Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reality TV, Stowe Creek Yukon...Who Would Have Figured?

    Like millions of viewers around the world I have been following the popular gold-mining shows on TV, or in my case, YouTube via satellite. I find it all rather amusing, being as familiar as I am with the Dawson area. Over thirty years ago, working out on the placer creeks, it seemed like the last thing in the world anyone would ever want to do a television series about, but these days enough viewers are tuning in that there are two networks airing competing weekly shows.
I track the hits to Hotspringlodge and search keywords people use to land here, and after the new season starts they flood in related to gold-mining and a few of the creeks I was associated with in a past life, and received mention here in some rambling. 
   The original series on Discovery seems pretty heavy with the drama and scripted situations, and if you've been in the racket, you got to wonder when they get in all the time it takes to mine with all the BS going on.  In the real world, good chance the original cast members would have been out of business halfway through the first mining season, never to be heard of again, except from inquiring creditors, but by sluicing the world of ratings, they managed to keep going despite themselves.
One thing that never fails to astound me, is the fact these guys appear to have all their gold at the end of the season, usually most of it is cashed in for operating expenses throughout the season.
And no-one accounts for the gold fineness, or purity, seeing pure gold doesn't exist naturally.
Most miners I've run across didn't keep their gold in glass jars either for fear of dropping it.
Anyways, that's television, it's all entertainment and editing.
The History Channels program Yukon Gold is probably a little more representative of what you would typically find I think.
   But I've got to hand it to that character Beets that moved the last remaining gold-dredge to the mouth of Eureka Ck. That particular large gold-dredge had been moved up to the Dawson gold-field's from California sometime before 1940 and assembled out on Clear Creek where it worked until 1955 before being shut down. Back in my day that same dredge was being refitted and resurrected where it sat by Queenstake Resources, to the tune of about a million bucks. They managed to get it up and working then for a few seasons, but new environmental restrictions and the falling price of gold put them out of business, along with a lot of other outfits, one of which I will refrain from mentioning.  This past television season the huge machine has been moved I don't know how far, but lots far, south to another mining area located on the Indian River at the mouth of Eureka Creek. It has been resurrected and refitted once more, to the tune of another million bucks, and it will be interesting to see how he makes out with this old technology, and today's economy.

In the early 80's I worked further up Eureka Ck. Ours was a much smaller Cat operation, mining the narrower valley for coarse gold up towards the headwaters of the right fork. 


Hal and I, swapping out a cracked D8 head.
Pushing in the last of a cut.

 Stowe Creek- I just about fell out of my chair last week at a new episode of Yukon Gold shown on the History Channel when I discovered a young couple, Nika and Chris, mining on our old Stowe Creek claims. This area was considered well off the beaten trail back then, and along with most of the Montana Ck. tributaries, we had the entire 3 mile length of Stowe staked. and was included in our optimistic drill sampling program in 1981.

 Arriving by helicopter, the test drill set up on some stripped ground, mid point Stowe Ck.

Old door from a remaining cabin.

Getting our contraption set up to put down the first test hole, Stowe Ck. March 1981.
The old timers would have to sink a shaft in the permafrost using fire for a month to accomplish getting samples from bedrock. Once in place and set up, we could bang down a 6" hole, often 30', in a couple hours. Of course it took us all day to get in place and set up.

If I figured we were onto some encouraging ground, I'd take a section of the lower drill core, thaw it over a fire on the spot, melt some snow and pan it out.
Eventually, we hit the Stowe pay I believe, or what there was of it, from a few hand fulls of gravel, and some snow melted over the fire, this was the first gold panned out of Stowe in 80 years. Not long after, the bottom fell out of the gold market and we never did get around to mining this ground, letting the claims lapse in '87.  
   I'll write a more in depth story sometime about this project and the creek's early history, but it cracks me up to no end to see the old creek featured on TV every week. They get in there using our old road, and set up their camp in the very spot that we had intended to. That location is a natural spot for a camp there is a small tributary located there called Hidden Treasure Ck. that allows for a gravity feed water line to the camp. I still have all the drill-logs around here someplace that recorded depth, material, and gold recovered, calculated out by the yard. 
   Would I like to go back gold-mining again? Well yes and no. Its a pile of risky hard work, but if I was 30 years younger, I'm sure it would be difficult not to be drawn back to the allure of gold. 
Second thought, I think I have enough problems, and I'm not so sure I would make good television material either. But as it is, with not much chance of growing younger, I may just have to sit back in front of my lap-top and live vicariously, along with the other millions of viewers, through the efforts of these modern day miners working my old claims.  Good luck to them.
More gold stories....


  1. I work on the show Yukon Gold, and I stumbled here while doing some research. Thanks for writing this. Having spent a little time at this mine, I wonder about all the old stuff I see along the way.

  2. Thanks Tom, nice to hear from you, this post has been getting a lot of hits recently thanks to you guys. I've posted a couple other links you might enjoy, being familiar with that area. Regards.

  3. How about writing? I don't mean to be glib about it but I see a certain style here. If there are people romanticized with gold mining in the Yukon. ...maybe you could eke out a work if fiction and further capitalize on what the tv gold rush has started.