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The Untold Truth Of Gold Rush

Viewers tune in season after season to watch the cast of "Gold Rush" live out their modern-day forty-niner fantasies. But not everything they do makes it to the airwaves. A little panning reveals that they take this outdated, Old West profession and lifestyle of theirs way too seriously. Bring the canary in a cage, because we're going into the mines to uncover the untold truth of "Gold Rush."

Killing bears without concerns

The "Gold Rush" boys don't take kindly to any varmint crossing their path, not even bears. According to Fox News, a bear was needlessly killed during the show's production back in May 2010. The troubles began when the bear stuck its nose in some untended graham crackers, and there's no worse crime in the world than a bear sniffing at a man's crunchy sweets. Shortly thereafter, with gun, pitchfork, and torch, miner Mike Halstead tracked the bear down and shot it dead. Though it was miles away from the mining site and probably wasn't the same bear, justice had been served.

Destroying salmon habitats

The miners don't limit their war on the earth to just bears. They make sure to take out some kind of wildlife in every way possible. That's why they made sure to drive a 50-ton piece of heavy equipment through a salmon habitat, The Oregonian reports. According to the miners, state laws allow them to drive their machinery through rivers and streams, it's just unfortunate the fish got in their way. Fortunately for the miners, the fish were no match for the rig. By that tally, they've killed one large land animal and a water animal habitat, which means birds, your days are numbered.

They pretty much despise mother nature altogether

The "Gold Rush" guys have also taken their war on nature to the land itself. According to The Oregonian, they dug a trench to divert the course of a stream, most likely to provide water for their camp. It's the one clear violation the gold rushers committed, as they failed to erect a screen to keep small fish from swimming into the ditch. Thus, they not only increased their fish kill count, but they possibly did irreparable damage to the local ecosystem as well. To the show's credit, cast and crew have implemented multiple processes for minimizing their environmental impact, but those sequences haven't exactly become fan-favorites.

Producers are drama queens

With all the acts of aggression against the Earth, of course the miners have been visited by state representatives. However, reps weren't there to dole out citations. Instead, one rep showed the miners how to use groundwater rather than diverting streams. That didn't sit well with the Discovery Channel's producers. According to regional habitat supervisor Jackie Timothy, the producers wanted a fine. The resulting kerfuffle would've provided them with some nice, free publicity for the show. Too bad for them things went well.

Parker Schnabel is a millionaire

Though he pleads poverty on the show, Parker Schnabel is actually filthy rich. In 2015, Fox News reported that Schnabel earned himself a million dollars during season five. A humble guy, he doesn't think people should be too jealous of him. According to Schnabel, he's in more debt than anyone else his age, yet he fails to supply any kind of numbers. Sounds like someone is hiding their gold. Maybe that's for the best, given what he refers to as the "unsustainable" nature of his chosen profession.

Dakota Fred Hurt turned on his old partners

Mustachioed "Gold Rush" villain "Dakota" Fred Hurt was a show fixture from seasons one through four. Then, he mysteriously up and left the production and his co-workers, dragging his son with him. Some think he retreated to a hermetic life in the mountains. Others believe he was raptured. What really happened is, according to Gazette Review, Hurt bought up all the Porcupine Creek land, where all that sweet gold-digging action takes place, and told the Hoffmans and everyone else to shove off. He really put the Hurt on them.

He also quit the show because of money

In addition to thinking he'd find more success on his own, Dakota Hurt also wanted more money from Discovery Channel. Hurt told the Gazette Review that "if [the channel wants] him to be an actor, they need to give him the amount of money an actor would get paid." Rather than accept Discovery's paltry scraps, Hurt went on to film his own pseudo-documentary series, "All That Glitters," for the illustrious Who-Knows network because no airing information about the 2015 show could be found as of this writing. Here's to hoping Hurt made the right choice.

James Harness had a fatal addiction

Miner James Harness was a staple on "Gold Rush" for the first two seasons before he was fired for missing the 100-ounce goal set by the team. In his private life, Harness lived in constant pain caused by a car accident. That pain led to his addiction to painkillers, which in turn created Harness' problems on the show. Unfortunately, his hardships didn't end once he was let go from the production. Harness' addiction eventually resulted in the stroke that killed him in 2014, as reported by TMZ. The Discovery Channel has yet to turn this painful, personal struggle into a show of some kind.

Parts of the show are scripted

Lo and behold, like with most reality shows, "Gold Rush" isn't as real as promotions would have you believe. In an interview he gave to Oregon Gold, fired miner Jimmy Dorsey stated that parts of the show are scripted, and some surprising events on the show are planned in advance. According to Dorsey, both getting his ribs broken in episode six and his leaving the show resulted from the machinations of Discovery Channel. He went on to say, "They kind of push you towards, making these things happen." Apparently, the producers have mastered the Jedi mind trick.

Todd Hoffman has his demons

In the same interview, Dorsey also airs his feelings about his former boss, Todd Hoffman. Saying he's a troubled man, Dorsey claims Hoffman tossed aside friends and family in the pursuit of fame and fortune, even to the point where he has no problem with others sustaining injury. Dorsey affirms that a particular on-camera howling he received from Hoffman was not scripted at all. It was pure Hoffman. He also went on to say Hoffman is uneducated in the ways of mining, but ultimately, Dorsey feels sorry for Hoffman. At least he finally found something nice to say about him.

People keep disappearing from the show

Probably the most disturbing thing about "Gold Rush" is that miners leave without any further mention, almost as if they were never there at all. Jason Otteson, Fred and Dustin Hurt, and Michael Halstead all disappeared from the show, without a single cast member commenting on their departures, which suggests two things. One, the scripting on this reality show is shoddy at best. Two, these gold miners are really some kind of secret cult. Once a member leaves, they sever all ties with that person. Just what Hollywood needs, another cult.

Parker Schnabel won't play nice

Schnabel is one of the few original "Gold Rush" stars to remain in the series for nearly the show's entire run. That might imply a certain diplomacy on Schnabel's part, or perhaps a general friendliness and willingness to work as a member of a team. While that may be true, it certainly hasn't applied to all of his cast and crewmates. Through Schnabel's own admission in multiple interviews, some of his fellow "Gold Rush" associates were not exactly his cup of tea.

Speaking to People, Schnabel revealed how his longtime friendship with series cameraman James Levelle fell apart. "James and I got into it quite a bit," said Schnabel. "I just don't really like the guy. I thought I did before this all really started. I haven't spoken to him almost since it ended." Likewise, when Monsters and Critics asked Schnabel about his relationship with costars Hoffman and Beets, Schnabel did little to hide his distaste. "When I say we are all complete opposites, Todd [Hoffman] has a whole set of his ideals that I just cannot understand."

Schnabel's most revealing quote came just moments later when he said, "Some people hate me and think I am a raging a***ole and silver spoon-fed kid, there are some people that hate other people, and there's some that love all three of us." In other words, when it comes to shows like "Gold Rush," any drama may just be a matter of perception.

At war with South Park

One of the series's most direct forms of opposition came in the form of a group of citizens from South Park. No, not that South Park, but rather the actual area in Park County, Colorado. The citizens, some 30 strong and mainly from the city of Fairplay, formed a group known as Save South Park in response to their issues with the "Gold Rush" production in the area. One of their complaints, reports the Post Independent, was that "The noise would start at seven every morning and wouldn't stop until the evening, turning a rural neighborhood near Fairplay into an industrial zone."

The noise was far from Save South Park's biggest issue, however, as the citizens sued the county and two businesses involved in the show for rezoning the show's dig site into a mining zone, according to Summit Daily. As a geologist said on behalf of the group, "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." A more forward-facing concern from the group is that rezoning the site means further potential mining damage, even after "Gold Rush" finished filming.

One problematic spinoff

From its first season on, "Gold Rush" has been a tremendous ratings success for Discovery. Variety notes that being anchored by the show helped the network dominate Friday night ratings in 2016, so it's no surprise that network executives sought to capitalize on its success. Discovery's ideas for new series began to flock to "Gold Rush" like it was a, well, gold rush. One of the many shows it inspired, however, ended up leaning a bit heavier on the fools than the gold.

Discovery's "Jungle Gold" ran for two seasons -– or rather, almost two seasons, as an attacking militia, an arrest warrant, and a transatlantic escape cut production short. Though the show's creators and stars, Scott Lomu and George Wright, insisted on Reddit that they traveled to Ghana with good intentions and broke no laws, the local officials said otherwise. Due in part to the country's less than ideal history with foreign mining operations, the "Jungle Gold" team was beset by complications, as reported by BuzzFeed. The cast and crew were robbed by an armed gunman, attacked by locals, and even subject to an arrest warrant issued by a member of the Ghanian parliament. These setbacks caused the team to flee the country to safety before Season 2 had finished filming, and the series's lifespan painted Lomu and Wright in a dramatically unflattering light.

The lake of fire

It's not just the shows inspired by "Gold Rush" that have found themselves in legal trouble, however. A couple of stars, series veteran Tony Beets and employee Mark Favron, once found themselves knee-deep in legal hot water –- ironically, due to some literal hot water.

In one episode, Beets and Favron decided to give a pond connected to Indian Lake in Yukon, Canada, a "Viking Baptism" by pouring gasoline into it and setting it on fire. The pair laughed and joked during the blaze, clearly thinking nothing of the stunt. It was, as Beets put it in an interview with CBC, "a joke gone bad." However, the Yukon News revealed that officials didn't find the joke funny and fined Beets and his company $31,000 under the Yukon Waters Act, citing pollution and failure to report said pollution. 

Beets contested the charges, even sending his lawyer to argue before the Yukon Supreme Court. The court upheld their decision, saying in part that "the fact that the crime in this case was filmed and watched by millions highlighted the need to condemn and deter the behavior." Funny enough, before he appealed it, Beets himself seemed okay with the decision, saying of himself, "so here you are in court, so take the fine."

Fans of gold

"Gold Rush" is a long-running ratings hit for Discovery. Though a ratings spike in the first season could be expected for a fresh reality show, few could have anticipated the fervor that "Gold Rush" would sustain season after season. Even in 2020, a full decade after its premiere, Discovery reported that the show was still setting viewership records. Based on the show's fanbase, this is no real surprise whatsoever.

Some "Gold Rush" fans are true devotees who follow the show's production team for a chance to see the action and meet the cast. Producer Ed Gorsuch told Reality Blurred about the most dedicated diehards, some of whom even cross the globe to be near all the dredging and sluicing. "People have shown up [to sites that are] not an easy place to get to," Gorsuch said. "We've had families show up. We had a guy with a motor home drive up with his family from Louisiana." 

If a Louisiana to Yukon journey impresses you, then buckle up for Gorsuch's most surprising fans: "We have a lot of Germans come out as well; for some reason, it's incredibly [popular there], and they seem to want to make the journey."