There’s still gold up in thar hills, and Karl Knutson is determined to find it. Turns out that, long after the Klondike Gold Rush of 1896-1899, the precious metal continues to be dug out of the earth. That adventure has been the focus of several TV projects, including Yukon Gold, which returns for its third season tonight.
The program is History’s No. 1 docu-series, and it’s no wonder; to watch these guys and gals turn precious ounces into a cash windfall is pretty addictive stuff. Even more so for someone like Knutson, who was born into the life under his father, Marty, and strives to succeed on his own.
“The hunt for gold and being able to pull your paycheque out of the ground just does it for me,” the 28-year-old says. “It doesn’t do it for some people. I love the fact that there’s gold in the ground and we’re able to pull it out.” It’s not easy. Weather is always and issue that far north. Toss in mosquitoes and black flies, aging bulldozers, diggers and sluice plants and remote sites, and you’ve got a recipe for extreme discomfort and even danger.
And while large machinery has taken the place of old timers panning for gold in a creek bed, the process of staking a claim hasn’t changed that much from the days of the gold rush. Knutson explains anyone can go up and spend $10 to stake ground on a creek. You then have two weeks to record that property and must do a certain amount of work on the land during the year to keep it. During that time licences are filed for permission to use water to sluice the earth away from gold; Knutson says environmental concerns regarding the use of water has to be carefully mapped out and regulated so as to conserve it and the land.
Re-joining Knutson on the Yukon Gold cast are Ken Foye, Guillaume Brodeur and Cam Johnson; newbies Chris St. Jean and Nika Guilbault struggle to make a living while taking care of their baby daughter. And while Knutson appreciates the popularity of the show and the spotlight it aims on the area of Canada he loves, it’s still a bit weird to have cameras pointed his way while he tries to work.
“We love telling this story because not a lot of people get to go to the Klondike and see this, let alone live it. But at the same time, they’re slowing me down a bit,” Knutson says with a chuckle. “I only have a certain amount of time to do this and sometimes it gets stressful explaining every waking moment to them.”
Yukon Gold airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on History.