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Need gold dredging tips, pump priming, etc?


I've never had much luck at priming gold dredge water pumps, so have stuck with trash pumps which are self priming. What is the secret to priming a non trash type pump on a gold dredge?? I remember spending 5 hours in a creek in NC trying to shake this footvalve back and forth on my 1st Keene dredge like 20 years ago but gave up in disgust.
Now that I have my Keene/Honda P90 pump ready to run, I'd really like to use it if somebody could send me a video on how to easily prime the pump, please?.
Also, we found some good gold in a large river but the bottom is full of cemented cobbles on top of bedrock, VERY tough to walk in without tripping/falling and the water is black, cannot see down in it at all. Depth is knee to waist deep and the gold is in small gravels and sand between/under the cemented rocks. I am extremely nervous in conditions like this-deep water phobia I guess, was thinking of getting a large inner tube/life jacket to stand in for in case I trip? What size tube might work? And how do I break apart the cemented cobbles without loosing my crowbar? If it falls under water, I will never see it in the black water. Will a waterproof flashlight help at all in these conditions? I hope to be using a small 2 inch dredge. Site has easy access from a campground. I have seen small pickers and chunky fines from 4 different parties that went here now.River is 200 feet wide here,little or no current. Heck, how does one anchor the dredge in a river like this?

-Tom V.


New member
You seem to have more than a few problems ! First let me tell you I have two dredges, a three and a five, also two trommels,
all this equipment has high $$$ pumps on them. I tell you this so you know of what I speak. The first step to prime your pump
is to make sure the foot valve flapper is working as it should. Placing it in a three or five gal. bucket that has a few large rocks
in it to keep it from floating and the foot valve from sucking mud, rocks, and leafs, sticks, etc. into the pump. Remove the suction
hose from the pump and fill the hose with water. replace it onto the pump. You can remove the discharge hose and fill the pump
with water also. You want to displace ALL the air in the suction hose and the pump. Some pumps have a hole drilled and tapped
in the top of it so you can unscrew a plug and pour water into it to fill the hose and pump, most small pumps do not have this but
you can do it your self if you take care in the drilling and tapping; or take it to a machine shop and have them do it. This hole should
be 1/2 inch size so you can stick a funnel in it . If the above is done right your pump should pick up suction as soon as it starts.
If the water drains back; the foot valve is not working right and needs to be fixed or replaced.

The area you are wanting to dredge in ( cemented gravel over bedrock ) should be dredged as is, without trying to bust it up with
a crowbar. The reason being, the cemented layer is acting as bedrock and any gold in that waterway ( area ) cannot work its way
down through it to reach the bedrock. A clay layer on top of bedrock will act the same way. You say the water is knee to waist deep
where you want to dredge, but you do say you are " extremely nervous " about dredging in it. STOP RIGHT THERE !!!
NEVER start any dredging program this way! That's how people drown. You also do not say if you are going to use an air system
or if you will be using a snorkel. The size pump you are using tells me the engine that is used is to small to run a air compressor
so that leaves a snorkel or arms reach only. If this is correct what are you nervous about? If you are afraid of water you need to
sell that dredge right now and find some other way to pass the time besides dredging, if you are not afraid of water then you
need to learn to walk be for to try to run ( so to speak ). This is what I recommend; start your dredging in knee deep water to
start with, use a face mask and snorkel and get used to your face under water and breathing through the snorkel. Work your
way out deeper until you are shoulder deep. At this point (without any equipment , hose or nozzle, let yourself sink down
until you are on your knees, holding your breath, remove your facemask, replace it and slowly exhale through your nose while
holding the bottom of the mask away from your chin area with your head tilted back just slightly so the air you are exhaling
will force out the water until it is clear of water. You should do this until you are comfortable with water in your mask and
your ability to clear it while under water. If you have any problem while doing this exercise just stand up and start over.
You must respect water at all times but fear of water will get you killed if you let it. To start with never work in deeper water
than you can stand up in. There is much to learn about dredging, if you can find someone in your area that has been dredging
for several years that can show you how, then by all means do it.
Low visibility water is not the best place to learn how to dredge ( or anything else ) but if that's all you have to work with
you just have to make the best of it.

You can't wear a lifejacket and expect to dredge at the same time, forget that right now. If you are going to dredge in
water over arms length, you will need a weight belt to help hold you down. This may be as little as 20 or 30 pounds
to as much as 70 pounds ( the amount I used while wearing a 6ml wet suit when dredging in the Klamath River
in northern Calif. ).

Flashlights are of little or no use while dredging, you can't hold them and the suction nozzle and move rocks at the same

You can anchor a dredge just like a boat, just make sure your anchor is truly set and holding before you start dredging,
remembering you will be working ahead of it not behind it. You can also hold it in position by the use of a line run from
bank to bank 8 feet above the water level with a line from it to the dredge ( called a highline ). or any other number of ways.

All tools used mining should be painted blaze orange.

I hope this has been of help, if I can be of more help let me know and I will give as much as I can.

Hoser John

New member
What state ya in?. There are 1,000s of things to know,some small and some CRITICAL and no forum will provide hands on experience. FIRST and foremost is your scared by water and that ain't good for anyone to be that paranoid in water YOU CAN STAND UP IN!! Join a local yokel club be it gold/gem or detector as dredgers belong to all these and you'll quickly get the needed confidence and hands on experience you need. Within a short time things become automatic through repetition and that is what ya want as then no lag time going --now what do I do-nope ya just do it. Good info above but ya need 10,000 times more. Piddle and diddle along the shores working bedrock to learn. Trained many 1,000s over the past 43 years a gravel sucking and #1 is being at ease in deep water 10-30' in swift currents. This is nuttn' as your in a wetsuit that floats better than any insipid vest or tube you'll slip out of(worst crutch ever) and always err on the side a caution. John


Yes, I am afraid of deep water as I vividly remember almost drowning in a swimming pool as a kid, even tho it was like 45 years ago, damn I must be getting old? Whatever you do ,don't splash a girl who is bigger than you and wants to get even !! She stood on my shoulders as I was swimming underwater and refused to let me up for air, all in fun of course !! If I hadn't pulled on her bathing suit in desperation I would not be here writing this note. Needless to say, the pool was not fenced off and had NO adult supervision, am sure I would have drowned in another 20 seconds.
So, I have dredged many times but have always stuck with water less than 2 feet deep ,arms length max,mostly a foot deep or less along the banks. Never owned a machine bigger than 2.5 inch nozzle and no air. The water is sooo black in this gold bearing part of the river that you cannot see 12 inches down and just have to feel your way around with your feet and hands. I get pretty nervous long arming it with my face almost in the water. I do have a 5 foot long PVC plastic pipe extension I made for my suction nozzle and could dredge standing up while using that,might clog more, but I'd feel safer.
I try to stay out of creeks where I can see the water is darker or dark green, tells me its too deep there. If the gold wasn't so good and chunky in this deeper water, I'd stick to gravel bars and shallow areas, but thats where the fines are at it seems...this is my first time dredging in the gut of a river where I never expected the better gold to be? I always wanted to try the Hookah thing but I seem to be one of the unlucky ones who is suceptible to severe tummy issues with water borne bacterias and after seeing all these divers sucking on regulators with creek water on them....I don't think so...


Hoser John

New member
Post or PM your general area as I have buds from coast to coast who will be more than happy to assist a fella with a handup in dredge training. Soon before snow flies,flooding ensues.Wish ya safety and luck-John


I am in NE Illinois, river is in Indiana.Russ Pearce is in St Louis but thats 350 miles from me. I asked where he was at the recent GPAA gold show in Pecatonica,Ilinois.His chapter was there but he was missing. The ladies told me Russ was sick that weekend.
If you guys could please tell me why the gold is where it is in this stretch of the river? North bank is pretty much vertical,like 6-10 feet but with exposed flat bedrock right up to the bank. South bank is 200 feet south and tapers gradual to the river. Some white gravel bars can be seen over there. NO gravel bars on North bank. We have access via a campground along the north bank. Tons of metal junk on the north bank bedrock flats., rusty junk all over, rebars, sign posts, bullets, black sand, etc, etc, but almost ZERO gold,just a few colors, like the river is scouring the bedrock at flood stage here? The water is crystal clear and maybe a few inches to 2 feet in summer depth wise, very few cracks running like riffles,most are running with the river, smooth bedrock otherwise. Oh, and the river is straight here for a mile. EASY wading, but where is the color? Small grassy islands mid river, almost all mud,some small rocks.
Now, as you go east, away from the campground a bit, the river gets murky and finally turns black .This is where the cemented cobble bottom starts up that I don't like and then the river takes a turn to the SE, real gradual like. The locals come here to fish and swim cause of the deeper water. This area is where the chunkier gold/small pickers are, mixed in with sand and pebbles among the cemented rocks. Bedrock is immediately under the cemented cobbles if you pry them loose with a crowbar. The cobbles are black on top, white underneath.Is this why the river is dark black here?
Maybe my 1.5 or 2 inch dredge is the ticket here with my 5 foot nozzle extension pipe,just wade around and suck up around and in between the cemented rocks? No current to worry about to speak of.
Also, how deep will my 1.5 inch dredge with Honda WX10 pump and suction nozzle, be able to suck up gravel? It works fine in knee deep water but when we tested it in a swimming pool, it refused to suck up anything from 3 feet.


Hoser John

New member
To thine own self be true. Folks hastle me bigtime when I tell'm what you've proven to yourself ,as them miniscule tinker toys are purt near worthless. 2 1/2" up with at least a 3-3 1/2 hp keene/proline pump rocks but tiny tots not. You absolutely MUST have a blaster nozzle and that thang can't even run a dredge properly more a less even a small blaster. Wish my great bud Russ was closer but.... any local chapters of any clubs closer??Russ know tons a folks in Misery and pm/email as he truly is good man who will help if anyone can in your necka the woods. I'll go through my book to see also-John



Can you please tell me why the gold is where it is in this stretch of the river from my description in previous post?



I've been to Lassiters house a few times, but he has no free time anymore, making them HydroForce nozzles in his shop is his fulltime job now.



New member

Yeah, all good advice above. But back to that priming issue...

I had issues with my P90. Tried to be wise by seeing if would pump at home. Brand spanking new pump and 2 pulls she fired. Good 'ol Hondas. But,....BUT the blasted thing would not prime! Oh, yeah, I filled the hose, checked the flapper check valve, turned the hose up and then quickly back into the tub......NOTHING except spitting what water was in the hose out.

I packed it up and headed to this pond to do my material I'd brought back. Did the bucket and rock thing for the suction screen. Filled the hose and cussed and I was about ready to go poatal on a couple tourists who saw me and came over to ask...."did you find any gold?" was really starting to bug me. I'd never had any problems with pumps. Some will prime themselves...this one won't......then... I noticed water was running out underneath the pump proper, after it was shut down.

This gasket is Cork and it's got Allen Head screws. I've got a few tools with me....but of course I don't have any Allen wrenches. I got my vice grip on those screw heads and every one was loose. Every one of them. After at least a whole was a bugger...but I got it turned some....wall-ha. That puppy pumped just like it was suppose to.

Yeah, try tightening those gasket screws.


And I bought the GHX50 engine from Steve H about 2 years ago after mine threw a rod. But last weekend I took my homebrew dredge to the local river and decided to try the P90 pump instead of my WX10 trash pump. I weighed both pumps on the bathroom scales and noticed they almost weighed the same !!! So, I modified my engine mount to accept either pump. I also rejiggered the garden hose port on the pump housing. I added 2 short pipe nipples and a right angle fitting and garden hose cap. I was gonna fill the pump housing with water with this arrangement but totally fergot about it...damn senior moment...Well, I filled the intake hose part full of water, started the engine, then jerked the footvalve rapidly back and forth just under water like I've seen other guys do..Hmm, water is moving down the sluice, not much, but its doing something... Engine was on full throttle ,but not doing much..hmmm...doofus...back off on the choke... and the Honda came to life... and then water was spraying out the garden hose cap which was only on finger tight. I opened my dredge toolbox and grabbed the big blue Channellocks and tightened that cap down and PRESTO, the sluice box was full of gurgling and fast moving river waters !!!!!!!!!! I had to congratulate myself as this was the 1st time in my life I had ever successfully primed one of them dang centrifugal pumps....!!!!!!!!
And my inline homebrew foam dredge floats worked, dredge floated evenly, water flowed DOWN the sluice and I even sucked up a little gravel to test the dredge fully and that worked too...
Added wheels and a better pull handle to the rig today.Adding 2 inch adapter and hoses from Armadillo Mining ( thanks Shelly ) to dredge, 3rd trial next week. Too bad my digital cameras are all not working otherwise I'd post some pics?