Dredge #4 Dawson City, YT

Commodores Boats has been awarded the contract by Parks Canada to rebuild & restore the entire main bow structure of the Dredge to support the main gantry & digging arm.

The Dredge #4 displaces over 3000 tons and the vessel measures over 300′ in length, 2/3’s the length of a football field.

It was originally built in 1912 to extract gold from the Bonanza creek area.

Commodores has mobilized a crew onsite in Dawson City, Yukon for the multi-year contract. Work commenced Aug 02/2010.

We’ve completed five years of the agreement and will be continuing on.

These behemoths roamed the creeks of the Klondike until the early 1960s. Dredge #4 on Bonanza Creek, the largest wooden hull dredge in the world, typifies this legacy. It is a National Historic Site and a must-see attraction in Dawson City. Drive through the goldfields along Bonanza Creek Road for 12.3 km to reach historic Dredge No 4. Summertime tours are available. Watch this short video below on the Dredge #4. We are proud of the work we have accomplished and once again look forward to another fantastic year with our crew in Dawson City.

What is the Dredge #4?

Dredge No 4 was a giant gold digging machine. Imagine this vessel, inching forward, year after year, forever altering the landscape. Dredge No. 4 was the largest wooden-hulled bucket dredge in North America. It was designed by the Marion Steam Shovel Company, and built for the Canadian Klondike Mining Company in 1912.

The dredge moved along in a pond of its own making, digging gold bearing gravel at a rate of 22 buckets per minute. It would operate for 24 hours a day for a season of approx 200 days, April – November, depending on the weather. Though only moving forward a half mile per season, it unearthed nine tons of gold, grossing 8.6 million dollars over 46 years. On its best day, it unearthed over 800 ounces. As well as gold, the dredge recovered everything in its path, including some old cured hams thrown down a shaft in days gone by, prehistoric mammoth ivory, and a set of false teeth.

Dredge No 4 is two thirds the size of a football field in length and is eight stories high.

How did it work?

The dredge was powered by electricity. Once in thawed ground, the Spud (anchor) would be lowered and act as a pivot point.

  1. Cables were attached to logs buried in the hillsides, and controlled by a winching system to manoeuvre the dredge within the pond.
  2. The bucket line on the bow dug up gold bearing gravel and deposited it to the hopper.
  3. The hopper fed gravel into the trommel.
  4. The trommel was a revolving tube-like metal screen, constantly rotating. Varying sizes of proceeded along the 50 ft length.
  5. Water was sprayed through the trommel, washing off the gravel.
  6. The gold would settle in the sluice boxes for collection
  7. The waste gravel moved along a stacker belt.
  8. The resulting tailing piles would be deposited out the stern in a scalloped pattern.

When the dredge had dug to its maximum depth, the spud and digging ladder were lifted and the dredge was winched forward about 10 feet. Imagine the constant deafening noise of metal against metal and gravel. 

The following photos are from work accomplished to date.

The Demise

By 1912 there were over 13 dredges operating in the Klondike. World War 1 brought labour shortages and a decrease in foreign investment. Eventually the two companies were consolidated into the Yukon Consolidated Gold Company or YCGC. The increase in the price of gold to $35 an ounce revived dredging during the depression; however, the Second World War, increased wages, and the fixed price of gold eventually took their toll on profitability, and all dredging activity ceased in 1966. The glory days of dredging (when it was said that the Yukon Territory was run by 3 people: the gold commissioner, the senior RCMP officer, and the manager of YCGC) were over, and silence filled the creeks once again.

The Restoration of Dredge #4 by Commodore’s Boats

Dredge No 4 ceased operations in Nov 1959, after sinking where she sits today. In 1991-92, Parks Canada began extensive restoration on the Dredge, freeing her from 18 feet of ice, silt, and mud. She was excavated, refloated, and relocated to her current setting, where the restoration work continues today by Commodore’s Boats Ltd. .

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