Immediately preceding the dredging workshop was the monthly Panning Workshop held for any member, new or old, desiring to learn or improve their panning skills. The discussion began with demonstrations of pieces of equipment utilized for panning. Gold pan, shovel, 5 gallon bucket, classifiers, and snuffer bottles. With the cold water temperature, discussion soon turned to cold water techniques and insulated panning gloves. These are a real necessity for any other than summer panning in Colorado as our water begins it's life as snow not too far upstream.
After discussions of the equipment, it's costs, and how to use it, where to look for gold became the hot topic. After the traditional places were mentioned, some of the more experienced members added some of the unlikely spots where they had found gold in the past. After the discussion panning instructions and demonstrations were given. After the basics were demonstrated the "experts" assisted the beginning panners in their initial attempts to maneuver the gold pan. They soon discovered that what the old timers did was not easily duplicated. There is no quick substitute for hours of panning practice. After an hour everyone was ready to begin a search on their own.
Next the group assembled around a pair of dredges. A Keene 5 inch triple sluice and a Keene 4 inch under sluice. The basics of the operation of each was quickly summarized as they had been explained in detail at the beginning dredging workshop. All of the miscellaneous dredging equipment was laid out on the ground for close examination. The hooka, regulator, and hose assembly. The reserve air tank. The different styles of weight belts. A wet suit and all of it's assorted pieces. Different types of diving boots. Diving masks and full face masks. The advantages and disadvantages of each piece was explained along with it's approximate price range
The donning of a typical wet suit was demonstrated. To someone who has never seen this, it is the male equivalent of pulling on a tight, full body sized girdle. A wet suit works best if it isn't too loose. If it is too loose it allows too much water flow on the inside and it is not as warm as a restrictive one. What that really means is it is not easy to get into. Especially if it is wet from the last time it was worn. Some people even use body powder to make it easier to get into.
Equipment safety was discussed including the proper way to put on the regulator and weight belt harness. Quick releases have to be positioned to release in the same direction and for ease of reach when an emergency situation requires fast abandonment of these restrictive devices. Sixty pounds of lead weight makes it difficult to maneuver easily under adverse situations. Different procedures of putting on a 60 pound weight belt by yourself was also demonstrated. It is a whole lot harder than it sounds. It's times like this when you really appreciate your dredging buddy. He makes the whole dressing procedure much easier.
After all of the questions were answered it was time for the fun part. Getting in a little nozzle time. All of the equipment was loaded on the dredges and they were moved upstream several hundred yards and staked out for the continuation of a great day. One of the dredges was placed into a ferry service and hauled a high banker upstream. Things are a whole lot easier to float than carry. The sun was shining and the water was a nice 40 degrees. Did we find a lot of gold? Well, I didn't anyway. If someone hit a bonanza they kept it to their selves. FAT CHANCE. Did you ever see a prospector that could keep a secret when they were finding gold? What we did find though was a great looking bedrock ledge to work behind next year.