What You Never Knew About Gold Rush

The Discovery Channel struck gold with "Gold Rush." The reality show first premiered in December 2010, and it only built momentum from there. Featuring teams of literal gold diggers who overcome various hurdles in order to mine for the precious metal across the United States and Canada, the show has earned itself worldwide recognition. Season after season, it has pulled in millions of viewers, landed at the top of the ratings charts, and continued to be one of the most compelling reality shows on TV. As The Hollywood Reporter wrote in their review of Season 3, "there is something innately captivating about the quest for gold."

Naturally, the success of "Gold Rush" led to a batch of spinoffs, including "Gold Rush: White Water," "Gold Rush: Parker's Trail," "Gold Rush: Freddy Dodge's Mine Rescue," "Bering Sea Gold," "Hoffman Family Gold," and "Jungle Gold." Needless to say, there's a lot of content to mine here, both on and off the screen. Strap on your hard hat, because we're about to dig into what you never knew about "Gold Rush."

The show has clashed with Mother Nature

From killing a bear to destroying a salmon habitat, "Gold Rush: Alaska" has not always coexisted nicely with Mother Nature. After a bear went into the mining site while the team was filming the first season of the series, Mike Halstead, a member of Todd Hoffman's crew, tracked down and killed the animal. This sparked controversy. As per the AP (via Today), the Department of Natural Resources not only suspected there were two different bears, but deemed the killing entirely unnecessary. No legal action was taken, as Halstead had a permit, but the state asked that the show be more careful about leaving out food or anything else that might draw wildlife. (It looked like the bear was attracted to some graham crackers that'd been left out.) 

What's more, as noted in The Oregonian, the show hasn't been great for salmon. Though it was reportedly permitted, there was the time they drove a heavy duty piece of machinery over a stream bed that appeared to be a salmon habitat. The miners also once redirected the course of a stream by digging a ditch but did not build a screen for keeping the fish away from the trench. Jackie Timothy, a supervisor for Alaska's Department of Fish and Game did tell the outlet that behind the scenes, this skirting of the rules felt like the show's attempt at creating some sort of drama. "They were a little unhappy that it couldn't be made into some big thing," she said. 

The show also clashed with some Colorado residents

In 2017, "Gold Rush" clashed with citizens of Park County in Colorado. As reported by Summit Daily, fed up residents slapped the series with a lawsuit after nearby mining site chaos got to be too much. Regarding the show's impact on the community, Save South Park's attorney said, "This is not an appropriate land use decision. Here's a circumstance where there are people directly next to this mine and the impacts are felt by them in a very dramatic fashion."

"Gold Rush" star Freddy Dodge told a local CBS affiliate that the region has a long mining history. "We're mining here because there's gold here," he stated. "It's probably one of the best placer deposits left in the state of Colorado, if not the best." He also maintained that there were people in the area who were in support of the mining. 

In early 2018, Summit Daily shared excerpts from Save South Park's 50-page-long report by geologist John S. Stuckless. Per the outlet, the report details the probable mercury contamination that could have taken place in the city of Fairplay, thereby asking for an investigation to be done by the state regulators. The introductory part of the report read, "We cannot risk sacrificing our water, our future and our children's health to the environmentally damaging operations of some miners and the hazardous fallout of their ventures."

The cast is asked to use the word 'gold' frequently

If you are a true fan of "Gold Rush," you might have noticed the cast members repeating the word "gold" quite frequently. Apparently, it's because they are actually asked to utter the word as much as they feasibly can for the sake of the viewers at home. In a 2017 interview with Reality Blurred, "Gold Rush" producer Ed Gorsuch shared that producers encourage the stars of the series to sprinkle "gold" into their sentences when the cameras are rolling — even though it might not come naturally.  "They rarely use the word gold — you'd be surprised how often miners don't say the word gold," he said. "We have to prompt them to give us a clear sense of their idea, their plan, and use the word 'gold' as often as possible."

After all, "gold" is the name of the game. That said, it sounds like there may be such a thing as too much gold. As host and producer Christo Doyle told Reality Blurred in 2019, "You want to see a ton of gold but you also don't want them to get too good. If they're too efficient or too good at it, it might not be as compelling, either." When it comes to building drama and intrigue, apparently it's best not to let the gold tip the scales. 

Fans from all over the world travel to the dig sites

"Gold Rush" was a hit back when it first aired in December 2010, and it has evolved quite a lot. And all these years and spinoffs later, it still continues to garner a great deal of fame and acclaim.

Given the show's popularity, this may not be surprising, but in 2017, producer Ed Gorsuch told Reality Blurred that the cast and crew of "Gold Rush" had fans — and even families of fans — visit them at mining sites that were apparently difficult to reach. "We had a guy with a motor home drive up with his family from Louisiana," Gorsuch mentioned. And some fans have hopped on airplanes and flown across bodies of water to meet the miners. As Gorsuch shared with the outlet, they've been visited by people who trekked there all the way from Germany.

Now, if heading out to mining locations and remote campsites isn't in the cards, there are other, more formal ways to interact with the stars. As per Wallenius Wilhelmsen, Tony and Kevin Beets appeared at a special edition "Gold Rush" excavator auction event in 2020. In 2014, the North Dakota Newspaper Association reported that Dakota Fred hobnobbed with fans at a promotional event in Bottineau, North Dakota. And in 2015, Parker Schnabel was on hand during a San Jacinto casino's attempt to break a gold panning world record (they succeeded).

Reality is different from what the audience sees

"Gold Rush" star James Harness served as the mechanic for Todd Hoffman's crew for the first two seasons of the show. The fifth special of the show, titled "Revelations," which aired shortly after the release of the show's second season finale, indicated Hoffman fired Harness. In 2012, some time after seeing the teaser of the special episode that was yet to air, Harness had a chat with The Bulletin about his time on the series. Harness told the local Oregon paper that the teaser clip portrayed a false narrative regarding his departure from the show. As per Harness, Hoffman firing him was something that never took place. "[The teaser] shows [Hoffman] making a comment that 'I guess this is where we part ways.' Yet I'm not in the frame. I'm not there," Harness remarked. He went on to add that reality is far from what they show in "Gold Rush," saying, "It truly is not the way I remember it, and it distorts my memories." 

As is common with reality TV shows, a lot of footage gets left on the cutting room floor, and the full story isn't always told. In an interview with Oregon Gold, series alum Jimmy Dorsey noted that he didn't necessarily get the most favorable edit. "I think my inexperience in mining and the construction field is not something that they created," he said. "You never see me actually turn a wrench. They cut out about ninety percent of the positive things I do."

The show may be scripted to some extent

While James Harness hinted that the drama the audience sees on "Gold Rush" may not be totally accurate to the way things played out in real life, Jimmy Dorsey went all in and claimed a ton of the stuff that you see is entirely planned out for the sake of the show. "Every formatted documentary is scripted," he said to Oregon Gold. "It is scripted from the beginning. They knew exactly what they wanted to see out of the program. Even me leaving was scripted, but in the way in which it happened was not." Scripted or not, he did note that a lot of what happens on the show is not faked for the cameras. "[Greg Remsburg] broke my ribs. That was very real, but it was also in the script for episode four which ended up being episode six, that I would end up leaving the show," he said.

Now, it is worth noting Dorsey did not leave the show on the best of terms, so it's probably safe to assume he's a bit biased. The production team also probably harbors some biases of their own. When Reality Blurred asked whether or not "Gold Rush" is scripted, producer Ed Gorsuch painted a different picture. "There's no scripts written; the edit doesn't feed them what to do. It comes the other way around," he said. Perhaps it's best to take all of these statements with a grain of gold.

Did Todd Hoffman put money over friendships?

During his time on "Gold Rush," Todd Hoffman has had clashes with several people on the show. For starters, he butted heads with Parker Schnabel for years. "There is a genuine dislike there," Hoffman said of Schnabel in a 2016 interview with Maxim. "But there is a mutual respect at least on my end." When Hoffman left the series in 2018, Schnabel addressed their dynamic in a chat with PopCulture.com ."We poke each other, we push each other's buttons. And it's been a pretty interesting seven years," he said.

Hoffman also had conflict with his crewmate Jimmy Dorsey. In an interview with Oregon Gold, Dorsey said that he was supposed to be paid one thousand dollars per episode, meaning he should have grossed $6,000 for his time on the series. However, Hoffman ended up giving him only half of that amount. When asked about his opinion of Hoffman, Dorsey told the outlet, "To be honest, today I feel sorry for him. I feel sorry that he threw away a lot of relationships that he has ruined in his pursuit of fame and gold."

How much does Parker Schnabel's crew make?

In late 2021, a Reddit user estimated that the amount Parker Schnabel pays his rock truck drivers about $18 an hour. When the Redditor criticized the sum on the "Gold Rush" Subreddit, Schnabel was quick to respond and clear the air. As he mentioned in the comments section of the original post, his team members usually start at $28 an hour. According to the star miner, his employees work for 75 hours a week: 40 hours of the regular hourly rate of $28 while the remaining 35 hours of overtime pay are at $42 per hour. This means that workers get $2,590 for a week's work. He went on to explain, "we usually work about 25 weeks so gross earnings would be around 65K pre bonus for a starting employee. Which I think works out to around 40k net... median wage is probably more in the $34/hr range." Schnabel also shared that there are bonuses and no housing, food, or vehicle cost.

Schnabel, meanwhile, seems to be raking in a tad bit more than $65,000 a year. According to Celebrity Net Worth, he's worth $8 million. 

James Harness received a surgery thanks to the show

Those who have followed "Gold Rush" from its very beginning are already well aware of James Harness' chronic back pain that was caused by a car accident. Throughout the first two seasons of the series, Harness struggled with the physical labor that comes with this particular line of work, and after experiencing a severe bout of pain, he took some time away from the crew (and the show). "I've always been a team player, and I want to help you guys no matter what, but I can't do it in the condition I'm in," he told his colleagues. According to TMZ, Harness also struggled with an addiction to pain medication, which reportedly interfered with his work. He was eventually dismissed from the crew.

According to a Starcasm report, after Harness opened up about his back pain on the show, a hospital in Boston connected with him and performed the procedure he needed at no cost. In July 2014, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Harness had passed away at the age of 57. According to TMZ, the reality TV star died in late June 2014, following a stroke he had a week prior to his death.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Only three original cast members have stuck around

Of all the cast members we have seen on "Gold Rush," only three have been a part of all the seasons. The first name that probably crosses your mind is Parker Schnabel. Per his Discovery bio, his grandfather got him into the business when he was a little kid. "I just grew up on the mine site with him ... learning how to run equipment," he told FOX11. When he was only 16, he became a "Gold Rush" star, and he's been on the series ever since. 

Chris Doumitt has also appeared in all the seasons. As his Discovery bio recounts, he ended up joining the Hoffman crew (and the show) after he did some cabin-building work for the family. Needless to say, he took to mining. Later on, Doumitt became a part of Schnabel's team.

The last name on this list is Freddy Dodge. Compared to the other two, Dodge has been seen in a relatively less number of episodes, but he has made infrequent appearances throughout the series. In a 2021 interview with Discovery, Dodge, who is often seen helping other miners, shared, "I came to be in the 'Gold Rush' family before it was even a show." He explained he got involved after he was asked to assist the executives of the show early on when they were going on a mining excursion. 

Tony Beets' company was fined for 'a joke gone bad'

In October 2014, Mark Favron, an employee of "Gold Rush" star Tony Beets, poured nearly one gallon of gasoline on a dredge pond connected to the Indian Lake in Yukon, Canada, and set it on fire. The infamous stunt was captured on camera and shown in an episode of the show. The scene even included footage of Beets standing in front of the pond while it burned. Favron's behavior led to some legal drama for Beets. 

Per a 2018 report by Yukon News, Beets and his company, Tamarack Inc., were fined a total of $31,000. The court found Beets and his team guilty of violating the Yukon Waters Act. According to CBC, Beets later told court reports that the incident was "a joke gone bad." That said, he acknowledged that the responsibility fell on him. Beets said, "Since I am the man running the show, I guess I should have been a little bit more, and told him not to do it."

Some Gold Rush scenes have been recreated

While there's been some debate about whether or not the show is scripted, "Gold Rush" producer Ed Gorsuch has acknowledged that there are indeed times where production asks cast members to redo a previous conversation in order to fill in storyline gaps for the viewer. "Occasionally, discussions will happen off-camera—Parker will go talk to Rick over dinner one night and we weren't filming it," he explained to Reality Blurred. "The next day, we show up and they've got equipment in a different part of the claim, and they're doing something new. We're like, What happened here? We'll go find out and we'll ask Parker and Rick to have that conversation on camera again for us because we need a start to that story."

Of course, "Gold Rush" is not the only reality series to feature reenactments of scenes. Shows like "Wife Swap," "Survivor," and "The Hills" have all recreated moments for the sake of continuity and story. Though some may argue this practice takes away from the "reality" of reality television, it actually isn't that taboo. As veteran producer Rahel Tennione told Insider, "It's very natural and very normal, and I think shows that can afford it, do it." Well, if there was ever one show that's got the gold.