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Gold Rush Alaska Jimmy Dorsey Interview

I, Edwin Waters recently did a interview with Jim Dorsey of Gold Rush Alaska, the television reality show about Gold Mining that airs on the Discovery Channel.

Jimmy Dorsey

Oregon Gold : How has the response been on the street after appearing on the show?

Jimmy Dorsey: I think overwhelmingly positive. A lot of people want to know what I am doing next and want to know what is happening with my family.

Oregon Gold : Do you think you were portrayed poorly or wrong in the edit of the show?

Jimmy Dorsey : I understand the need for creating a character. I think my inexperience in mining and the construction field is not something that they created. You never see me actually turn a wrench. They cut out about ninety percent of the positive things I do.

Oregon Gold : Was the show scripted?

Jimmy Dorsey : Sure. Every formatted documentary is scripted. It is scripted from the beginning. They knew exactly what they wanted to see out of the program. Even me leaving was scripted, but in the way in which it happened was not. The plans were made, but the footsteps were ours. They actually direct you into these situations. It became very real. That is why I actually got my ribs broke. There was a fight…not even a fight…I was assaulted by Greg. He broke my ribs. That was very real, but it was also in the script for episode four which ended up being episode six, that I would end up leaving the show. They kind of push you towards, making these things happen. They would tell me to say ” We’ve got get gold in seventy hours” so I say “We’ve got to get gold in seventy two hours”. Then they would say “What are you going to do if you don’t get gold in seventy two hours?” And I am like “I don’t know you just told me to say seventy hours.” Then they said “What are you going to do if you don’t get gold?” They push you towards saying I was going to leave if we did not find gold. It was never my intention to leave. My plan was staying the entire summer and seeing it out.

Oregon Gold : Was it more about making the show or was it about getting the gold?

Jimmy Dorsey : You cannot really separate the two. I did not think we had a good show unless we got gold and I was not making very much money from the show; nothing substantial, so for me I did not think we would get a second season once we got gold and I did not think I would be able to feed my family once we got gold. It was very real for me. Real Estate has really devastated me in the last year.

Oregon Gold : Do you consider yourself pretty good at gold panning?

Jimmy Dorsey : At this point yeah. When I first started gold panning I did not even classify any of the material. So yes, I have gotten gold and I now have panning down. I did some mining after I left the mine.

Oregon Gold : Are you a better miner now, than what you appeared to be on the show?

Jimmy Dorsey : Yes, now I am taking classes in Nevada at a school of mining. I am learning about gold mining. I am not done with gold mining.

Oregon Gold : A lot of miner friends who are on my Facebook page want to know about the equipment. Was that equipment made to not work for the purpose of the show, or was it just poorly constructed equipment?

Jimmy Dorsey : It was poorly planned. The shaker was bought from a auction for fifteen thousand dollars. There was some incompetence there to modify that shaker. These guys were kind of playing around with it… It was a pretty old machine. I think it was built in 1967.

Oregon Gold : Do you think there would have been a better outcome if the group would have invested in better equipment from the start?

Jimmy Dorsey : Absolutely. I said from the beginning…I was actually at Sandy airport saying “Why are we taking this thing to Alaska?” I did not understand why they would want to go on the Discovery Channel with such poor equipment… We also did not have enough water to be running the equipment properly. The equipment demanded eighty gallons a minute and we had about thirty.

Oregon Gold : On your website you state that you are going mining again. Are you going to Alaska?

Jimmy Dorsey : I don’t know. I am looking at a mine up north. There a couple hard rock mines in Oregon that I am looking at. We are performing assays and I am talking to investors right now.

Oregon Gold : Did you receive any money for appearing on the show?

Jimmy Dorsey : The deal with Todd Hoffman was one thousand dollars per episode. At the time of me leaving he had paid me a total of three thousand dollars.

Oregon Gold : How do you feel about Todd?

Jimmy Dorsey : To be honest, today I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry that he threw away a lot of relationships that he has ruined in his pursuit of fame and gold.

Oregon Gold : Do you think that Todd should have done more research on even the most basic principals of mining?

Jimmy Dorsey : Absolutely. One thing I have learned from my studies in Nevada and working with lots of miners is that representative sampling and assaying is key… Finding out how many ounces per ton, is what you do first. Then you decide…what machine you are going to use for that material… Porcupine has gold that is forty to sixty mesh size and you need to have the right machines to get that size of gold out.

Oregon Gold : There is one episode that sticks out in my mind when the equipment is being loaded onto the flat bed and the chain snaps. You made the comment “that could have killed somebody” and Todd went off on you and told you to keep your mouth shut. Was that scripted or was that Todd?

Jimmy Dorsey : That was Todd. That was him… A lot of it was about camera time. When you put a camera in front of people, they get jealous.

Oregon Gold : A majority of the public think that the family members should have stayed at home. What do you think of that?

Jimmy Dorsey : We were going to church across the river and there were a lot of kids that grew up in that valley, so I will agree that we should not have had the kids that close to the operation…that we built our house in the wrong spot…the day I decided where to actually the build the house, I went for a walk…and there was a really big black bear grazing right where I wanted to put my house. So that was too far way. We were in a pretty remote area…this was an area where people have not lived in many years. Plus there is safety in numbers. We packed everybody in real tightly. As far as my family. I plan on bringing my family next year. I don’t leave my family. There is no reason to.

Oregon Gold : Is there anything else you would like to share with the public?

Jimmy Dorsey : …The platform this has afforded me is huge. My family is going to show the face of the mining industry. We can change things by opening natural resources here in Oregon and Alaska. I want to show how mining can be good for people…that is my plan…We need to show that mining can be safe and it can help our economic problems here in Oregon. I am getting pretty involved in the mining community.

Special thanks to Jimmy who took the time to do this interview.

Gold and Geology of Josephine County


Lode Gold

The geology of  Oregon gold locations in the southwestern part of the state is complex and not fully understood, being closely associated with plate tectonics and crustal subduction. Numerous gold-quartz veins can be found in greenstone of the Triassic age (248 – 208 million years ago), which trends in belts from the southwest to the northwest parts of Josephine County. Black slate , peridotite, and serpentine of Jurassic age sometimes contain gold-quartz veins and tend to parallel the greenstone belts. Granite, diorite, and gabbro intrusive bodies can be found in many parts of the county, but are generally devoid of mineralization except where they are in contact with older rocks. Josephine County is noted for past chromium, copper and nickel production as well as gold, and exploratory work for nickel continues to this day.

The most productive lode gold mine was the Greenback Mine, which produced approx. 175,000 ounces of gold from a persistent quartz vein in greenstone. It was sunk to an incline of 1,000 feet on 12 levels. The Benton Mine was developed in gold-quartz veins in greenstone near the contact with intrusive diorite and produced 18,500 ounces of gold. The nearby Gold Bug Mine produced 37,500 ounces. Numerous other lode mines produced  between 1,000 and 13,000 ounces of gold, primarily in the period between 1893 and 1942.

Pocket Gold

Josephine County is noted for rich pockets of gold close to the surface. Some of these pockets were fabulously rich, though they were mined out quickly. The best known pocket diggings was in the Briggs Mine near the California line, where masses of gold totaling 2,000 ounces were taken out in 1904. Slabs of gold up to 3 feet in length were reportedly recovered.


A number of nuggets the size of chicken eggs have been found in placer gravels and pocket deposits. A 17 pound nugget was found in 1859 on the East Fork of Althouse Creek below the Briggs Pocket. Another nugget weighing 15 pounds was found in the gravels near the Esterly hydraulic cut in the early 1860’s. Despite the abundance of nuggets in Josephine County, most gold recovered in placer mining operations is fine flakes.

Placer Gold

Placer gold was discovered in 1850 and simple hand mining methods commenced in 1852. Before long, hydraulic methods were introduced and a number of deep cuts were made in the landscape. Placer gold can be found in stream channels, in bench gravels, and in terrace gravels up to 600 feet above the present stream levels. Old channels can be found in terrace gravels, some of which are rich. Gold is generally found at or near fractured or decomposed bedrock. Some of the bench and terrace gravels are cemented. Boulders are common in many stream gravels, and most gravels range from a few feet to over 50 feet in thickness.

Power shovels, dredges and dragline excavators were introduced around the turn of the century and were used up to 1952. Since 1960, individuals with portable suction dredges have found considerable gold in Josephine County and Jackson County to the east. Most placer work is done between February and September when streams contain sufficient water.

Jefferson County Oregon Gold

26 miles east of Madras you will find the Ashwood district. Most of the Oregon gold from this area comes from the Horse Heaven mercury mining area of rugged rolling hills. Northeast of Ashwood by 3 miles is the Oregon King Mine, which produced around 3,000 ounces of gold as a by-product of copper, lead and silver ores. Further east, around Axhandle Butte, there were numerous prospects.

See Forest Service Map for more details

See Forest Service Map for more details

Jackson County Oregon Gold

Oregon gold mining had it’s very beginnings in historic Jackson County. The first gold discovery in the county was in 1852 on Jackson Creek. Jackson County is a placer miner’s dream. The county produced over 500,000 ounces of placer gold. Each summer sees very many amateur and professional gold dredgers trying to strike it rich.

As 49ers from California moved north, gold was first found on Jackson Creek.

As 49ers from California moved north, gold was first found on Jackson Creek.

Applegate River

There are numerous hydraulic placers along this river. Below the old hydraulic mines is an excellent place to dredge as most of the mines lost 40% of the gold that went through the sluices. Also try the tributaries Forest, Sterling, Humbug and Thompson Creeks. All of these streams were excellent producers.


In the Ashland area, all the creeks have Oregon gold in them. Some of the better locations are Bear, Ashland, Anderson, Wagner, Arrastra Creeks and Yankee and Horn Gulches.

Central Point

At Willow Springs on Willow Creek there were some very nice placers.

Elk Creek

Near the head of Elk Creek in T31S R2E section 29 is the Al Sarena (Buzzard) Mine. Elk Creek has produced considerable amounts of placer gold.

Gold Hill

All the area creeks produce gold. Some of the better locations are: Foots Creek, Sam Creek, Galls Creek, Sardine Creek, Kane Creek, Evans Creek and Pleasant Creek. The Gold Hill pocket near the top of the hill was the most famous of all gold pocket discoveries. It had the mass of nearly pure gold in a very few cubic feet of earth. Numerous other pocket locations in the area.


Along Jackson Creek as written above had spectacular discoveries. Also along Sterling Creek. Almost all the creeks in the area contain gold.


Along Bear Creek there were some extensive early placers, still being worked today.

Linn County Oregon Gold

Quartzville Creek

In Quartzville Creek and its tributaries there is abundant placer colors and flakes. The BLM operates “The Quartzville Recreation Corridor” and this is a great place to learn how to gold mine. There is a 19 mile section of Quartville Creek that is closed to mineral entry, but is open to recreational mining using pans, sluices, dredges and highbankers. Contact BLM for more information. Also in the area is the Albany Mine which was a minor lode producer. There a  few smaller mines in the area as well. Stay out of the mines as they are privately owned and dangerous.

Quartzville Creek is great for new gold prospectors

Quartzville Creek is great for new gold prospectors

Calapooya River

The Calapooya River is a popular river for dredging, panning and sniping gold. Also see our Lane County Oregon Gold section for more information.

North Fork of the Santiam river

This river also contains some fine placer gold. I have also heard rumors of the occasional nugget being found.

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