Tuolumne Gold Dredge Claim

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I have known about the Tuolumne Gold Dredge for years, driven past it, viewed the plaque on the side of the road and even caught a glimpse from the road near  Dawson Lake. But this time it was time to visit the old relic.

The dredge is located just southwest of the town of LaGrange and due west of the LaGrange OHV Park which was built basically on the eastern tailings of the dredge. We walked around the entire self induced pond with overgrown roads and signs of ruined structures. The buckets and bucket boom are gone off the front of the dredge as are many other items as you can tell from historic photos. Several of the massive buckets are on display nearby in LaGrange. Some type of boom lies in the grass near the road in along with a few tangled cables. The tailings boom still exist, attached and is the first piece you see sticking through the trees which have overgrown and surround the old dredge.

A hole in the fence, empty beer bottles, and graffiti indicate the location has been a local party spot as is the case sadly with many California historic gold locations. Up close you can see that the basics still exist such as massive winches, stairs and mooring cables. Occasional clanking and banging from loose heavy metal creates an eerie ghost like mood.

Near the massive boom-less four story tall front of the dredge sits a white cross surrounded by stones and adorned with faded American Flags. The cross reads “RIP May 18th 2009” with initials AWR. The real mystery of the dredge is what happened here. I researched for hours and could only find that the Merced Sun reported the death of a 30 year old father named Andrea “Andy” William Rogers on that date.

The dredge was featured on the television show “California’s Gold” episode #12010 and featured interviews with surviving dredge workers by Huell Howser.

I am a big fan of Discovery’s Gold Rush. Neither of Tony Beats gold dredges come close to this baby. You can tell by the massive trommel and sluice boxes.

The marker near the road (pictured) reads:

“Behind this monument rests the historic Tuolumne gold dredge, which started operation at Patricksville, just east of this location, on June 15, 1938. A Walter Johnson Dredge No. 52 model, it floated on a self-created pond of water. It was larger than a football Held, weighed over 2500 tons, and cost $543,148 to construct. The dredge used electricity to drive 120 4000 1b. buckets 70 ft. deep to recover gold. It ceased operation in July 1951. The total amount of gold recovered is unknown.
Dedicated April 20, 1996
Don Lucas. Noble Grand Humbug
Estanislao Chapter No. 58 E Clampus Vitus”

  • JB Bergmann

    Rating: 3 / 5

    We returned to LaGrange and asked the ladies at the museum if they knew about the death of AWR at the dredge. They said they didn’t know anything about it.

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