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Gold Rush: White Water exclusive — Dakota Fred’s bear safeguards will shock you in new season twist

Dakota Fred Hurt is 76 years old and can kick your butt easily, his season on Gold Rush: White Water is a gobsmacker of gold hauls. Pic credit: Discovery
Dakota Fred Hurt is 76 years old and can kick your butt easily, this season on Gold Rush: White Water is a gob smacker of gold hauls. Pic credit: Discovery

There are a few things we learned yesterday in our sit down chat with Dakota Fred Hurt of Discovery’s surprisingly engaging spin-off of Gold Rush, Gold Rush: White Water.

If you don’t want to lose all your gear and food, you may want to travel in the Great White North of Alaska and Canada with dog kennel cages. Apparently they are effective “safes” to keep your rations from disappearing.

And you may want to be up on your fitness goals too, as vertical drops into gorges that plummet hundreds of feet with roiling white water below is where you need to dive to get honest to goodness gold nuggets — not the flaky stuff you see on the mother-ship show Gold Rush.

Is this a place for a 76-year-old fella? Heck no.

But dang if there isn’t a treasure hunt to be sucked up, and Fred closed our talk with the desire to get people who love the treasure hunts on TV like Curse of Oak Island and others super excited to watch him and his son Dustin and their respective crews as they perform circus high wire acts.

They do incredible work just getting themselves and their heavy suction dredges down to the gorge base and working under the frigid water to suck up the remnants of glaciers, gravity, and time.

And for the ageists out there, Fred is fitter and more agile than men half his age and younger.

Fred can rappel like the best climber and dive too, #goals for getting older on Gold Rush: White Water. Pic credit: Discovery.
Fred can rappel like the best climber. He dives too. #goals for getting older on Gold Rush: White Water. Pic credit: Discovery

Gold is heavy and it likes to nestle in crevices and under rocks in plunge pools. Hard to find and rarely explored places where men are scarce — and bears are plentiful.

And these guys are super on top of where to prospect, and which spots are likely to yield millions in the popular element used from jewelry to high-tech space-age components and even dental work. Gold never goes out of style or demand.

This season, the remote Alaskan wilderness is where Fred Hurt and son Dustin Hurt will part ways, as they mine two separate, but promising spots.

Another wild card is that a woman will be on Fred’s crew — his step-daughter Kayla.

We spoke to Fred ahead of tonight’s premiere and got an earful of what’s to come:

Monsters and Critics: Season three — seems crazy that it has been three years…

Dakota Fred Hurt: Third season is the charm. Yes, yes, yes.

M&C: There’s a twist. The twist is, you and Dustin are splitting up?

Dakota Fred Hurt:  That’s correct. How many times have fathers and sons not been able to work together? I think that’s a pretty common experience. How about mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and fathers and daughters?

I think that he had problems and we just happen to have one of those problems. We have a difficult time working together.

M&C: You mention in the premiere, alluding to the fact that you probably won’t be doing this for much longer now, explain that.

Dakota Fred Hurt: Well hell, how many people at 76 years old are doing anything like what I’m doing now? Look, when you get that age, you’re supposed to be in a rocking chair with a little pablum dribbling down your beard, somebody wiping it off for you and changing your diapers at the same time. So I’m not quite ready for that. Eventually, I’ll get there, but not yet.

M&C: Another twist that I observed is you’re injecting some female energy into your crew here. You’ve got Kayla on your crew…

Dakota Fred Hurt: Kayla, yes. My step-daughter. Well, she kind of got pressed into this. First of all, I had once an extra, another fellow coming out there on the job site at the last minute. We were about ready to leave bottom 48 here and he calls and says “Hi, I’m not going to do it.” And I thought “Oh.”

So when we get up there, I’m here working with just one guy. That’s Paul Richardson. Some interesting stuff goes on with that…

Anyway, I said Kayla was supposed to just do my paperwork and kind of do a little bit of camp warrants and things of that nature and go for work. Go for this and go for that. Because we always have a supply problem. Everything from food to gear.

We just ask “Hey, would you help us out? We need some hands.” I just need some hands out there.  She thought about it, said, “I’ll give it a try.” So she’s a big, strong gal. She’s almost six feet tall. And in very good shape.

I said, “Well, let’s say if you can handle it.” So she gets out there and surprises the hell out of all of us.  I’ll give it away, maybe I shouldn’t tell you anything about that. Let’s just say she became part of the crew.  She works with Paul. Paul Richardson is also on my crew.

We had one other young man that Dustin wound up with Wes Richardson, Paul’s brother. He’s worked with us for five years… And one other young man that I believe will be introduced onto the show.

M&C: Okay. Now I want you to explain why you picked Two Fish as your spot?

Dakota Fred Hurt: Two Fish, the technical, anybody can look it up, Two Fish, Alaska. The name of the claim and my wife Jen and I, we stake that claim about three years ago and I’d never prospected it.

And I said, “Well, it’s a good opportunity to do that.” And we’ve saw a fantastic waterfall on that thing and man, that’s the first way we’re going to go check. Turned out well.

M&C: Do you have to pay the state of Alaska money when you stake a claim? How does that work?

Dakota Fred Hurt: Yes, you do. There is a set procedure that can anyone can actually still go stake a claim for gold anywhere in the United States. Anywhere. There is a procedure for doing that in every state, and the federal government also has guidelines exactly how to do it. If you wanted to do something like that, you could do it.

Yes, there is a procedure for staking a claim. Basically you are seeking the rights to mine or to process minerals. You have the mineral rights on that land and resources. Trees is another thing with permission and permits, yes.

You can still do that, just like the old pioneers did. You went out and staked the claim. You have to stake the corners. There is an exact procedure that you have to follow, paperwork to follow, and pay your fees, and you didn’t have a claim.

M&C: I noticed your equipment is massive. You guys, when you gear up, it’s no joke. There’s a lot of stuff, give me a ballpark of what the investment is that you and Dustin both have to put up to get the gold out of the water…

Dakota Fred Hurt: Well, first of all, dredging is not near anything like industrial gold farming, I’ll call it.  The Gold Rush show. First of all, you invest millions into equipment or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and then it cost you. Probably if you’ve got three or four pieces of equipment, you’re talking a thousand dollars a day in fuel costs, dredges…

You’re under $10 000 worth for a dredge and $34 a day in fuel.  The regular person could go out and do some dredging. Granted, he’s got to know how to do it. Generally you don’t have to get in deep water.

A regular person can go out and do this work… If they had a little knowledge and read up on how to do it in and watch us do it. [laughs] Except don’t go where we go, because we’re in a pretty hazardous area.

M&C: So with the bigger risk comes bigger reward. I noticed that the gold that you guys pull out of the water is much larger in size. They’re actually nuggets as compared to like the gold flecks and dust grains that you would see on Gold Rush…

Dakota Fred Hurt: Let me explain what the situation is. What we’re working in Cahoon Creek now, the old-time miners did the same thing. They pulled lots of big nuggets here and there and in late 1930s they had to stop mining.

They had to stop mining Cahoon Creek because there was a huge glacier in front of them.

Well, guess what? By 1950 that glacier had retreated back up, way up on a mountain, exposed the air to what we call Two Fish, and now we were the first persons to seriously mine that area.

We did have evidence of a few people had done some recreational mining. We were the first ones to really get out there, move the boulders, which nobody had ever done. That was a real-time contributing factor to our success.

M&C: Bears. You’re going further up the river further up the heart of darkness and you encounter bears big time. Talk about that, this season.

Dakota Fred Hurt: Bears. You’ve got to remember that this area is a very, very isolated area. It’s isolated by two creeks, McKinley Creek, and on the other side is a Porcupine Creek. McKinley is kind of in between those two. It’s a huge 250-foot gorge on both sides and it kind of isolates the animals up in there. And legally these bears have never seen humans.

We don’t know what they’re doing there. There’s black bears, brown bears, and grizzlies. We know because we put them on critter cams that we had. Good God, they came into camp. Nighttime, daytime, or whenever.

Our actual dive site is a little bit remote from that camp and we would set the cameras on. We’ve got bears in the camp while we were gone during the day, diving and mining.

So we had to take some protective measures. I’m not going to give it away, but it involves something called dog kennels.

M&C: So you would use dogs in kennels to protect from bears?

Dakota Fred Hurt: No. No dog. Dogs are not permitted on mining sites.

M&C: Why?

Dakota Fred Hurt: That’s regulation, actually. Well, they just aren’t. You have to ask regulators about that. Technically they are not allowed, but it has nothing to do with the dogs per se. Dog kennels is what we use. So this basically was our protection.

M&C: You mean, your crew would have to get in the dog kennels to protect themselves?

Dakota Fred Hurt: Let’s just say you will have to watch the show to kind of see how we utilize these dog kennels to protect all of our food, to keep food. I mean you can’t let bears just walk up to a tent and go shred a tent in a heartbeat. They would destroy everything. Yes, we did use dog kennels to our advantage.

M&C: I have a feeling you guys made out like bandits, just based on the footage of the gold that you pulled out. You do well?

Dakota Fred Hurt: We did well enough that we were all satisfied that we had a very successful season. You’ve got to remember this show and everybody asked me “What in the world, Fred? Why do you keep going back?”

And you don’t get gobs and gobs of gold, it’s the thrill of the hunt. It’s a treasure hunt, it’s that old pioneer spirit. I can tell you the adventure is just incredible.

The definition of an adventure is that you go out, you overcome all these obstacles you overcome. Three months later, you look back on what you just did and you say “Wow, what an adventure that was.” Your mind seems to minimize the hardship, sometimes that’s going to be an adventure you’ll always remember.

Gold Rush: White Water returns for Season 3 on Friday, Nov. 8 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery.

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