Winter Dredging in Clear Creek, Colorado

Sometimes the "urge to dredge" outweighs common sense and an expedition is planned even though the conditions aren't optimal. In Colorado the gold prospectors begin to experience cabin fever in about January. New toys may have been received for Christmas and there is an eagerness to try them out. Unfortunately, this isn't the best time of year in Colorado to dredge, but where there is a will, there is a way. These pictures were taken January 19th and 20th, 1997. Sorry about the quality of some of the pictures. The video camera doesn't like the cold weather. Maybe that should be a hint to the gold prospectors.

View of clear creek in the winter This is Clear Creek about 15 miles upstream from Denver, Co. In the summer it is almost lined with gold panners searching for their fortunes. At this time of year much of it is completely frozen over and you can have your pick of almost any spot. The few spots with no ice are the result of swift water current and they aren't the best place to dredge. As a result of this problem, the spot selected to dredge should be chosen very scientifically using the following parameters.

  1. The ice shouldn't be more than 4 or 5" thick.
  2. The site should be selected using time proven scientific methods like behind a big rock or on an inside corner.
  3. The most important factor. It should in the sunshine.
  4. It helps if the spot isn't visible from the road so the men in white coats won't come after you.

Breaking out the ice Once the magic spot is selected, the real work begins. Getting to the water. Here a steel bar is being used to break a hole in the 3" thick ice on the downstream side of a large rock on the inside corner of the stream in the sun. Life is good. A floating dredge isn't very practical for winter dredging. The ice hole would have to be a lot larger. I have a 2 1/2" dredge and it is just about the right size for one person to move around and setup easily. Usually only a few hours will be spent in the water. Not enough to go through the setup required for a large dredge. You might find this hard to believe but sometimes I have trouble finding someone to go dredging with in the winter.


Clearing out the ice from the dredge hole Winter requires dealing with "white rocks". The type more commonly put into drinks. After breaking the ice out of the hole it must be thrown out. Here a large 3 foot piece of ice is being removed. The water temperature this day was measured at 27 degrees. No bare hand work is done. A wet suit is required. Notice the blue milk box in the foreground. These work very well when using a small dredge. The rocks too large for the hose ( that's a lot when using a small dredge ) are placed into the box instead of throwing them. This saves the arm when putting in a full day on the nozzle. When the box is full carry it to a clear spot and dump it. A metal one would work better than the plastic as the plastic will float until some rocks are placed in it.

Clear Creek January dredging page 2