What is “Gold Rush”?
“Gold Rush”, which was styled “Gold Rush: Alaska” during its first season, is a Discovery reality series that follows gold mining companies run by various families, with most of them situated in Alaska and Canada; other episodes are also filmed in western North America and South America.
Season one premiered in December 2010, and chronicled the brave but risky journey of six Oregon natives to Porcupine Creek, Alaska. Having lost their jobs, these men had nothing left to lose, and travelled thousands of miles to prospect for gold; most of them had absolutely no experience in gold mining, and learnt the tricks of the trade as they went along, while filming.
Todd Hoffman, leader of the Hoffman crew, ran into various problems during season one: for one, his wash plant broke down several times and slowed operations down considerably. Although the show’s on-site mechanic, James Harness, saved the day several times, Todd also had to ask for help from his good friend Dave Turin, seeing as Dave had worked on his family’s quarry for many years.
Halfway through the season, the arrival of the mining expert “Dakota” Fred Hurt ruffled plenty of feathers, and one particularly memorable episode saw two cast members enmeshed in a physical brawl. The Hoffman crew mined 14.64 ozt of gold as a result of their creativity and sheer hard work, and the show was renewed for a second season.
The Schnabel and Hurt crews joined the series in its second season. A more generous budget, better equipment and some background experience helped the crews make bigger profits and mine more gold than the last time. The Beets crew made its first appearance in season four, whereas the Lewis and Ness crews joined in later seasons of the show.
Fred worked with the Hoffman crew in Porcupine Creek, and Guyana’s Mazaruni Claim during seasons one and two; in season three, he became a regular cast member. Viewers witnessed Fred’s most personal side, when he had to cope with the sudden death of his father-in-law; other cast members rallied around the outspoken gold miner, and provided their unconditional support, despite their differences.
Despite the Yukon government classifying miners as essential workers, filming for the show’s eleventh season was affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as film crews were considered non-essential. Canada’s travel lockdown was implemented at the start of the filming season, meaning that the production crews were essentially trapped in another country, and only one member of the filming crew was onsite when the mining season began.
Although most of the mining crews decided to skip season 11, it aired in October 2020 and still received positive reviews. The 12th season premiered in September 2021, focusing on the Beets, Lewis, Ness, and Schnabel crews: a staggering 8,309.75 ozt were mined by the Schnabel crew, whereas the Lewis crew mined a mere 110 ozt.
The well-known Parker Schnabel is one of the show’s youngest miners, but his age hasn’t stopped him from being considered the best at what he does. Since he joined “Gold Rush” in season two during his teenage years, Parker has mined almost $68 million of gold – almost 40,000 ounces – by working on one of his grandfather’s old claims. The show’s producers were understandably impressed by how a then-16-year-old Parker helped the Hoffman crew out during season one, and asked him to join fulltime.
Parker’s grandfather, John, spent all his life working as an Alaskan miner, and taught the prodigy everything he knew. In season two, Parker excavated the Big Nugget Creek mine by himself and yielded just 34 ounces. However, he bounced back in the following seasons, and yielded 7,509 ounces in season 11 – over twice as much as the other crews. These days, Parker has approximately 500,000 Instagram followers, and has starred in the spin-off show “Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail”.
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Next on the list is Tony Beets, the richest cast member of “Gold Dutch”, who is instantly recognizable thanks to his signature white beard. The Dutch miner became something of a breakout star after joining the series in season five; he’s also the most experienced cast member and highly competitive by nature. Tony’s years-long feud with Parker and Rick Ness has become one of the show’s main storylines and provided many entertaining moments.
Tony, who runs his crews with the help of his wife and daughter, has been in the gold mining industry for decades – but his end-of-season yields haven’t always been good. To date, the Dutchman has mined almost $29 million of gold – over 16,000 ounces – and would be the most successful miner on “Gold Rush” if it weren’t for Parker.
All of Tony’s children are part of the family business, with his wife Minnie in charge of the company’s paperwork and accounting. The couple have been together for decades and own a winter home in Arizona, and a flashy six-figure Mercedes convertible amongst other trinkets. Tony is reportedly worth $15 million, and runs the Tamarack Mine; most of his employees are local teenagers. In a 2015 episode of “Gold Rush”, two of his employees were filmed dousing the dredge pond with gasoline and setting it on fire. Tony was charged under the Yukon Waters Act, and he and his company had to pay an eye-watering $31,000 fine after the incident.
Todd Hoffman is an interesting case study; although he’s been praised for his mediatic personality and showman’s instincts, it hasn’t been enough to make up for his shortcomings, namely his lack of experience. Despite improving his performance in seasons two and three after yielding less than 15 ounces in season one, everything went wrong for Todd and his crew when they travelled to the South American jungle in season four and mined just two ounces of gold before switching to diamond mining – with equally disastrous results.
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In season six, Todd mined 3,032 ounces, his personal best. However, he left the show and the industry two seasons later, having tried and failed to open mines in his home state of Oregon. During his time on “Gold Rush”, Todd mined $14.3 million of gold – over 8,000 ounces. Although it’s not an impressive amount by any means, TV producers clearly want to see Todd back on the small screen, as he’s been given his own show named “Hoffman Family Gold”, which sees him travel to Alaska and try to turn around a failed mining operation in just six weeks.
Despite the show receiving largely positive reviews, one biting netizen said: “Well, after Todd’s horrendous time on Gold Rush with failure after failure, poor decision after poor decision for some reason, he’s been given another chance. Why? I have no idea.” Todd, however, is determined to prove the naysayers wrong.
Next up is Rick Ness, who became known as Parker’s longtime operator and foreman, before replacing Todd as a full-time cast member in season 9. Rick has thousands of female fans and is jokingly dubbed the resident heartthrob of “Gold Rush”, thanks to his striking tattoos, sleeveless shirts, and good looks; however, his transition from foreman to crew leader has been anything but easy.
Low yields, mounting debts, and low morale are just some of the problems Rick and his crew have had to overcome over the seasons. Although Rick has been helped out by Fred and other main cast members, his lack of experience has also led to some disastrous decisions, as he doesn’t always take other crew leaders’ advice. With that said, Rick has yielded almost $5 million worth of gold in his first three seasons as a crew leader, which is a promising start.
Dustin and Fred Hurt, known as the Dakota Boys, joined in season two, leasing Todd’s mine when the latter missed a payment. The father-son duo travelled to a deposit known as the Glory Hole in season three, which Todd’s father, Jack wanted to mine; however, their plans to get one up on the Hoffman crew failed due to malfunctioning water pumps and bad weather conditions.
The Dakota Boys yielded almost $1 million of gold in three seasons, and went on to star in their own spin-off show, “All That Glitters”, before appearing in “Gold Rush: White Water”. Their best yield was in season four of the main series, when they mined 280 ounces; Fred is now semi-retired, but Dustin is keeping the family business alive, with his talented crew members.
Fred Dodge is also an integral part of the show and considered one of the most successful cast members, although his gold yields aren’t tallied. As his help was of invaluable enormous use to the floundering Hoffman crew in seasons one and two, they didn’t hesitate to add him to their team full-time.
Fred left the Hoffman crew in season four, but returned in season five. He’s appeared sporadically in the show ever since ,and also has a busy work schedule when not filming; other crews he has helped include the Lewis crew in season 11. In 2021, the enigmatic miner – who has no social medi,a and rarely gives interviews – hosted “Freddy Dodge’s Mine Rescue”, a six-episode special. Although the show wasn’t renewed for a second season, fans hope to see Fred in the newest season of “Gold Rush”.
The Truth about “Gold Rush”
“Gold Rush” is a show brimming with competitive and larger-than-life characters, who work in a highly stressful environment. For this reason, it’s not unusual to see miners engage in screaming matches from time to time; naturally, this has led to fans questioning if the series contains scripted elements.
According to reputable sources, Discovery pays its miners depending on how much time they spend in front of the camera. Instead of filming everything, the film crew sets up shots whenever and wherever they feel is best, meaning that some miners act out to get more screentime. In one particularly memorable episode, a verbal argument between Todd Hoffman and one of his crew members turned so ugly that others had to intervene. Although some viewers gave Todd the benefit of the doubt, saying that he was under a lot of pressure, others wondered if he didn’t deliberately stage the argument.
“Gold Rush” isn’t exactly kind to wildlife either. The show’s crew reportedly destroyed a salmon habitat, after driving a 50-ton piece of mining equipment through it; although salmon habitats are protected, the crew claimed that they were allowed to drive their machinery across streams and rivers. On another occasion, a bear wandered too close to the miners, and was tracked down and killed by Mike Halstead, who was strongly criticized for his actions, as the bear was retreating.
Like Dustin Otteson and Dustin Hurst, Mike is just one of many miners who vanished from one episode to another, and was never mentioned again; this can be somewhat confusing and frustrating for viewers, especially as no explanation is given. After six seasons, Dave Turin also disappeared from “Gold Rush”, although in his case it was due to a brawl between himself and another miner.
As is the case with the best reality shows, certain cast members are carefully edited and portrayed as bad guys, to make things more interesting. For example, former cast member Jimmy Dorsey sensationally claimed that he was deliberately painted in a negative light and that the show’s production team wanted to create a character, instead of show the world who he really was. Jimmy took things one step further by claiming that the show was largely scripted, with many of the events – including his leaving – being planned out in advance.
Mining communities have also sued the producers and cast members of “Gold Rush” many times. After the 2017 season, some disgruntled residents of South Park, Colorado, filed a lawsuit to prevent the Hoffman crew from returning to their claim in 2018. Although most of the complaints were noise-related, other small communities have alleged that the show’s cast members were mining in residential land.
Whatever the truth is, “Gold Rush” is still one of Discovery’s most popular shows. Season 13 has been airing on the network since October 2022, and has so far received positive reviews.