Gold Rush: White Water exclusive interview — Dakota Fred discusses ‘intense, cringe-worthy’ new season

Fred Hurt smiling on the trail to McKinley.

Fred Hurt, aka Dakota Fred, could shame Chuck Norris in his heyday. This fit septuagenarian is going strong still with no signs of slowing down, and if you listen to what he says, constant activity and strength-related tasks on a daily basis are key to a youthful old age.

Dakota’s a badass, pure and simple. His show, Gold Rush: White Water details the exploits of Fred, his son Dustin and a trusty crew of talented and fit alt-gold miners who do not use dozers or washplants.

Instead, they rappel cliffs and hike miles to head to the most remote areas of Alaskan frigid rapid rushing waters in a bid to suction dredge the gold out of the gravel, silt and plunge pools of these remote waters.

The trick is not to get killed doing it.

Not a day at the beach by any means, this dangerous job requires focus, planning, and strength to be able to descend into waters that can freeze a human being in minutes, or rake an untethered diver over razor sharp rocks.

There are also bears that visit the Gold Rush: White Water crew, something which will happen during this perilous new season.

Simply stated, Dakota Fred and his son Dustin are diving into rapidly moving, freezing and deep waters looking for gold nuggets in the raging torrents of glacier-fed McKinley Creek.

The Alaskan wilderness is a brutal and gorgeous siren, full of riches and certain death for the unlucky or unprepared. They survive and prosper by their training and ability to manage the cold with the help of heated wetsuits to dive beneath the freezing plunge pools.

Last season, the Dakota Boys dealt with a landslide and flash flood that decimated their mine site. Now they are upping the ante, adding men and bigger suction dredges to get that gold they know lies on bedrock beneath the creek bed.

Dakota Fred Hurt brings a lifetime of experience to the gig, as a former commercial diver in the 1960s and 1970s, in the Gulf of Mexico as an oilfield diver.

Joining him are Dustin Hurt, Marine Sgt. Carlos Minor, Texan brothers Wes and Paul Richardson, greenhorn Rich Webster and Arizona miner Casey Morgan.

We spoke to Dakota Fred about this new season and he promises you will not be disappointed.

"Dakota Fred" Hurt smiling on the trail to McKinley, he knows gold awaits. Pic credit: Discovery.
“Dakota Fred” Hurt smiling on the trail to McKinley, he knows gold awaits. Pic credit: Discovery.

Monsters and Critics:  I’m just amazed by you, I mean, these clips from the new season, you’re my hero. And I think that you should be a lot of people’s hero.

Dakota Fred:     Oh, you embarrass me.  Look, I’m just an old guy out there doing something extraordinary, that’s all. I’m an ordinary guy but I’m doing something a little extraordinary. I understand that. I’ve been blessed with good health most of my life and so I hope to be an inspiration to every age.

M&C:    Well, you are. It’s really something to hang your hat on. So, take a bow.

Dakota Fred:   Particularly old guys and old duffers.

M&C:  Yeah, but you’re strong and you’re fit and you can do things that men a quarter of your age can’t even do. I mean, it’s really something. 

Dakota Fred:    Thank you. I know that I am fortunate. I look around a lot of the guys … I live in a little bitty town over here in southern Oregon right now and I see these old guys going to the post office, just creeping along and I get to talking to them and they’re in their sixties.

I said, “What? Come on, now.” I do know that I am fortunate. But I attribute that to the fact that I worked hard all my life. I enjoyed work.

I didn’t think work was a four letter word. You can ask Dustin about how I worked. He picked up on that work ethic, definitely. Definitely.

M&C:    How much is manufactured reality on White Water?

Dakota Fred:  Well, I’m gonna tell you a secret and you can … and Phil [Discovery PR] can tell whether I’m telling the truth or not. But I can tell you that a lot of reality shows that I’ve watched. I know how they make ’em. And if you’re lucky, you’re going to get 50 maybe 60 percent the real deal.

On our show, you probably going to get about 85 percent at least, of the real deal. You see it happen, it happened.

And the film crew a lot of times has told us that we were hard to work with. Years ago, when I was on Gold Rush and Dustin and I were on Gold Rush. It’s because we wanted to keep it as real as possible. And I think people appreciate that.

M&C:   So what can we look forward too?

Dakota Fred:  It’s going to be a little bit over the top, unfortunately at times. Things are going to get very severe. And it’s going to be … my word would be cringe-worthy.

People will just go, “Oh! I can’t believe they’re doing that! What…”

Certain things like that. It’s going to be pretty intense, really intense at times. Other times quite funny. So I think it’s going to be a super entertaining show.

We hope to inspire people, but not to go out and do what we’re doing. I mean, we know that we’re over the edge and off the charts with this. But we hope people will say, “Well, we’d like to do something like that. Or we could go…”

Whatever they do, I don’t care if they’re nurses or truck drivers, that doesn’t make a bit of difference. Whatever they are.

If they just go out and do the best they can do. That’s what we hope to inspire people to do. To do something. And to do what they do good, excellent. It’s going to be an entertaining show, there is no doubt of it.

M&C:   Tell me about your guys and Dustin…

Dakota Fred:     Now remember, these are Dustin’s claims. So, I’m there a whole lot as an advisor more than in charge. Although I try to be in charge at times.

The reality is, these are on Dustin’s claims. He has some gold claims right there in Alaska. And that’s what we’re working on. So you’ll see him in charge a lot. But it doesn’t mean I agree with what he’s doing.

I’m there as an advisor, to try to keep him out of trouble. To try to guide him to the most gold that I can, where we need to be. Does the younger generation listen all the time? No. Sometimes they wish that they had.

M&C: What is it about Dustin you admire?

Dakota Fred:   Well, Dustin has picked up on my work ethic. I’ve worked hard all my life, I’ve stayed in good shape. He has, too. Now, of course, he was a forest firefighter.

And during the time that I finally got him to come up and start gold mining with me. But he’s always had jobs that were quite physical.

He likes staying in shape. And he’s to the point where he wants to be in charge more. He is a good leader at times. But he makes a lot of mistakes. You’ll see this, in my opinion. In my opinion. I’ve tried to guide him.

M&C:  Does he say, “Dad, I made a mistake.” And admit it?

Dakota Fred:   [Well] his dad never makes mistakes. That’s not true. I make plenty of mistakes and I will admit that.

M&C:   But does he admit his?

Dakota Fred:  Every once in a great while Dustin will admit that he should have listened. Or he made some missteps. Not often, but occasionally.

And it’s to his credit that he does. But I think that his work ethic and when he actually sees that he didn’t quite make the right choices, he will own up to them. And I admire that.

He gets along with people quite well. He has a total different management style for people and dealing with people than I do. Of course, he’s younger too, and he’s dealing with his own generation.

I’m a generation away from all the guys that are on the show with us. So we don’t always connect, personalities sometimes get in the way, different perspectives get in the way at times. All in all, things work … things were clicking like clockwork.

Other times. I could think of a couple of times that all seven of us were brain dead. Looking back on the situation and saying, “Uh, not a one of us thought about that.”

And yeah, we’ve made some mistakes along the way but we didn’t give up. I can just say that, we don’t give up. We are … our perseverance is probably one of our strong points. Dustin has that, I have that, the crew had that.

M&C:    Tell me about your crew.

Dakota Fred:     Well, we have seven people this year. We brought on, of course, the two Texas boys are coming back. They were very helpful, extremely helpful.

Now, everybody knows that Carlos [Minor] came back, as one of our crew members, rather than sent by someone else to check us out. He liked our crew. And he … when he first saw this whole situation he said, “You guys are crazy, doing that.”

And he’s a commercial diver, also. So we assured him that, yes, we can do this. And he’s comfortable with that now.

So there’s going to be some things with Carlos that are … they get serious at times. And then we have a couple of more gentlemen that I invited on the show and I mean, the show … out there to help us mine. And they worked out well.

And they had their moments, they have their personalities, totally different personalities. And everybody has to deal with each other. Not always amicably. But we work our problems out, work our problems out.

M&C:   Are you the mediator or is Dustin the mediator?

Dakota Fred:   I wouldn’t really say that I was a mediator… Nah. I’m probably the agitator. Let’s put it a little stronger, I probably piss a lot of people off at times.

Mostly because I just don’t agree with the situation, what they’re doing. At times it actually, in reality, too dangerous to actually be doing what they’re doing. I don’t keep my mouth shut when I see a situation that people could really get hurt, or worse than that.

Our situation was really … and sometimes the camera cannot catch just how dangerous some of this stuff was. Yeah, we’re out a bunch of happy-go-lucky guys going out to get gold. We’re camping out, we’ve got a camp life also, but let me tell you, out there on the job site, it’s sometimes very, very dangerous.

M&C:    One of the clips showed a bear!

Dakota Fred:   Well, yeah, the bear got into our trash pile that didn’t burn all the way. And he helped himself. We had several bears out there, not just one. We had a number of bears out there.

As a matter of fact, one morning before anybody got camera shots on it, we had one come walking right down the hill, right at us. He didn’t stop until about 20 feet away when he realized, “Oops! People are here.”

And the night before, he had tore that camp down. This is our job site. Tore the hell out of it.

M&C: Do they go away quickly if you yell at them? Or how do you make them go away?

Dakota Fred:  Sometimes they do. Sometimes they just sit there and look at you. We are armed. Almost everybody … because we’ve got to walk through … That’s another thing,  there’s a heck of a trek to get to the job site.

We’ve got to walk up a hill, it’s about 45 degrees for about a half a mile. We’ve got to go down, rappel down a rope, down about 400 or 500 feet down to the creek.

Then you’ve got walk about close to a quarter of a mile to the job site. Then you’ve got to go to work. And then that afternoon, guess what? That 500 foot climb up those ropes and everything.

Everybody was just screaming at that, that was rough, really work. It got better for about first two or three weeks, but after that, it just stayed the same, it was difficult.

Even the guys that were in absolutely the best shape … I call them the antelopes. That could climb up the thing without rope, they complained about that climb back up, too. You’ve probably seen a lot of that, also.

But the inspiration is the scenery…it is incredible. You can’t even catch it on a camera. It’s just fascinating.

Going across that cable? We’ve got about a 400-foot long cable that we have to go across a canyon with really steep walls. Like 250 feet straight to the bottom. People hanging on a little strap going across this thing.

But when you’re going across there, you look around, and you just think, “Wow! Look at this scenery.” Just fabulous. Incredible.

When Gold Rush left from Porcupine area and Big Nugget Mine, and went to Canada, or went to the Yukon, we kept all the scenery. Beautiful, incredible.

M&C:  Say, are you still friends with Tony Beets?

Dakota Fred:   Hell yes! ‘Bleep, bleep, bleep.’ [laughing] That’s Tony Beets.  In person.

Yeah Tony and Minnie, I know his family. I know he’s a rough character. Tony is just a big teddy bear. He’s a rough-talking dude, but he’ll tell you straight the way it is. He is a lot of the way that you see him on TV.

Although he is, in person [and] when you’re not working for him, he’s a different person. When you’re working for him, he expects production. I understand that. I’m that way a little bit myself.

M&C:    Anything you want to geek up the fans in closing?

Dakota Fred: Now you’ve got to remember this is a prospecting and treasure hunt show. We don’t have millions and millions of dollars worth of equipment running around out there that we mine gold with. So think of it as a prospecting and treasure hunt show. And you will be highly entertained.

Gold Rush: White Water returns on Friday, January 4, at 10/9c on Discovery. Viewers will also be able to catch the current season, along with the past season on the Discovery GO app – free with their paid TV subscription.

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