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The Gold Rush: White Water Moments That Still Haunt Dustin Hurt - Exclusive

Fans of Discovery hit "Gold Rush: White Water" know two things about hunting for gold in the overgrown wilds and rushing rivers of Alaska's Chilkat Mountain Range: Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and whatever mining boss Dustin Hurt asks his crew to do, he's willing to do himself. "Something I've always told them is it's OK to be afraid," Hurt told Looper in an exclusive interview. "Some of this stuff, you still have to do it. That's what it is. And I'm afraid, too, half the time and I still have to do it." Crossing remote canyons on a zip line hundreds of feet in the air? Diving into a raging, bone chillingly cold river in a specialized wetsuit? Racing against the near certainty of dangerous rockfalls and churning debris to source and process precious flakes of gold? Hurt has been there, done that, and will do it again, but that doesn't mean he's bested every challenge.

As the fifth season of "Gold Rush: White Water" rolls on, Hurt is still haunted by the same daunting claim that inspired him to start mining for gold in the first place. He also has to contend with the lasting traumas of working in an environment where the danger is unending, and bear responsibility for the lives of his dedicated team. So, no pressure, right? "My job is to mitigate all the dangers that I can and try to avoid the things that I can," Hurt said. "This year I felt myself avoiding more than mitigating. It was rough."

The falls that haunt are full of gold

It's the tempest that haunts him, 50 feet of swift-running glacial runoff that gives the title of "Gold Rush: White Water" a run for its money — but Dustin Hurt isn't giving up. "McKinley Falls lured me to all of this, and I wanted to tackle that, and I haven't yet made an approach to tackle that," the "Dakota Boys" miner told Looper. "I think that's the difference between when I started and now. That I thought I would be able to just jump straight into that, but it's a bigger job than I thought it was gonna be. So I think for the payoff, I think that's going to be the big waterfall that I haven't been able to attack."

Hurt, together with his father Fred and their team members, have learned a lot in their years of prospecting and placer mining in the Alaskan wilderness. While McKinley Falls haunts him, that doesn't mean Hurt hasn't considered it from every angle possible. "Someone tried to dig it, and got a bunch of gold out of part of it. And they didn't get to finish it because there was flooding and they got wiped out after three years of prep," he told Looper. "Luckily they drilled a tunnel — that we'd live in most of the season — that they diverted water through. They threw 250 men at it. It was a big endeavor, and then they got flooded out and didn't rebuild. I now own that waterfall and I'd love to get after it, and I think that's going to be life-altering. Just haven't made enough gold to actually go ahead and get after it."

"Gold Rush: White Water" airs Fridays on Discovery and is available to stream on Discovery+.