It was August of 1994 on the Klamath River in Northern California. Jim Britton of D&K Detector Sales had put together a little mining trip to one of his claims just east of Thompson Creek on the Klamath River. Jim said that we would have access to an 8 inch dredge being used by one of the guys working the claim. When we arrived at the claim, I had only one question. " How do we get our stuff out to the dredge? There's no boat." Well, this was a problem. How do you get across a river that is 100 to 125 feet wide with two full 5 gallon gas cans, lunch boxes, diving gear, a host of other odds and ends and live to tell about it? Simple... you go find a boat. We were able to borrow a 6 man rubber raft from a friend of Jim's in Happy Camp.
The next day was a different sort of adventure. Anybody driving by must have thought we were crazy! We put all of our gear into the raft and slowly pushed it out into the current of the river. The three of us, dressed in our wetsuits, were starting to " get in over our heads " as we made it to the main channel of the river. Our feet would only touch a few large boulders as we went down the river. Each time one of us felt the bottom of the river, that person would push the raft towards the other side. We had started about 500 feet up river. It took nearly 400 feet of river to make it over to the dredge. What would you think if you were driving by and you saw three guys in the water, hanging onto a raft, splashing and yelling, heading for the rapids? That's what I thought.
Once we got down to business and started dredging, we realized that the dredge we were using was in need of a lot of repair. The biggest problem was the suction hose. It had broken ribs and would collapse anytime it felt like it. After a few hours of putting up with it, Jim figured out the least amount we could cut off and still dredge effectively. 17 feet of hose was all we had left. The bedrock was 12 to 15 feet below the surface of the water.
So, there we were. Jim Britton was nozzle man. He can suck more gravel faster than anyone I have ever seen! " Big Mac " McAlister was the dredge operator and Gerard Forsman (that's me) was rock man. If it doesn't go up the hose (7-8 inches and larger), I'd throw it or carry it to the pile of rocks behind us. For those of you who have never picked up anything underwater, it's amazing how much lighter a 50 pound boulder seems, until one smashes your finger!!! OWWWWW&%*#$*!!!! At least the cold water and the pressure of working underwater helps keep the swelling down.
Overall, the gravel was an average of 8 feet thick. The top 4 feet had very little gold. The bottom 4 feet and especially the last foot had pockets of gold where you could see it falling out of the gravel and onto the bedrock. Breaking up the bedrock revealed some nice nuggets and flakes, too.
After 40 hours of dredging, we had a total of 12 ounces of gold. One troy pound! At that time, the gold we had found was worth $5000. Our best day was 3 1/2 ounces in 3 hours!
There's a lot of gold still out there. Hope you find some.
Photo by Jim Britton 8/94
" Big Mac " McAlister (left) and Gerard Forsman dredging the Klamath River.
Photo by Gerard Forsman 8/94
One day's cleanup! 3 1/2 ounces in 3 hours!
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