken General Manager


Dr Gold! Gold Nuggets!

Mike and Lynda Leamy are longstanding, very supportive New 49’er members who are super-wonderful to have around. Lynda, because she always has a smile on her face and possesses a wealth of good will and a depth of wisdom which seems to have no bottom.

Mike is perhaps the most talented gold prospector that I have ever met. During a Weekend Group Project last season, Mike located a very rich line of gold down along our Wingate property that had so much shallow gold, he was bringing me handfuls of golden flakes that he was just picking up off the bedrock! That’s something that never happened before. It was during that project that we changed Mike’s name in The New 49’ers to “Doctor Gold.”

Diane Helhesen

Diane Helhesen never misses a New 49’er event!

Even though he is perhaps the very best prospector we have in our association, even when he is digging up remarkable discoveries, I have never seen any sign of personal ego. I do see that he experiences pleasure from making the rich finds, and he takes joy in watching all the excitement that his discoveries generate with all the others on these projects.

We have a special bucket where all the gold found on Sunday goes. There is a locking lid so we don’t make any mistakes in dropping gold on the ground. There is always one very trusted person who keeps the “gold bucket” close to hand so we don’t lose track of it. On this event, our “Gold Girl” was one of our most dedicated members, Diane Helgesen. Diane also captured most of the images and video in this newsletter.

Back to Dr. Gold, I watched closely how, as soon as the gold he found was in good hands, his greatest joy was in returning to is discovery to uncover more gold. I have devoted nearly my entire adult life to mining gold. All I can say is that Mike Leamy is a true gold prospector all the way to his core.

And that’s one of the reasons I was so happy during this most recent Weekend Group Project. Mike and Lynda were going to join us. With Dr. Gold on the project, it was a sure thing that we were going to recover a bunch of gold!

This project began with 70 people, including myself. We always devote Saturday morning over at the air-conditioned Happy Camp Senior Citizen’s Hall and start with introductions. It is always interesting to find out where people come from and hear a little about their personal stories of how they came to be members of our organization in Happy Camp. Some members provide very colorful introductions. This all contributes to the special teamwork experience we will enjoy during the weekend.

smiling couple

And then, for the benefit of those who have not listened to my talk about how to pursue a sampling plan, we devote several hours to carefully explaining the most important fundamentals of gold mining – which have to do with locating high-grade gold deposits in the first place. We call this a “sampling plan.” The sampling plan is something that me, my mining partners over the many years, and thousands of New 49’ers have worked out by hard work and the pursuit of truth.

Truth? Yes; if you think about it, if you don’t already know where the rich deposits are, you have to find them through the process of digging small samples in multiple locations, and compare the different results to figure out where there is more gold. Then you continue to sample along the strongest line of gold until you discover a concentration of raw wealth. Concentrations accumulate during very large storms. Sampling is always about what you are actually finding (truth), as opposed to what you would prefer to find.

We allow everyone an hour to get some nourishment and pull their gear together once my talk is finished. Then we drive to the location where we will devote the rest of the weekend. We were back down on our Wingate property on this project. But we were going to be on the far side of the river where several members reported finding “good gold,” with some larger flakes and small gold nuggets. These reports were coming in from longtime members Craig Colt, Derek Eimer, Laura Bagley and Scott Coleman, all who live in Happy Camp and devote most of the winter months prospecting along our very extensive mining properties.

panning lessons

These guys are such good prospectors.  They fully understand the requirement that we must do these weekend projects where there is plenty of gold to be found. They are so supportive of our association, if any of them report a good gold location, it is not necessary for me to confirm the place in advance with my own sampling. This is saying a lot about the prospecting ability and personal integrity of these wonderful members. I would normally confirm a deposit before bringing 69 members there to prospect for gold. This is because I have some uncomfortable experience in splitting just a little gold up between an aggressive group of members.

I never want to do that again!

At around 2 pm on Saturday afternoon, I led the way downriver about 9 miles from Happy Camp. I was towing my jet boat which would be used to transfer everyone across the river. There were so many cars behind me, I could not see the end of the line even on the long, straight stretches of Highway 96!

Everyone was directed to park alongside the road a short distance downstream of Wingate. There are paths to the river down there that would place everyone closer to where we would be on the other side of the river. I launched the boat at the Wingate boat ramp and brought along several members whose physical disabilities were not going to allow them to take the pathways.

There were several fairly large groups of excited members waiting alongside the river by the time we arrived there with the boat.  I’m guessing it took perhaps a dozen back and fourths to transfer nearly everyone to the far side of the river where we would be prospecting. Out of an abundance of caution, every passenger in my boat wears a life jacket. I drive the boat slow and easy when it is full of people.

Racing up the river Dave racing the boat

having fun

But I drive the boat as fast as it will go when returning by myself for the next load. My whole life has been centered around water adventures and boats. Here is a video that captured of one of my return trips:

While transferring people across the river, I found out that Dr. Gold parked his car along the side of the road, stepped out, and spotted a quarter-ounce gold nugget just lying there in the dirt. The nugget was mostly flattened out – like it had been run over by about a million cars and trucks. Come on?  Who does that? Dr. Gold is the only one I know! I’m sorry to say that I was so taken back by this unexpected discovery that it never occurred to me to capture an image of the nugget. Too bad! Take it from me: It was big and beautiful!

This early discovery was a sure sign that we were going to find plenty of gold during our group project!

Saturday afternoon on these projects is largely about familiarizing everyone with the location where we will do a group production mining (very small scale) project on Sunday morning. Everyone scatters over the area doing pan samples. We want to locate the most productive places possible. Beginners are taught how to pan for gold.

Panning is not difficult. But you do have to train your body to perform the correct motions. I believe there were only 2 participants who had no prior panning experience. Experienced members were giving them a hand. I could hear part of this in the following video sequence:

ladies panning Learning to pan


Typical sample

We would consider this a good sample.

I loved the water and boats before I joined the U.S. Navy at 19 years old. Back in those days, we were coming close to the end of the Viet Nam war. Needing to get my life on track and become an adult, I enlisted on the condition that I would be able to try out for the Navy SEALS. I put everything on the line; because if I failed in the training, I was going to spend the remainder of my 4-year enlistment chipping paint on some ship.

That was the most difficult and brutal training in the world at the time. Dropout rates were as much or more than 90% of the people who tried. In fact, nobody graduated from the class that followed mine. Though it was extremely difficult, I graduated into the SEALS with six others out of a beginning class of 57.

Making it into the SEAL Team put my whole life on track. It changed my outlook in many important ways. It also brought me warmly into a fraternity of very special people. While we might not always agree on everything, there is nothing that could undermine the respect we have for each other.

I don’t need to know an active or former SEAL to provide him with friendship and support on almost any level. This is why I am so pleased when SEALS or other special forces veterans join The New 49’ers. It happens every once in a while. We would have more of these guys if we could get motors back and regain access to the rich gold deposits on the bottom of the river.

On this particular project, Former SEAL, Steve Posey, brought his son, Travis, along for his first time. Steve has joined us in the past, bringing other special forces men along. Whenever we get visited by special forces guys, I go out of my way to accommodate them. Besides the camaraderie we share, these guys make up the tip of America’s spear. They risk everything so that America can remain free. Here is some video I captured of Steve and Travis:

floating sluice

Here is our floating sluice in action!

While all the panning activity was going on, several others and myself moved our floating sluice out into the faster water and set it all up for the following day. This floating sluice was constructed in our shop using an extra recovery system from a Proline 6-inch dredge. We mounted that on 2 large pontoons. The support frame is designed so we can lower the sluice deeper into the river so that the proper flow of water passes over top of the riffles. Diane captured the following video that will give you a better idea:

Riffles are gold-catching obstructions which rest along the bottom of the “sluice box.”  Because gold is around five times heavier than the average gravel we process, the gold will settle behind the riffles while most of the lighter sand and gravel passes right through. We have locking poles on each corner of our floating sluice to keep the platform steady and dialed in the way we want it. In this way, we are able to process volume amounts of hand-dug pay-dirt without the use of motorized pumps.

Boating across riverI ferried everyone back across the river after a few hours. We don’t want people out for too long during the hottest part of Saturday afternoon. This is because the real action and excitement of the weekend takes place during the cool hours of Sunday morning.

During these weekend projects, we always meet at 6:30 pm back at the Senior Citizens Hall for a Saturday evening a potluck dinner and short meeting, mainly to confirm our Sunday morning plans. We encourage everyone to bring something to contribute to the meal, and bring what they prefer to drink.

There were so many members at the potluck that there were not enough chairs to seat everyone! Nobody seemed to mind, though. The roar of enthusiastic chatter was a great way to end the first day. There were all sorts of wonderful food dishes.

stuffing envelopes

Volunteers who came into the office and packaged up all the letters to be mailed out.

We are presently encouraging everyone to write a letter in support of a Petition being directed to federal land management officials to help get California and other state agencies out of the business of mining on the Federal lands. You can find a more thorough explanation about this in last month’s newsletter. I took the opportunity of having so many members present at the potluck to provide them with paper and pens. We collected a healthy batch of hand-written letters. Then we organized volunteers to come into the office the following week so that each letter could be copied to the 10 additional officials who are listed on the Petition and placed into addressed and stamped envelopes. We ended up with around 300 letters in all. These are being mailed in batches every day. Very cool!

Sunday morning is when we all work together to dig up and process as much of the better pay-dirt that we found out there on Saturday afternoon.

We met out at the Wingate property at 6 am on Sunday morning. The idea is to get all the physical work completed before the heat of the day reaches the work site. When I arrived downriver with the boat at exactly 6 am, it looked as though the entire crew had already arrived. I had 6 disabled members in the boat. So they were first to reach the work site.

We are very lucky to have around a dozen or more very loyal, very experienced members who volunteer as “helpers” on these projects. There is no way that I could manage so many people without the help of others. We usually bring about half the helpers to the other side of the river first. They will help participants safely step out of the boat. They will also distribute hundreds of buckets to the locations where we were finding more gold on the day before. The other helpers usually remain on the road side of the river to help me land the boat in the right place, get participants into life jackets, and help them into the boat so nobody slips and falls.

Beautiful river scene

Is this place beautiful or what?

Once we transferred everyone over to the other side of the river, and everyone was lined out on what parts they were going to play, the whole bunch slipped into high gear; and it was like one big human engine of productivity out there. Diane captured some video of the site just as I finished bringing the whole crew to the other side of the river:

My own first focus was on making sure the floating sluice was dialed in to perfection.  Here is the floating sluice on video:

I don’t believe longtime member and local Happy Camper, Mark Turner, has ever missed a weekend project or any other type of activity when we have asked for helpers.  Mark has constructed a large quarter-inch classification screen which will effectively screen dry pay-dirt at a speed of around six seconds per half-bucket. This is much faster than using the standard-sized round classifiers that we sell in the store. We only fill the buckets of dug material half way. Otherwise, they are difficult to carry over the uneven ground.

Mark Turner Screening in volume

Proper classification of pay-dirt (“sizing”) is a very important part of gold recovery. Here is some video we captured of Mark demonstrating his production screen:

Lady Smiling smiling gal

people having funAll I can say is that there was so much digging going on out there, it wasn’t long before nearly all the buckets were full of screened pay-dirt. As is normal, our participants, in all their enthusiasm, were generating pay-dirt about twice as fast as our floating sluice could effectively process it. By this, I mean that if you feed too much material into a sluice box at once, the riffles (gold traps) will be overwhelmed (buried), and the pay-dirt will be swept through and take some of the gold with it out into the river.

Here is a video that Diane captured on Sunday morning high above the river where we could view the entire program as I provided an explanation of what was going on:

It wasn’t enough that Dr. Gold stumbled upon a quarter-ounce gold nugget the day before up by the road. His magic touch carried right over into Sunday morning. I was down near the boat capturing images with the camera when Dr. Gold processed his first pan of material. There was only a single small fleck in the pan. Without any sign of disappointment, he shrugged his shoulders and headed back to the area he was digging.

Just a while later, Dr. Gold’s second pan produced two small flecks and a small flake of gold. This was nothing to get excited about. Most of the pan samples from the day before were more fruitful. Then off he went again. “Gold mining is not always the same,” is what went through my mind.  “Sometimes you make a great strike; and other times you find very little.” But it was still too early in the day to rule out Dr. Gold’s magic ways…

Meanwhile, our buckets of pay-dirt had mostly been filled, screened, and were waiting their turn to be processed. This allowed everyone out there to back off a bit, take a seat on the rocks, enjoy the spectacular surroundings, and get to know each other better. Over the many years, hundreds of life-long friendships have been formed in just this way. These projects are not only about work. They are also supposed to be fun. We do have a lot of fun; and once in a while, something extraordinary happens to create wonderful adventures for everyone out there.

Seeing that she was relaxing on a rock waiting for another bucket, I took the opportunity to interview Lynda Leamy with the video camera rolling:

dr gold 1 Gold nugget

pointing at gold in scoop

Dr Gold

Dr. Gold was scraping out some bedrock crevices.

Just as if the event was scripted, as we were all mostly in a relax mode, Dr. Gold walked down to our processing site with a small plastic dust pan which was only holding about a handful of material. He was being closely followed by a small group of others who had been digging in the same area. There was a really nice flake-like nugget sitting right on top of the dirt. He suggested someone pan the material, “because there was more gold that we could not yet see.” Jim Bear panned the material, only to expose one of the best pans of gold I have seen in a very long time! This was an amazing lot of gold from what was only around a quarter of a medium-sized gold pan of unscreened dirt. Fortunately, I was right there to capture the excitement on video:

You will see in the videos that I joke around with Dr. Gold about having a secret jar of gold that he uses to salt the gold that he finds during our projects. This is just in fun. It’s my way of acknowledging his magical prospecting abilities. I’ve never met anyone who can stumble into gold like he does.  I also have never met anyone who is foolish enough to throw large quantities of beautiful raw wealth onto the ground so he can find it again, and essentially give most of it away to others.

The truth is that there are too many others looking on for someone to secretly remove gold from a bottle or plastic zip lock bag and pour onto a dig site. Someone would certainly see that. Besides, it is a physical impossibility to place gold underneath hard-packed streambed. Only god has the power to do that.

Others were also finding nice big gold flakes and some nuggets. Here are some images of Jim Bear showing off his excitement. Jim, by the way, can be found on youtube at yellowbottom prospecting:

thumbs up! gold nuggets in pan

I encouraged several others to go up and dig closer to Dr. Gold. They went up there just to watch, because we were all waiting for buckets.

gold gold nuggets
gold in pan

This sample came from about a handful of unscreened material!

Just a little while later, Dr. Gold came back down with a bunch of others who had been looking on. He was still using the small plastic dust pan. There was perhaps just a little more than a handful of unscreened pay-dirt in the dust pan. Right on top, there were three nice gold nuggets peeking out of the dirt. Once the material was panned, a fantastic line of nuggets and large flat flakes were exposed. Unbelievable! The Gold Girl was right there to capture it in our special gold bucket with the lid screwed on tight. I was there again with the video camera:

At this point, maybe about 10 am, a bunch of us started joking that we should leave Dr. Gold out there to finish the day while the rest of us went back to Happy Camp to relax for the rest of the day. We actually could have done that; because we had already dug and screened more pay-dirt than we were going to have time to process.

pay dirt in buckets

Pay-dirt that was dug and screened, but we left behind for lack of time to process it!

Travis driving boatNormally, when we have more pay-dirt than we can process during the project, once we stop feeding the recovery system, I invite anyone who wants to take a bucket of pay-dirt back home, or to their camps, to process on their own. Lots of participants were excited about this idea.

We always make an effort to make these events good for any children or young adults who participate. Even if they don’t appreciate the events while they are happening, the experiences we share out in the great outdoors are personal adventures that they will strongly appreciate later in life

Since we were in a wind down mode, I asked 12-year old Travis if he wanted to take a shot at driving my jet boat up through a set of rapids. No hesitation; he was ready to go! His dad caught the action on video:

looking in sluice happy group of people

I called it quits shortly after about 10 am and carefully moved the floating sluice over into shallow water where we could safely remove all the gold and concentrates from the recovery system. As we removed the screens and riffles from the sluice, everyone broke out into joyful cheers as a bunch of gold came into view. The rubber matting along the bottom of the sluice was loaded with fine gold. There were nice big golden flakes and nuggets all throughout the upper portion of the sluice. This was the best clean-up we have seen in years! We were all betting that we recovered at least an ounce of gold. All the sluice concentrates and gold were poured into our special gold bucket. Here is some video which captured the final part of the sluice clean-up:


By “concentrates,” I mean that these gold recovery systems are designed to capture and concentrate all of the heaviest material that is fed into them. Concentrates normally consist of the gold and a bunch of black sand (iron) and small iron rocks.

rideing in boat

Bringing disabled members up to the boat launch through some very turbulent rapids!

The day was going by fast, and we still had to separate the gold from about a third of a bucket of concentrates. I immediately used the boat to start ferrying everyone across the river. The time was around 11 am The heat of the day had still not reached the other side of the river where we had been working. My helpers were last to go. This is because they were making sure all the gear had been properly stowed, that any dangerous holes were filled in and that no trash had been left behind.

We never turn anyone away on these projects unless they are so disabled that there is no reasonable way for them to participate. Sometimes we get participants who have disabilities which will not allow them to hike up and down the trails to and from the river. But they are able to contribute once they arrive at the work site. As long as they are up for taking a ride both ways through some pretty serious rapids, we help them into and out of the boat and give them a ride that they will never forget. The water in the river is quite low this year. This dramatically increases the chances that we will slam into rocks as we race through the rapids and other shallow areas. But we didn’t hit any rocks on this day. Here it is on video:

We all agreed to meet back at our office to begin final clean-up at 2 pm. This allowed several of us some time to remove my jet boat from the river and bring it home. Diane is a big help on these projects. With the gold bucket firmly in hand, she remained with me until we arrived at the office. It is an important matter of personal duty to keep all the gold safe and secure until it is properly cleaned up and everyone is given their share. We are very serious about this!

I expected to have to pull all our final clean-up gear out of storage and set it up in the shade of our outdoor picnic area near the front corner of our office building. But when we drove into the parking lot, Diane and I were delighted to discover that John Rose already had all that gear set up and ready to go. Very cool!

John has been Assistant Manager of The New 49’ers for about as long as I can remember. It is because he loyally takes on these responsibilities that I become free to depart Happy Camp during the winter months so I am able to look for golden adventures abroad.

Dave McCracken boating

Boating is my favorite activity in the whole world!

Due to some good fortune that has come my way, I now have a 56-foot luxury motor yacht in the Philippines. Close friends and I have converted this 800 HP platform into a fantastic dive boat. I now devote the winter months voyaging around the Philippines, which is mostly water, doing spear fishing and underwater exploration. This is a lifetime dream come true for me.

Under John’s management, our Happy Camp program runs as smooth as can be. I am able to manage legal matters and compose newsletters anywhere on the planet that I have an Internet connection. The boat provides an Internet connection through a satellite uplink.

With the assistance of my experienced helpers, we made short work of the final clean-up steps with everyone looking on. There was a lot of gold! I bet Craig Colt a dollar that we were just short of an ounce. Then, to hedge my bet, I wagered a dollar with someone else that we recovered more than an ounce. It’s all in fun, and fits in nicely with all the excited chatter from the participants. All debts were promptly paid as soon as we weighed the gold on our scale.

gold nuggets in metal pan people watching

The real value in this clean-up was in the 200 gold nuggets that we had recovered. Granted that most of the nuggets were small. A piece of gold is technically a nugget if it will not pass through a 10-mesh screen.

In the end, the scale weighed up 19 pennyweights (20 pennyweights equals a troy ounce of gold). We were a pennyweight short of making our target of a full ounce. Perhaps if we processed the remaining pay-dirt that had already been dug and screened, we would have more than met our target. But how could I know?

The spot price value of the gold we recovered on Sunday morning added up to $1,360. I made an offer to keep all the gold in exchange for throwing a big pizza party with all the beer or other beverages to make everyone happy. “All in favor?” Not a single participant was in favor of that idea. They never are!

There were 53 people at the split that had been present out on our dig. Divided into 455 grains (about 19 pennyweights), the weight of the individual splits was around 8.56 grains each. Normally, individual splits on these projects are between 6 and 7 grains. I cannot remember the last time the individual splits were above 7 grains. This, along with all the nuggets, gave everyone something to cheer about.

Four of the gold nuggets weighed more than 8.56 grains. One beautiful gold nugget was a pennyweight and a half!  To keep things fair, we all agreed upon a drawing system that would allow the lucky four to pick their nuggets. Boy were those some happy people! Those were some really beautiful gold nuggets!

Then we needed to recalculate the remaining weight against 49 people. From there, I measured out just under 8 grains for each additional split. This is still at least a five-year record. Maybe ten years!

With John and several other members providing support, it did not take long to distribute the individual shares. It was challenging to make it happen through the roar of excitement being generated by the participants. This roar of excitement is all the payment I personally need in order to keep managing these weekend projects.

After a bunch of us packed the gear up the stairs in our building and put it where it belongs, everyone went off to experience more adventure in their lives. I was told that the big pile of pay-dirt we left out on site had been fully processed before dark on Sunday. I heard that some people even swam over there to get their share of what we left behind. 

2019 Schedule of Events

Our first two weekend Group Mining Projects of the season went very well. One of the stories is published above. The other project will make for some excellent video-enhanced storytelling once we complete this latest effort to win our industry back.

The remaining 2019 weekend event will take place in just a few weeks:  August 17 & 18. Otherwise, our numerous properties are available to all members 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for you to do your own prospecting adventures. That is, unless there is some emergency that closes the forest down, like a dangerous wildfire. We have not had any serious wildfires this year so far, so the air is nice and clear.

There is a learning curve to successful gold prospecting. One of the most effective methods of progressing through the learning curve is to go on prospecting adventures with others who more experienced than you are.

Our 2-day Group Mining Projects are one of the primary benefits of New 49’er membership which set us apart from other mining associations.  All weekend events are free to Full & Associate Members. All participants share equally in the gold we recover.

Group projects are limited to a certain number of participants. Scheduling in advance is strongly advised to ensure a position on any specific weekend project: 530 493-2012  

Action Alert: We Still Have an Opportunity to Open Suction Dredges on the Federal Lands!

Action Alert by Tom Kitchar, President of Waldo Mining District

Now that we have the attention and support from Trump administration officials, the next step forward for us has been to draft a Petition to the Department of Interior (DOI) to perform an official Rulemaking process to change the federal regulations in a way that prevents States from interfering with mining on the Federal Lands, to do away with duplicative and unreasonable regulation, and to prevent the States from prohibiting mining on the federal lands.

The Petition was submitted in mid-June. This is an industry-wide program which enjoys support from all or most mining associations. There have also been letters of support from several county governments that have sustained serious economic harm because of the misguided policies against mining by some State agencies.

The petition has landed home where it needs to be. It is being taken seriously. Now, if we can just please take it to the next step: We need to encourage supportive messages from as many people as we can. This is the moment of truth! Notwithstanding any other opportunities that could arise in the future, this is, to a large extent, our last opportunity in the foreseeable future to regain the use of our mechanized equipment and gold dredges.

To assist you with this, we are attaching the Petition. This needs to either be linked to emails or included with hard copies of support: 

We are attaching a link which provides most of the contact details for the officials that we want to reach at this time:

We are also attaching a simple article which describes what a suction dredging is: Perhaps you want to enclose or attach this information in tour message.

There is an additional link which provides some talking points to help if you want some assistance with your messages:

If you please send your messages to each person on the list, especially the two top DOI officials listed at the beginning of the Petition, and also to Mr. Trump; we could find ourselves in a federal Rulemaking process that will finally allow us to defend against the false claims being made against us by the radical extremists who are doing everything within their power to undermine the economic wellbeing of America.

We are thanking you with all sincerity for any and all help you can provide in this effort!

Planned Office Hours for the Time Being

Until further notice, we will continue opening the doors between 9 AM and 4 PM on weekdays.  The office will be closed on weekends, except for the morning hours during the Saturdays when we are sponsoring the coming season’s final Weekend Group Projects:  August 17 & 18. Our final Saturday evening potluck will also happen on August 17. 

Members are invited to sign in your whereabouts on our properties over the phone in case there is some reason we need to find you.

Our mining properties are freely available to all members in good standing 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, unless the Klamath National Forest is closed due to wildfires.

For any problems, our Internal Affairs is available over the phone: Richard Krimm is our Director of Internal Affairs, email or call (510) 681 8066 (also available after hours and on weekends). 

The New 49’ers Legal Fund-raiser!

Gold and Silver EaglesThere will be 25 prizes in all:
Grand Prize: 1-ounce American Gold Eagle
Four ¼-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1/10th-ounce American Gold Eagles
Ten 1-ounce American Silver Eagles

Our office will automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets).

This drawing will take place at 2 pm on Friday, 18 October of this year, at our headquarters in Happy Camp. You do not need to be a member of our organization to participate. You do not need to be present to win.  There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win.

Legal contributions can be arranged by calling (530) 493-2012, by mailing to The New 49’ers Legal Fund, P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, CA 96039, or online.

Purchase Tickets for the next legal Fund-raiser Drawing

  $10.00 each – Enter the number of tickets you wish to purchase into the quantity field then click “Update” before checking out. Our office will automatically generate a ticket in your name for every $10 legal contribution we receive ($100 would generate 10 tickets, etc). There is no limit to the size or frequency of your contributions, or to the number of prizes you can win. Your contribution to The New 49’er Legal Fund is tax-deductible.

The New 49’ers Legal Fund

Our most sincere thank you to everyone who is supporting our efforts to win our industry back. There is good reason for hope at this time.

Best wishes,

Dave McCracken


New 49’er Gold Prospecting Association
27 Davis Road P.O. Box 47, Happy Camp, California 96039 (530) 493-2012

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