Don't Cross That Bridge Without Checking Underneath It (Conclusion)
(Another view of downtown Reno's Virginia Street Bridge.)
Here’s the conclusion to my 3-part series of posts on this topic:
Jerry, Walt, and Darrell’s Overall Take?
No one except Jerry Felesina, Walt Dulaney, and Darrell Garman themselves knows the exact dollar value of all the items they recovered from their multi-season suction dredging operations beneath Reno, Nevada’s historic Virginia Street Bridge. Rumors circulating through the small-scale mining and treasure hunting communities back in the early 1980s cited these figures:
$30,000 for their best season of dredging the Truckee River in Reno
$60,000 total recovery value (all seasons)
$100,000+ total recovery (all seasons)
My guess is that Jerry, Walt, and Darrell’s overall take was somewhere between the last two figures cited, although this is sheer supposition on my part and nothing more. No matter how you slice it though, these former small-scale gold miners turned treasure hunters went home with their pockets bulging.
Treasure Won, Treasure Lost
But treasure won can sometimes be treasure lost. Unfortunately, later in the 1980s one of the dredging trio’s relatives stole the very best (i.e., most expensive) gold rings and jewelry items the boys had recovered from beneath the Virginia Street Bridge and sold them to support a drug habit.
Why the dredging “pards” ended up putting their very best eggs in one basket is puzzling to an old miner and treasure hunter like me. Perhaps they were waiting for better prices or maybe the three of them had a falling out of some sort…I really don’t know, but this should serve as a classic example to stick to the old mining adage, “mind your goods.”
Another River and Another Bridge
The second bridge recovery I wanted to tell you about happened a few years later right near the old Sierra mining town of Downieville in California’s northern Motherlode. This is the area where I spent of lot of time mining back in the 1980s and is only about 12 miles from the North Yuba River placer claim my “pard” (another Jim R.) and I now own.
Unless I miss my bet, the Nevada Street Bridge crosses the N. Yuba just as you head north out of town toward Sierra City. An enterprising duo of suction dredgers thought they had good reason to start working underneath the bridge and began running their gold suction dredge there. Whether these small-scale miners knew something the rest of us didn't know at the time or just got lucky, I can't say...this info came to me second hand.
A Mini-Gold Stampede
The upshot? The enterprising duo hit a small, but apparently very rich pocket or paystreak of placer gold that triggered a mini-gold stampede in the area until town and county bureaucrats put the kibosh on all dredging under or near the bridge itself. It was a madhouse until the authorities stepped in evidently, and I tend to believe it. Gold does strange things to people, myself included!
(The Nevada Street Bridge over the N. Yuba River at Downieville, California.)
I heard later on through the mining grapevine that the two dredgers in question also recovered a few old coins and artifacts during their bridge dredging activities along with their many ounces of placer gold. How many ounces exactly these two miners pulled from beneath the Nevada Street Bridge, I can't say, but evidently they did all right. (Note: If memory serves me well, gold was at nearly $800.00 a troy ounce at the time. Jim)
Remember these 3 things if you’re interested in becoming a bridge hunter or dredger:
1) Many items thrown off bridges don’t reach the water and low tides or low river levels may make banks or beaches good spots to hunt as well.
2) Local officials may throw a monkey wrench in your plans so be prepared for potential bureaucratic B.S.
3) Last but not least, YOU MAY NOT WANT TO FIND EVERYTHING thrown off bridges, and that’s a fact!
Good hunting out there.
If you liked this post, you may want to read: “Don’t Cross That Bridge Without Checking Underneath It (Part 2)”
© Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2011
Questions? E-mail me at email@example.com