One man dredge operation?

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Hello all, I am fairly new to prospecting and have had some luck finding good spots and panning in the rivers of Colorado. I recently acquired a Eureka Gold metal detector but am yet to find a nugget. digging is a little tough in winter:)

Anway, I really want to give dredging a try the only problem is that I usually prospect alone.

Does anyone know of a dredge setup that can be packed in and operated by one person and still be fairly productive?

Any input would be great. thank you.

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I've run a 4 inch for years by myself, but That is about the limit for one guy alone - and that assumes you dont have to carry the dredge in a long ways - a few hundred yards is OK, but you dont want to go a long way by yourself, as with a 4 inch you will be making a number of trips both in and out.


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Hello Wilderness,

I sure love gold dredging, even though I don't get to do it much anymore. Keene makes a nice 2-inch backpacker unit. The 2-inch don't move tons of material, but if you're working shallow areas that have gold it can be worthwhile.

My overall favorite dredge was a 2.5-inch Gold King DPC unit. It ran on a 5hp Brigg & Stratton engine and could really recover very fine gold. I customized the recovery carpet to miners moss and it really helped.

The largest dredge I owned was a Gold King 4-inch that I transfered into a 5-inch with (2) 5hp Brigg & Stratton engines ran in series. This unit had tons of power and I could dredge holes large enough to sink a full-sized vehicle in hours.

Wishing you the best,

Rob Allison

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Hey guys, thanks for your input!! I"m high up in the Rockies and the streams that I'm hopping to hit once some of the snow melts are ir extremely rough terrain. Clear, spring and snowmelt fed. I plan on packing in and spending a week or so camping near my sites.

I took a look at the Keene backpack dredges, and they are definitely the right weight and size to pack in, but it seems like I might be better off in the long run with a larger suction capacity.......and I have to say that the 3 stage sluice recovery on the 4in dredge sounds mighty fine.....too bad they don't have it on the 4in mini or backpacks...

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It's all personal opinion, but I would never dredge with anything

less than a 4" dredge, unless it's a really tiny stream. I have tried

everything from an inch and a half up to a twin engine dual pump 5".

Once you go up in nozzle size, you don't really want to go back.

If you don't set your sluice box at too drastic an angle,

and you don't pump too much water at high velocity across the riffles

you will be surprised how much fine gold recovery is possible

even with a single sluice box.

Some people put a strip of material at the edge of the header box

hanging into the flow of water just a touch to flatten out the water flow.

Flattening of the turbulence lets the fines settle out easier.

As my now deceased dredging mentor used to say,

but that's for fine gold and who wants fine gold?

Of course gold wasn't a thousand bucks an ounce then either.

I'm sure he would have changed his tune if it was.

Have fun, it is one of the best hobbies there is.


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Hello Flak and Wilderness,

I would have to agree with Flak. Once you use a big dredge it's hard to go back down to a smaller one. However, smaller dredges can recover fine gold very well. The trick is to make sure your angle is right, the water flow is consistant, you classify out the larger rocks and have good carpet (like miner's moss).

I see a lot of guys pulling a suction dredge nozzle out of the water. Yes, this is fine, but when you do it you cause a sudden slowing down of water and then an inrush or gush when you place the nozzle back in the water. If you can, try to keep the nozzle under the water at all times. This will help with fine gold recovery.

Another tip is to not choke the nozzle with material if you can. Overloading the riffles can cause poor gold recovery, especially in areas with a lot of heavies.

Sometimes is not the amount of material you move, but the quality of the material being moved or worked.

Here are some photos from one of my last dredging trip here in Arizona.






Hope this helps a bit,

Rob Allison

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Hi Wilderness. I spent quite a few years in Colorado and at that time owned a gold king 2 inch dredge with a 3.5 hp Briggs motor. The problem I found was the depth of over burden in the Colorado streams I tried was really deep and the smaller dredges do not have air. A couple of guys just downstream were doing well but I couldn't get to bedrock without air so I was just getting fines. My suggestion is to look for a used 3 inch with air and stick to a single sluice... it will get all the fines and save you a trip carrying the side sluices. Another thing to consider is how much water is in the streams you intend to work. The plastic pontoons are MUCH more stable in fast water and if you are thinking of working your dredge during runoff you will need stability. Above posts are right about moving more material with a bigger dredge. Check out the Keene and Pro-line websites. A 4 inch will almost double the yardage of a 3 which almost doubles the yardage of a 2. It is a tough decision. A backpac dredge can fit in very small creeks where you might have to dig a hole to float a bigger dredge but the backpac will be useless in a big creek or river. For the past 6 years I have used an old Keene 3 inch with air and pontoons. It isn't pretty but has proven to fit most situations for me. Good luck, Ken Gardner

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