White water dredging

hey anybody out there got any tips on fast water dredging, anchor points , weights and quick release ect, got my eye on a spot but its pretty fast and i never really dredged faster water before , must be a few does and donts

I’ve not done too much, but I found if you can dig a depression you can duck into it too shelter from the current while you dredge more material. Be careful chucking rocks over shoulder though as I found the current can grab your arm when it leaves the slack water zone and pull you out.

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yeah ive found the same Gav is just how do i anchor and hold myself there till ive got my hole deep enough to shelter me from the current , im thinking a ton of lead and maybe drive in a warratah and have a sling with a quick release till i get my hole started , may have to tie my nozzle up as well

start a hole out the side and work your way out into the current, tying your hose forward helps take the pressure off your arms and prevents the hose kinking at the jet if you let go. tie the dredge to a high spot to lift the front of dredge a tad, dont want it to bob and go under.
mask can be a right bastard if you turn head sideways and the current blows it off, lost a couple last year like that (found 1 a day later).
If its complete whiteout/aerated water and youve gotta work by feel only I found it easier to jam a bit of rod etc across the nozzle to halve the intake size or else you end up spending all day unjamming hose/jet, after an hour or so and youve got a reasonable hole a couple feet deep you can usually get below the aerated water and visibility returns.


thanks gogold its good visibility normally and not real fast , if i spend all summer waiting for levels to drop on my claim ill never get in the water, i have the suction to get down deep ,just gotta start thinking outside the box

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also dont tie yourself in if you use your waratah idea. A correct legnth rope (dont wana tangle in excess) and hold on may work.
Any big rocks nearby? Id roll a couple in behind and just brace against untill ya get a hole started, sometimes the water on the bottom isnt swift either esp pools and dropoff type rapids have you snorkeled/dived it to check it out?

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yes i have snorkeled it, i actually dredged some of it a couple of years back with a dredge with bugger all suction at depth, so a flood has washed a huge amount of overburden off , even exposed an old wing dam and im hoping the bed rock will only be a couple of feet down, i know about getting tangled in ropes im not keen on tying off without a quick release belt or carabena or both, i like the idea rolling some rocks to lean against or starting hole in calm and working out

A friend once used a short length of railway iron as something to hang onto. Simply sat on the bottom and had sufficient weight to not move. u do not want to tie urself to a spot, that is simply dangerous.

We used to use two dive weight belts and a tramping pack full of rocks in the Kawarau if that helps…

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As one who had dredged white water, because that was where my gold was at the time. Im talking Buller river, white water. Right in the rapid section. Real fast water. First up me and my partner both used double weight belts. That was a must. Preferred two instead of one big one. Better weight distribution. The thing to remember when putting them on, is have both quick release clips pointing in the same direction. That way if you take a tumble, its a lot easier to unclip from the weight belts. Never lift your head in white water, always assume a dolphin like body position. You are more streamlined that way. As your hole gets bigger and deeper, you will be sheltered from the current, somewhat. The moment you lift your head above the top of the hole, you will be summersaulting down stream. More of that later in this post. When attacking the face, due to some current pushing down into the hole, you will murk out quite a bit, and it takes some time for the hole to clear. Always let it clear before proceeding. Just take a little rest. Keep an eye on the widow makers(large rocks) above your head. Right here is the important bit, and it is vital to the operation. There is always a calm water section above a fast water section, it may be some distance, just get a longer rope. Right to to time to spend some coin. Head off to a boat shop, that specializes in yaughting eqipment. There you will find these stainless steel pulleys with jaw teeth, get the right size for your anchor rope. The yaughting ones are designed to hoist and trim sails. They can hold a massive weight with ease. The ones available from an engineering shop are cheaper, but a poorer build and may give way, under the strain. Big problems then. Both you and the dredge are heading off downstream in a roller coaster of a ride. Now make up a three pronged grapple anchor out of, good hard steel, with a good eyelet to attach anchor rope to. Head off upstream from where you intend to dredge, find calm water. Now wade out or bang on a snorkel. Get out as far, as where you intend to dredge downstream. Now build a rather large cain of rocks on top of your grapple anchor, the bigger and more of the rocks the better. If there is exposed bedrock, you could you a white water gold (alaska) trick. Use an battery drill with a long extension and masonary bit, then screw a bloody good eyelet into the hole and that is your anchor point. Right your anchor point is in. Give it a good test, go downstream a bit, and pull the hell out of it, dig your heels in. If it holds you are good to go. Right your dredge, is downstream, sitting on the bank of the water you intend to dredge. The jaw pulley is placed on the front of the frame, firmly attached. Thread the anchor rope, through the pulley, you can have quite a long tail if your rope is long enough. That can come in handy if somehow, you get blown out of your hole. Grab it, as you go tumbling past it. Hang on and stabilize. Right, Take up the upwards slack. You will now be able to swing the running dredge out in the fast water, to where you are going to dredge. As your upstream anchor point is in line with it. The dredge will happily sit there. But wait, due to the fast water, the front of the dredge is getting pulled down somewhat. Easy fix there. Get a second hand truck tube. Most tire places will give you one if you ask kindly and a lot better if that is the place you deal with for tires. Secure it between the floats. Up front. Blow up to the desired pressure, a bit of trial and error there. But you will get it. The alternative method is dearer and more cumbersome and that is to make an outiggger for either side of the dredge. I tried that first, but then found the tube method was a lot easier. Okay we have swung the dredge out, and it is sitting there, perfectly, but the suction hose is trailing down behind the dredge in the current. So you go and retrieve it, and start sucking. Bloody hard to hang onto with the fast water, and the moment I let it go to, to lift and carry a large rock to the back, away it goes, back down behind the dredge. Okay, I bought two of those jaw pullies. Now I know where the other one goes. Why its attached to the handle on the suction nozzle. And before I was finished with the anchor rope, I put a ubolt in the line about 20 metres upstream, and attached another length of rope to that. I feed that through the pully on the suction head handle and I have now also anchored my suction head. I swing everything out again, and it all just sits there perfectly not moving an inch. And when I want to refuel, well I just swing it all back into calmer water, same for those bloody blockages. But by now I know which rocks will jam, the most, those long skinny bugg’a that just fit in the nozzle.

And heck all I have to do, is just hang onto the nozzle handle and sweep back and forward across my hole. Sucking as I do. Need to go hands off to move a big rock, not a problem. Hose just sits there. Of couse I do have a slight bend in it, after all I don’t want the suction nozzle to become the main anchot point at the dredge end. Don’t trust the clamp that much. So when I need to move forward back to the dredge i go. I don’t need the tail end of the rope. I just pull it where it comes out of the pulley, and the dredge winches itself and moves forward. Easy as. Back to the nozzle, pull that up a bit, and away I go again. Of course I am terracing the face, rather than having one vertical face, I have one or two terraces. Makes it easy, Im still gunna get the gold sitting on bottom eventually, just makes it easier and a helluva lot safer. Frig I just opend up that crack on that bedrock drop off and the gold is flying over my head due to the current and me cracking out its hiding, place. Not a prob, its now sitting on bedrock behind me, just drop back when finished and suck her up. Oh and no problem with my air suppy, I have a reserve tank up top, if I get a motor stoppage for some reason. Won"t be fuel as I never let it get to that. My airline, well i prefer to use my keene harness, its got a quick release clip, and I always have the sitting above my weight belts, and pointing in the right direction to unclip. I don’t use the the underneath the weight belts method. Reason, if I get in an emergency, and I unclip my weight belts, my airline is now in the current and likely to be pulled outa my gob.

Right lets talk risk management. Practice it all the time, whether in fast water or slow water. You may never need it, be like a cub or scout and always be prepared. Murphy can strike anywhere, anytime. And Murphy kinda likes to hang out with gold dredgers, I reckon he likes looking at the gold. Maybe he is a water breathing leprechaun. But he is always there, in the background, just waiting to strike. He just hates getting thwarted.

Airlines, use proper reinforced non kink airlines. I always dived with Keene gear, ya cant beat it. Don’t rely on just the connection to your air supply, to hold it there. I had a simple knot where it was secured to the frame, then to the air supply. Its not designed to be an anchor point. Mind you it saved me one day, took the easy way out to clear a blockage in fast water (didn’t swing the dredge in), Lost my footing on the loose tailings boulders, Off downstream I went tumble, tumble. Managed to grab the airline and hang on like hell, was able to stand up, so pulled myself back to the dredge. Praying all the way. it wouldn’t let go. It didn’t, thank god, but was knotted to the frame after that day.

What to do if you are for some reason, you are blown out of your hole. It is a panic situation, and the first reaction is to ditch your weight belts. Wrong its faster on the water surface than below. Plus you are tumbling, not know where up and where down is. Spatial disorientation, much like pilots get, and end up crashing. I did , do a few test runs, to try out the various situations, with my top man observing and ready to come to my aid. One try and keep calm and go with the tumble. The weight belts will keep you down, and thats where you want to be, heck you have air. You may come to a jerk stop, when you reach the end of the slack in your airline. I like the Keene one, nice and long. But you are hugging the bottom, getting your wits about you. In other words you are stabilizing the situation. You aren’t panicking. If you are losing or have lost your air. Its a full emergency release of everything weight belts, air harness etc. Not stupid to have a decent knife tucked away on your weight belt. Should you need it. Your wet suit will take you to the surface and just ride it out. feet first of course. In any event, rapids usually have a calm area at the bottom of them. If you get to that still harnessed up, its quite simple to just clamber ashore. I think I have covered everything for safe white water diving. My recommendations all worked, it was try this, try that at the start. And in the end I had a good safe system. I always found the best of our gold in white water and it payed off. One paystreak producing on its best day 5 ozs, for a total of 10 days dredging, without an incident, apart from gold flying over my head, was forty ounces. Sadly back in the days of lower prices. Price ranged from $600 to $400 an ounce. Still, we made good money.

Hope all this helps. Its really quite inexpensive, my pulleys were around $90.00 each. Rope I already had plenty off. Tyre tube, my friendly tire company came to the party there. Now hit that white water and enjoy the rewards, as I did.

Cheers Trev aka “The Hatter”


hey thanks im onto it Trev, really like the idea of the sail pulley , and the anchor covered in rocks as i wont have anything to tie off to . I really need to learn safe fast water dredging as it will open up so much more of my claim. thanks again everyone and ill post some pics shortly cheers Webby