• Rick Ness is a cast member of the Discovery Channel reality series "Gold Rush"
• He joined full-time in its ninth season as a replacement for Todd Hoffman
• Rick has yielded almost $5 million worth of gold in three seasons
• His first marriage and divorce took place before he became famous and he is now engaged to Leese Marie
• Other cast members include Todd Hoffman, Tony Beets, and Parker Schnabel

Who is Rick Ness?

Rick is a cast member of the Discovery reality series “Gold Rush”, which he joined full-time in its ninth season as a replacement for Todd Hoffman. Already known to fans as the long-time foreman and operator of mining prodigy Parker Schnabel, Rick is described as the show’s resident heartthrob, thanks to his charisma, good looks, tattoos, and signature sleeveless shirts.

High debts, low yields, and lack of morale amongst his crew are some of the problems Rick has had to face as a crew leader. His lack of experience and unwillingness to take other leaders’ advice have also landed him in hot water a couple of times, but even so, Rick shows promise and has so far yielded almost $5 million worth of gold in just three seasons.

Rick was born in March 1981 in Milwaukee. His parents, Richard Ness and Judy Marie Bedard, separated when Rick and his twin brother Randy were young boys. Judy then relocated to Rhinelander, Michigan; Rick would move in with her in 2003. 15 years later, she tragically passed away from cancer.

Not much more is known about Rick’s early years – we can tell you that he matriculated from Escanaba Area High School in 1999, and appeared to delve straight into the workforce rather than pursue a college degree. He was first spotted in the “Gold Rush” franchise in 2012 and would soon become an integral part of the popular show, thanks to his hard work and ability to grow and learn from his mistakes.

The handsome gold miner has had a turbulent love life over the years. His first marriage and divorce took place before he became famous; not much is known about his ex-spouse, Jen, but she’s believed to have been Rick’s high school sweetheart. Rick was later linked to Karla Ann, one of his crew members on “Gold Rush”.

Despite Rick and Karla denying several times that they were in a relationship, fans just wouldn’t let it go. Speculation reached an all-time high when the attractive blonde posted an Instagram snap wearing a sleeveless vest that read: “Rick Ness is my spirit animal”. The mining boss also posted Karla various times on his social media profiles, but finally confirmed after years of rumors that there was nothing going on between them; in fact, he described Karla as the sister he’d never had.

The lucky lady in Rick’s life is actually none other than Leese Marie, who has been part of the “Gold Rush” franchise since season twelve. Leese and Rick reportedly began dating in 2013, but the mining boss didn’t make the relationship public until 2020. Some fans were understandably disappointed, feeling that Rick and Karla would be a much better match.

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Despite her limiting mining experience, Leese joined Rick’s crew when a new hire didn’t show up to work. Ever the doting girlfriend, she agreed to help out until Rick found a replacement. Rick and Leese are polar opposites in the looks department, as Rick prefers a more rugged and down-to-earth aesthetic, whereas Leese is a fan of Botox, fillers, and other augmentations. Nevertheless, the couple are thick as thieves, and became engaged on Leese’s 45th birthday.

Leese has one child from a previous relationship, and currently resides in Havasu, Arizona. Her relationship with Karla remains unclear; although it must be hard to see your boyfriend of years be linked to other women, Leese has always taken the criticism and rumors in her stride and refuses to engage with cruel internet trolls.

“Gold Rush”

The Discovery Channel reality series “Gold Rush” – known as “Gold Rush: Alaska” during one season – follows family-run gold mining companies which are mainly situated in Canada and Alaska, although some episodes have been filmed in South and 48-state US.

The show first aired in December 2010, following six Oregon men who had recently lost their jobs, in their tenacious journey to Porcupine Creek, Alaska. Most of the men knew nothing about placer gold mining, but were willing to take a risk as they had nothing to lose. As you can imagine, mayhem ensued when their incompetence became evident.

Todd Hoffman was the charismatic leader of a crew who had to overcome several obstacles during season one. Many times, he had to be helped out by the show’s mechanic, James Harness, and longtime friend Dave Turin, who had years of experience working in his family quarry. Despite a helping hand from James and Dave, other problems such as a malfunctioning wash plant, slowed down Todd’s operations.

Tensions rose considerably as Fred Hurt joined the show halfway through the season, and two cast members also had a full-on fist fight which left viewers on the edge of their seats. Despite their hard work and willingness to learn, the Hoffman crew only mined 14.64 ozt of gold; nevertheless, “Gold Rush” was renewed for a second season.

Season two saw the incorporations of the Hurt and Schnabel crews. This time around, more gold was mined and more profit made thanks to an increased budget, optimized equipment, and more background experience. Other crews that joined in later seasons include the Beets, the Lewis, and the Ness crews.

Fred Hurt became a regular cast member in season three, having worked with the Hoffmans during the first two seasons of the show. Despite being a somewhat unlikeable figure, viewers saw another side to the gruff gold miner when his father-in-law died in the middle of filming. The sad experience brought the cast members together, as they put their many differences aside.

Filming for season 11 was heavily affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Miners were classified as essential workers by the Yukon government, but film crews didn’t get the same rating. As Canada implemented a travel lockdown right when filming began, the production crews were stuck thousands of miles away, with only one member of the filming crew on set to chronicle the mining season.

In the end, most of the mining crews sat out season 11, and returned the following year. The season 12 premiere aired in September 2021, focused on the Schnabel, Lewis, Ness and Beet crews. The Lewis crew came in last with a measly 110 ozt of gold, whereas the Schnabel crew raked in almost 8,400 ozt, and snagged the coveted first place yet again.

In an area known to locals as "Hell's Crack," Parker Schnabel and his team navigate a treacherous river, battle extreme…

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Cast Members

Todd Hoffman was the star of “Gold Rush” in season one, with thousands of viewers rooting for him as he strove to be successful in the mining industry. Things were looking promising for the Oregon native in seasons two and three, as his performance improved and he began learning more tricks of the trade, but sadly, he mined just two ounces of gold in season four following a disastrous trip to the South American jungle.

Todd’s personal best came in season six, with 3,032 ounces, but two seasons later he left the show for good; by this time, he had tried and failed to open mines in his home state, and seemed disillusioned with the industry. As it happens, expertise isn’t everything, as Todd was recently given his own show named “Hoffman Family Gold”, in which Todd travels to Alaska, and is given six weeks to breathe new life into failed mining operations. Some netizens disagreed with Todd being given his own show, and feel that others are more deserving of the opportunity.

Next up is Tony Beets, a fierce Dutch miner who is the richest cast member of “Gold Rush”. Known for his long white beard and no-nonsense attitude, Tony became a mini-celebrity when he joined the show in its fifth season. His decades of experience and fierce competitive streak have made for many entertaining moments, whereas his years-long rivalry with Rick Ness and Parker Schnabel will go down in history.

Tony’s wife and daughter help run the Dutchman’s crews. To date, he’s mined 16,000 ounces of gold worth almost $29 million; despite some of his end-of-season yields being lackluster, others are nothing short of extraordinary. Many viewers think that he resents Parker due to the latter being much younger, and constantly outshining him.

Nevertheless, Tony and his wife Minnie enjoy a comfortable lifestyle thanks to their hard work. From six-figure Mercedes convertibles to winter getaways in Arizona, they seemingly have it all. Tony is said to be worth a cool $15 million, and cuts costs by employing local teenagers to work at his mine. However, cutting corners isn’t always worth it, as in 2015 his company was fined $31,000 when two employees were caught setting a dredge pond on fire.

Last but not least is Parker Schnabel, who became a full-time “Gold Rush” cast member during his adolescent years in season two. Viewers have witnessed Parker practically grow into the business-savvy man that he is today, and his track record – 40,000 ounces of gold mined, worth almost $68 million – is nothing short of remarkable. Parker made his TV debut in season one of the series, as he helped the Hoffman crew out on many occasions.

As it happens, Parker is descended from John Schnabel, a tenacious Alaskan miner with decades of experience under his belt. Despite a disappointing start in season two which yielded just 34 ounces of gold after excavating the Big Nugget Creek, Parker quickly caught up to the rest. In season 11, he mined over twice as much as his competitors with 7,509 ounces of gold. To date, he’s had one spin-off show named “Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail”.

Controversy and Lawsuits

Reality shows are usually full of drama – some of it scripted – to keep viewers wanting more. “Gold Rush” is no different, as a few miners have been known to scream at each other for long minutes at a time, when things get really tense. Although some viewers chalk it up to the stressful work environment, others believe that certain situations are exaggerated for entertainment purposes.

As it happens, miners on “Gold Rush” are paid depending on their screentime. The filming crew only sets shots up when something good’s about to happen, so some of the craftier miners will argue or cause drama in order to get a few minutes in front of the camera. Todd Hoffman has been suspected of doing this, and possibly staging arguments; on one memorable occasion, he argued for so long with one of his crew members that others had to step in and defuse the situation.

“Gold Rush” has also been criticized for being careless with local wildlife. For example, the crew of the show drove a piece of mining equipment weighing 50 tons through a protected salmon habitat… and destroyed it. The crew claimed that they’d done nothing wrong, and were allowed to drive machinery across rivers and stream. Another time, a bear was tracked down and killed after getting too close to miners for their comfort.

Viewers are also frustrated by the sudden disappearance of miners such as Dustin Hurst, Dustin Otteson and Mike Halstead. No explanation is ever given for such disappearances, making it harder to keep up with storylines and other aspects of the show. Dave Turin is another miner who faded into obscurity after six seasons on the show – but in his case, he was unceremoniously fired after brawling with another miner.

Some former cast members including Jimmy Dorsey also claim that they were deliberately made out to be the “bad guys” on the show, and had to play up to characters instead of being their authentic selves. Although this is commonplace in the world of reality TV, Jimmy also sensationally claimed that many events were planned out and scripted in advance, including his departure from the show. Unsurprisingly, Jimmy hasn’t been on TV since.

The cast members and producers of “Gold Rush” have been sued on several occasions by disgruntled mining communities. After the 2017 mining season, residents of South Park, Colorado, filed a lawsuit to prevent the Hoffmans from returning to the claim the following year. Most complaints over the years have been noise-related, but some communities claim that cast members were mining in residential land, which is illegal.

Despite its shortcomings, “Gold Rush” remains one of Discovery’s highest-rated shows. Season 13 aired from October 2022, and a fourteenth season is believed to be on its way for 2023.

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