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Forum Home > General Discussion > Randy's Etowah River, Dahlonega, GA Trip 3/4 Oct 2009

Randy "C-17A"
Posts: 54

Greetings East Bay Gold Adventurers!


Time for yet another tall tale of a gold prospector, his son Christian, a new friend Pete, and a camping weekend in the North Georgia mountains as Fall hits the high country.......


Ever since my last dredging trip to Buchanan, GA, where I normally go to the GPAA "Farm Claim," I wanted to go all the way up to the Dahlonega, GA, area and dredge... Why? GOLD! I met a gent (Daniel) and his wife sluicing last trip to Buchanan, and during our fellowshipping and talking gold, he showed me a vial of really nice pickers, flakes and fines. Said most was sluiced from the Etowah River, and that he liked to go to the Etowah River Campground. Looked good to me!


I researched the site and contact info and called Jacki, and she confirmed a lot of gold prospectors come and camp and they allowed panning, sluicing and dredging. A primitive tent camp site by the river was only $15 a night. I reserved a spot for the 3 & 4 Oct 09 weekend on "the island" where the river leaves a sandy beach, being told I could easily get my dredge to/from the river.


As fate would have it, I ended up buying a good used Honda Pilot for my wonderful wife, off a family in Blue Ridge, GA, about 45 minutes away, and we coordinated to do the pickup on Saturday morning. My super wonderful wife would take the Honda home, and Christian & I would then proceed East to the Etowah. Thankfully, it all worked out, and by 1030 AM I was driving to camp/prospect, AND meet a new Forum prospecting buddy, StinkyPete and his son Gib. Our plan was to camp, have fun, sluice/dredge and enjoy the great GA outdoors.


Sat 3 Oct 09: Arriving the Etowah River campground, I was a bit shocked to see how BIG it really was.......62 total spaces, a bathhouse, a laundry, 6 beach sites, 20 primitive sites, and a lot of RVs and campers that looked way more permanent that visitors. Also, Jacki told me a group had taken the whole island, so I'd have to pick a primitive site from # 18, # 19, or # 20. Bummer.........easy access was not to be mine to the river!


I drove down and surveyed the situation. These 3 sites were on the river, but the 6 to 8 feet bank/drop off made the idea of safely getting a 4 inch Keen down & up a pipe dream......that was until Pete showed up! Christian & I made camp at site # 18, and just finished pitching the tent, etc., when Pete arrived. Unfortunately, his son Gib, couldn't come, but we made a plan to simply hand carry the dredge and ALL the hoses, pieces/parts, gas, etc., to the river the long way and get to dredging! No easy feat, but we got it all there and set up......


As Pete & I surveyed the river, we concluded that over the years most of the close to get to areas probably had been worked, but with the HUGE 25+ year flooding they had just 2 weeks ago, and we could see where the flood waters were 8+ feet above the current water level, so we concluded no need to push off way up/down stream. Half of Saturday was gone already. So, we went to the far side of the river, against some large boulders, and dredged where the exposed bedrock slipped into the water, and there was a nice flow sand/flow gravel pile. Off and running, I had to really tie off the dredge in the FAST current. Also, the water was VERY cold. It made my cheeks numb in just a few minutes, and any water that leaked down past my neck into my back area felt like liquid nitrogen! Wow......after an hour I was shaking and stiff as the logs I was dredging around there on the bed rock!


Pete gave Christian the sacred trust & honor of using his expensive video equipment and digtal camera to document some of our gold prospecting exploits. This really tickeled Christian, and brought him right back into the fun of it all, even if the water was WAY too cold for him to splash/play/swim in, like he usually does....

After about 2 hours we did an initial clean up, and sadly only found about 5 or 6 small specks of gold. Got two old .22 bullets & some lead birdshot. So, I decided to move into the boulder pile, between 2 big slabs of broken bedrock, and dredge the loose material. The rocks were either very easy to digest flow sand/gravel........mostly quartz, OR layered pieces of flaked off shale-like bedrock. These were like sucking up knife blades...........all conspiring to cause rock jams at every bend of the hose. Believe me, in that cold water, getting up with 2 weight belts and ankle weights was a work out to try and unplug a jam! Had to relearn an old lesson too........as it was Fall, there already a fiar amount of leaves in the water, floating down stream. They clogged the footvalve, and we spent a LONG time trying to see/figure out where the "jam" was, only to eventually find it was a totally leaf bound footvalve.


By 4 PM or so I was done.........physically shutting down from the incessant cold water and the fast moving current. We looked in my first stage, and besides some lead birdshot, just couldn't make out any gold flakes/pickers. Bummer. We tied off the dredge well, and retreated to our campsite, where Christian had built a fire, ready to lite up. After Pete & I got out of our wet, cold suits, and into some warm, dry clothes, we were evening ready. Fire going, BBQ going, heat on, we really enjoyed the feast.............the fellowship and time making smores and talking life, camping, Boy Scouts and such. Thanks Pete for the firewood!!


About 9 PM, Pete had to go home, but said he'd be back about noon time on Sunday, to see how my dredging was going, and to help me pull my dredge back out of the river..... Christian & I played with the fire, looked at the moon & stars, and recounted our great father/son day, that started at 4:30AM.


Sunday 4 Oct 09: We woke at 6 AM, but it was pitch black out........so, after a short talk, and me opening another big handwarmer packet, we both got "warmed up" again, in our bags, and dozed off to sleep...... At 8:35 AM I awoke and realized it was time to rise & shine! After some great breakfast burritos, hot chocolate & coffee, and our last wood logs burning, we were ready to get back to dredging. Mostly............

I must admit.......pulling that cold, wet wetsuit on this time seemed strangely hard. The temp was about 55 degrees..........the sky was sort of gray overcast............not like Saturday's bright/sunny day. And remembering just how cold that water was...........well..............made me ache and my cheeks numb......even before I got into it. However, my dredge was in the river, and I had to retrieve it as a minimum. So, time to buck up, get a stiff upper lip, if not legs, arms & joints, and go back for some gold!


I pulled the dredge over to the West side of the river, wanting to dredge some exposed bedrock right in the middle of the river this time, but due to the waist deep, fast flowing water, I needed to try and anchor/tie off the dredge in the slower water by the sand bar. This proved more difficult that I thought. The current wanted to pull the dredge free and wash it down stream, and my 4 inch inlet hose wanted to wash/tumble down stream too. However, with enough effort, I got it set-up, running and I was dredging the bedrock, right in the middle of the river. Staying in position in the current was work! The water seemed colder that yesterday. I was over my waist in the current....and had to sit up, drop my regulator over and over and gulp in air, until I could go back under. My first times (Sat & Sun) I'd never had enough compressed air to work.


After a few rock jams, and looking at the black mat in my stage 1 area, and seeing not even 1 flake or picker, well, I was done. Hard to admit that I was deciding to bag it early, but it was what it was.........a great father/son and friend outing, but not a "get rich" with the yellow metal trip. So, I shut the 4-incher down, did a final clean up, found a few more specks and broke it all apart. Waiting for Pete to show and help me get the dredge up the bank, and all the way over to the parking area, Christian & I carried all the hoses, tubs, gas can, etc. back. As luck would have it, Pete showed up about 1115 AM (I think), and we had the dredge on the trailer, all loaded up, and by about 1 PM we were driving to Dahlonega, GA, to the Crisson Gold Mine....


I needed to pick up a few small gold pans, and wanted to show Christian the "tourist tour" of the gold equipment and stamp mill. We ended up buying some bags of their crushed quartz cons, to take home, to: 1). sample the competition, & 2). not go home totally w/o some high-purity GA gold! While walking the panning troughs, and watching the tourists, I was able to help a few Crisson customers get their panning techniques going, and did see some nice little gold flakes in their pans!


Pete had to go home, about the time Christian & I went out back to the yard/panning troughs. So, we said our "good-bys" and we thanked him for all his help.........friendship.......and for making our outing simply outstanding. Christian made a great new friend.


Before we left for the 3+30 hr drive home, Christian got a cherry quartz souvenier in the shape of a big quartz crystal. I got some Crisson "dirt" bags of different sizes/grades, and we drove home. Got back about 5 PM, trailered the dredge into the garage, put away all the camping equipment, and cleaned up everything else. A few rain showers on the drive home reminded us of just how nice a Fall weekend we had in the Georgia hills.........sunny Saturday, no rain, decent temps and NO bugs.


So, in summary.......a fantastic father/son outing........river play, dredging, fires, BBQ, smores and meeting a great new prospecting buddy-- Pete. We only got a little (very little) gold, but the riches this trip wasn't in my snuffer bottle.

Fall's here in GA. The days are short, the nights getting cool, and the mountain rivers down right cold........I would guess the Etowah was about 45 degrees. So, plz get out while you still can! Winter will be here soon.


Pete gave me a pointer to his photo album. I am sure a video will come along too:

https://www.box.net/shared/1ud18c3bn7  Enjoy...


God bless, heavy pans........


Randy "C-17A" www.goldadventures.biz








October 5, 2009 at 9:46 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 351

Great adveture, thanks for sharing


Joel Brush (Rockbuster)

East Bay Prospectors

October 5, 2009 at 10:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Posts: 42

wow randy it took me all most a hour to scroll to the bottom to comment? ..lol i posted a comment at gold adventures  all ready. thanks for the great trip report.

October 5, 2009 at 11:01 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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