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15 January 2015

Yukon and Alaska Bound, Part 22. Gold Mining and Dredge No. 4


Placer Gold Mining - Dredge No. 4


Gold Bottom Mine Tour


small container of gold.
Gold that is!
It's the 10th of July 2014 and we are waiting in front of the office at Gold Bottom Mine Tours office on Front Street in Dawson City, Yukon.

Old mine shaft.
Old Mine shaft

An active placer mining site.
An active placer mining site
We are about to embark on a placer gold mine tour. Placer gold mining is the mining of stream bed deposits for gold or other minerals.


Placer mining may be done by open-pit or by various surface excavating equipment or tunneling equipment.


The gold, having been moved by stream flow from an original source such as a vein, are typically only a minuscule portion of the total deposit.


Since gold is very heavy considerably more dense than sand, it tend to accumulate at the base of placer deposits.


Up on Hunker Creek Claim the permafrost first has to been thawed out and washed away before they can find any gold.


This is a method known as hydraulic mining, hydraulic sluicing or hydraulicking.


The mine tour costs $55.00 per person and it is well worth it. We hop in to a company van and get chauffeured up to the claim.


Melinda our guide is very nice young women. She first shows us around the claim where they have an office and some cabins.






In their private Museum. Note the large Mammoth tusk.
In their private Museum. Note the large Mammoth tusk.

Pumping water up in to the side hill so the sun can melt the perma frost.
Pumping water up in to the side hill so the sun can melt the perma frost.

Large front loader dumping dirt into the large sluice.
Large front loader dumping dirt into the large sluice. 

Large gravel coming out and being separated.
Large gravel coming out and being separated.

Final separation of the gold is done by hand.
Final separation is done by hand.

It is time consuming but hopefully worth it.

Gold on a water wheel.
There we go, it's what we are looking for.
The history and what they have found is very interesting.




It is not uncommon to find huge Mammoth Ivory tusks.




The miners are allowed to keep these and it is an extra bonus for them.




Somehow they are not as controlled up here, they do not have to stop working for the paleontologist to arrive.





They just keep the stuff and the authorities will eventually catch up with them.




After that we drive up to where they are working on the claim.




The equipment is running and it is clanging and banging away.




A front loader dumps pay dirt (possible gold bearing soil or gravel) in the the massive sluice.




The sluice separates the dirt and the gold, all this works with gravity and with the help of water and motion.




The fine dirt now collected in 5 gallon pails is then run through a similar process but with fine eye watching for gold.




It's now our turn. But first we get to see some actual nuggets that have been found on the claim. Wow, incredible.




One chain with a nugget is worth about $10,000.00




Now we get our rubber boots, and gold pans. A quick instruction and we are on our way.




We both find a few specs of gold, but we are not going to be rich today.




We hop in the van and head back to Dawson City.











Anders with a $10,000.00 chain and nugget.
Anders with a $10,000.00 chain and nugget.

Dredge No 4


Dredge No 4, Canadian National Historic Site.
Dredge No 4, Canadian National Historic Site.

Dredge No 4, Canadian National Historic Site. It is massive.
Dredge No 4, Canadian National Historic Site. It is massive.
The workings of Dredge No 4, Canadian National Historic Site.
The workings of Dredge No 4, Canadian National Historic Site.

Inside the dredge.
Inside the dredge.

Liz walking up the stairs inside the dredge.
Liz walking up the stairs inside the dredge.

This is where the operator watched over things.
We have a quick lunch and then we hop in the truck and head up to Dredge No 4 outside of town.


After gold was discovered in large quantities in the Klondike, dredges were brought into the Yukon.


In the early 1900 there were about two dozen dredges that worked this area.

Dredge No 4 is located on Claim No. 17 on Bonanza Creek near the spot where it ceased operations in 1960.


The largest wooden hull, bucket-line dredge in North America, it was designed by the Marion Steam Shovel Company.


Dredge No 4 started working in 1913. In some of the places where it operated it produce up to 800 oz of gold in a single day.


Some facts about Dredge No 4: it is 2/3 the size of a football field and stands 8 stories high.


It has a displacement weight of over 3,000 tons , with a 16 cubic foot bucket capacity.


Dredge No 4 could dig 48 feet below water level, and 17 feet above water level using hydraulic monitors and washing the gravel banks down.


The amazing part with Dredge No 4 was that it was electrically powered. The power came from the Company's hydro plant on the Klondike River about 30 miles away.

The dredge required 920 continuous horsepower during the digging operation alone. Extra horsepower was needed occasionally for such things as hoisting the "spud" (a pivoting pole) and the gangplank.


The dredge would move along on a pond of its own making. It would dig gold bearing gravel in front, recovering the gold through the revolving screen and washing plant, then depositing the gravel out the stacker at the rear of the dredge.


A dredge pond could be 300 feet long by 500 feet wide, depending on the width of the valley in which the dredge was operating.


The operating season was on average about 200 days, starting in late April or early May and operating 24 hours a day until late November.

This is a very interesting National Historic site. Remember to use your Parks Canada pass.

Anders panning for gold
Anders panning for gold

Liz trying her luck for gold.
Liz trying her luck for gold.
After this tour we went to a "free claim" and tried our luck at panning in the river.... No riches this time.

For many more pictures from this interesting day, click here.


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