Dredging Tips (and a Rant or Two, Part 2)

 (Keene Engineering 5" suction dredge with multi-stage sluice box recovery system.)

I'm back with more gold suction dredge tips for you. That, and a few more rants against the sheer idiocy of the petty bureaucrats, cheesy politicians, and lunatic fringe special interests who have essentially signed the death warrant on suction dredging in the western United States. May the black pox afflict their nether regions and may they all suffer 100 years of darkness, evil, and misfortune. (Read on and you'll see how I REALLY feel!)

The Devil Incarnate

As I stated in my earlier post, suction dredging is the single-most effective way of recovering gold from wet placer areas. I consider myself fortunate indeed to have done the bulk of my dredging in Northern California back in the 1980s when things were still relatively carefree for dredgers in the West and Southwest. Sure, the elitist snobs and forest fairies of the Sierra Club were on our asses even that long ago, but their "suction dredging destroys fish habitat" comedy routine wasn't getting very far back then. Essentially we just laughed them off for the self-serving idiots they were (and still are) and went about our business...sucking gold from California's rivers and streams. I guess our smug arrogance back then wasn't the best response after all. We should've taken things a bit more seriously and realized that these pseudo-religious, cult-like "environmentalists" from the ritzy, liberal districts of San Francisco and Los Angeles or the long-haired, hemp-sodden denizens of the redwood forests of California and Oregon were not going to take no for an answer in terms of shoving their agendas down our throats. They were (and are) naturist zombies on a mission and we small-scale gold miners and suction dredgers are the devil incarnate in the muddled vision of their glassy, staring eyes.

 (Beware the green zombies.)

The Protective Arms of the State

You know, miners by and large are "live and let live" types who typically don't give a damn what you do as long as you don't jump their claim or screw with mining in general. The other side, however, seems hell bent on implementing its left-wing, neo-Stalinist ideology as the ONLY means of achieving a green version of a socialist new world order where everyone is equal, diversity rises triumphant, the proletariat rules supreme, and Ma Nature is enfolded in the protective arms of the state. How many times have we seen the "glorious" results of this sort of cynical manipulation of the masses in past history? Moreover, how many millions have been imprisoned, starved, tortured, or murdered under Marxist-Leninist "redistribution of the wealth" bullshit with Big Brother's protective hands squeezed tightly around the throats of the working class? How many good American kids like myself, my surviving buddies, and hundreds of thousands of others have fought (and sometimes died) to halt the spread of this sort of leftist poison in foreign lands like Korea and Vietnam? And just how many of those self-righteous, do-gooder, liberal socialites in San Francisco or L.A. do you think are gonna give up their fancy mansions, illegal servants and gardeners, or hefty bank accounts when the revolution DOES come? Zero. Zip. Not a one. Stripped of all their airs and innate foolishness, they're nothing but self-righteous hypocrites and pit vipers, one and all. This anti-mining, anti-dredging routine is just another manifestation of their prejudicial vision of a one-size-fits-all socialist nirvana where the few dictate to the many (but "we're all one," don't ya know?). And what about the career politicians who pass the "greenie" environmental bills in state assemblies, the House, and the Senate? Nothing more than cheap street prostitutes and/or limp-dick puppets who march only to the beat of money and power (i.e., re-election). There it is in a nutshell brothers and sisters. Let's hope sanity prevails in the end and the so-called silent majority stands up to be counted. If not, I fear this country is as good as lost, not just small-scale mining.

OK, that's my rant for today (and quite a rant it was, I might add). Now let's move onto those suction dredging tips I mentioned:

1)  Keep your dredge engine running at the right speed. When you're finally out there dredging for gold, it's imperative that you keep the dredge's engine (motor) operating at the optimum speed. You can define this quite simply by noticing the pull of the suction on your intake nozzle. You want just enough suction to pull the heavier rocks and gravel into the dredge's sluice box(es), nothing more than that. Any dredger worth his or her salt will tell you that if you run your dredge too fast for greater suction, you're gonna lose lots of fine or small gold in the process. I guess that's OK if you don't give a shit about recovering and retaining the "small stuff," but truth be told...I've never run into a small-scale miner or dredger who wanted to let ANY gold get away. It is true, however, that some dredging ground is more hard-packed than others, or clay layers or some other sort of geological quirk will require that you run your dredge motor faster in order to suck anything up. In these instances it's six of one and a half dozen of the other. You gotta do what you gotta do to get gold into the box, even if that means you lose a little in the process. If you're paranoid or truly finicky, you can dredge up the remnants of your tailings if they aren't already a half mile downstream, small gold included. Me? I always passed on that last one.

2) Paint all your dredging tools fluorescent orange or yellow. You'll see this tip pop up frequently in dredging "how to" books and online as well. IT'S EXCELLENT ADVICE...SO FOLLOW IT. I recommend you paint your hand tools bright colors even if you aren't a dredger. I can't tell you how many times early on in my career dry washing, crevicing, sluicing, or highbanking that I lost sight of a rock hammer, a crack hammer, a chisel, a crevicing tool, etc., because they weren't painted bright colors and ended up blending into the surrounding terrain. This is even more of a factor if you're working underwater as a dredger. Even something as large as a pry bar can go missing in action visually pretty damn easy at times. Working underwater or even in shallow water tools are hard to spot once you lay them down nearby. So get in the habit of spray painting them bright colors...you don't have to paint the whole tool, just part of it so that it's easier to locate when you need it.
3) Be careful of critters. If you're dredging for any length of time and want to leave your dredge as is and ready to go the following day, make sure you keep vulnerable dredge parts or components out of the reach of critters. Rodents, racoons, and God knows what else can chew up various plastic or rubber lines, hoses, or parts or even carry them off to their dens or holes. I myself had a wet suit chewed through in spots because I left it out and in reach at night and the face mask of a buddy suffered the same fate. Although I never had damage to my dredge from animals or rodents, it has happened to others...especially if you pull the dredge onto shore at night. I always left mine anchored in the river with three tie-off points. Smaller, vulnerable tools, wetsuit gear, or parts can be boxed up in snap-lid plastic storage boxes at night, or secured onto the dredge itself. Mind what I say here, because even the smallest critter can ruin your day as a dredger if you're not careful.

(Ahhh, ain't he cute?)

That's it for this round. Be safe out there, OK?

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2015

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. JR, the part about the critters.....I have been told that most plastic and some rubber has soy bean in it now. I don't know if this is true or not, but I have had bears eat trail cameras, water pipes, and even my bear bait tags!

  2. After reading the rant part of your commentary I am thankful to prospect and stake claims here in Nevada, vast uninhabited tracts of desert, mining friendly as it can possibly get here in the West, countless abandoned claims and mines here that gives the opportunity to anyone with two legs and a brain to make there own way. after hearing about some of the other Western states feverishly adopting anti small miners laws that are designed to undermine the way of life for so many innocent and hard working people out there, once again, I am thankful to have the freedoms that most of us took for granted not so long ago, and wonder when the war on prospecting will spread into my district, hopefully not in my lifetime, most other countries governments hold claim to all the minerals within there borders, thus making anyone/s not sanctioned to mine, illegal miners, I believe this is the format for what we are seeing today in this country, all done under the guise of protecting the environment, believe me, there are many "green" types out there with expensive gold jewelry in there possession, and more than likely have a better use planned for the new found wealth of state held gold reserves now that they have official removed the public/privately held rights to mine, perhaps a more corporate minded government has enacted this con job to make sure that the big guys get it all, and the little guys get nothing but criminal records, South Africa, or South America ring a bell.

  3. I don't usually respond to comments but your words make sense John. Good common sense. Nevada has long been in my sights and I've wanted to check it out from a small-scale standpoint for a long time now. I'm glad you guys there are staying away from the problems in Calif. and Ore. I hope things continue along that path for you!


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