Members of the Gold Prospectors of the Rockies, a Denver Colorado gold prospecting club, met at a member's property near Alma Colorado for a day of dredging on October 26, 1996. There were four dredges available ranging in size from 1-1/2" to a Keene 5" triple sluice.
October at 11,000 feet elevation means cold mornings and snow on the mountain tops. This also means cold water. This day the water measured 36 degrees fahrenheit. Wet suits and panners' gloves were the uniform of the day. The first task was to unload and carry the dredges to the water's edge. This wasn't too bad as we could drive within about 50 feet of the water. Then assembly of the equipment began as seen in the first photo. A large dredge looks like a huge jigsaw puzzle when it is broken down into it's small parts.
Some of the assembly has to be done under the water. In the second photo, the power jet is being installed on the sluicebox header assembly. Much of this assembly is a two-person job. One to "watch" or more usefully hold the dredge steady, and one to do the actual work. This part of the work is cold as the initial move into the water is a real shock and assembly is difficult when wearing gloves. After a little time, the cold water inside the wet suit will warm up.
Club outings are a family affair. This usually means both adults and children will have fun and play in the water as seen in the third photo. In small streams like the one in the third photo, there is little chance that the children will be in any danger, yet parents are responsible for looking out for them.
Running a 5-inch dredge as in the fourth photo is pretty much a two-person operation, especially if a "hookah" and diving is involved. At this outing we were in a small creek and the water depth didn't require air. Also, everyone kind of "wussed" out and there weren't even any heads going under the water. This was the first cold-water outing of the year. A wet suit keeps you pretty warm until you put your head under the water and some of the cold stuff leaks down the back of your neck. That gives you a feeling that really gets your attention until your body warms it up.
After a fun day's dredging it is time to clean up as in the fifth photo and see if there will be a "golden reward." With a 5-inch triple sluice dredge, there are a lot of concentrates. Unless there are some large nuggets, the payoff usually isn't known until final work up of the concentrates. In this case, some gold was found but no one made a fortune. New locations sometimes just don't produce up to expectations. Was a great time had, however? You bet. The payoff for a day's work doesn't always show up in the gold pan. All members who attended were eagerly awaiting the next club outing. In Colorado, the next major outing will be after spring runoff. Usually May or June.
Photo credits: All by Leonard Leeper.