Gold Rush is one of the Discovery Channel’s most popular TV shows right now. And since it started airing in 2010, Gold Rush has expanded to after shows and spinoffs in South America. In case you haven’t yet seen it, the show follows small-scale, family-run mining companies looking for gold in the Klondike region of Yukon, Canada. Throughout the seasons, the cast changes, but the most familiar faces have remained, like the father-son duo, Jack and Todd Hoffman.
Gold Rush has also been popular because of all the controversy it has been stirring up. As you know, reality television isn’t always as “real” as we may think it is or want it to be. But the production team works hard to make everything look as natural as possible. But things can’t stay buried forever. Speaking of digging, we’ve dug up some facts about the show.
See what’s real and not real about Gold Rush…
Like Father, Like Son
Todd Hoffman didn’t start his career as a gold miner. Many years before the show, Todd decided to invest some money in an airport, having bought and operated it! The airport is located in Sandy, Oregon, and is utilized solely by small planes. But the airline business slowed down significantly, and it was no longer a way for him to make a living.
After 2008’s recession cost him his job, Hoffman needed to get creative. Remembering his father’s old stories of mining gold in the 80s is what inspired Todd to follow in his footsteps. Not only did Hoffman pursue a mining career, but he also decided to take us along on his journey through the Gold Rush. Going from unemployed to earning a cool $25,000 per episode, Todd’s life has definitely changed considerably.
The Biggest Gold Nuggets Aren’t That Big
When people think of gold mining and finding gold, many imagine a big nugget worth thousands of dollars. But this is virtually impossible, especially in the rivers the Gold Rush digs in. According to Parker Schnabel, the biggest gold nugget he found was a quarter ounce, which is worth about four or five hundred dollars. And even that’s rare.
Finding gold, in general, is very rare. It may seem like there’s an endless amount of gold wherever the mining teams go, but it is quite difficult to find gold, especially in streams these crews use. The show doesn’t highlight how long it actually takes to strike gold and how difficult the process is. No matter how many struggles we see in the episodes, it doesn’t compare to what it’s like in the mines.
Filming Takes a Long, Long Time
Good reality shows take a lot of time to make. Gold Rush is no exception. The production crew doesn’t just arrive on random days, film, and leave. They actually stay for the whole duration of the mining season, which depending on the weather in the location, is usually between April and October. So it takes about six months to make 12 episodes.
Speaking of filming, the producers have to remind the cast to use the word “gold.” Considering the program’s name, producers and executives expect the cast to use the word when speaking on camera continuously. But these mining teams are semi-professionals and already have their own language and way of speaking. So, basically, it takes a lot of reminding…
Gold Is Doing Fine
Usually, currencies have volatile and risky markets. But gold, however, is an exception. Since gold is not actually a printed currency, like bills and coins, it isn’t influenced by inflation. Therefore, the value stays very high, according to Todd Hoffman. He explained that no matter where you go in the world with your golden nugget, it’s worth the same.
Therefore, Todd Hoffman’s hard work in his mining sure pays off when he finds a $3,000 gold nugget. It means the price is worth the same, and the gold is highly sought anywhere on Earth. Speaking of other places in the world, Todd took a risk when he invested in a project in Guyana, which is what we’ll talk about now…
Todd Risked it Big in Guyana
After two seasons of filming and mining in Alaska, Todd Hoffman took a big risk and decided to spare himself the cold months of the Alaskan winter and go to Guyana, a small country in South America. There, he bought untouched land to mine for gold. Hoffman invested all of his money into that property, but things didn’t go as planned once he got there.
Once there, Hoffman and his team found that locals were already mining the land. He left with only two ounces of gold in his hands. Ouch. Speaking of investing money, Hoffman took another risk and invested $1 million in mining machinery. This time, the risk paid off, with sources claiming that Hoffman’s net worth became $2 million.
Todd Hoffman Isn’t So Nice
He may look like a big teddy bear, and he certainly seems nice enough, but according to several cast members, Todd isn’t that nice of a guy. Apparently, he’s turned away family and friends in the pursuit of fortune and fame at the bottom of a gold mine. Former miners who used to be on the show have given interviews, speaking about him.
They described a man who is an inexperienced miner and deeply troubled. In one episode, he is seen screaming at a fellow miner, which was not scripted and straight from the heart. Hoffman has also been said to not care so much about the safety of his employees, which isn’t something that a mining crew would be too pleased about.
James Harness Had a Troubled Life
If you watched the first two seasons of Gold Rush, then you might remember James Harness. He was a regular on the show but ended up getting fired for failing to achieve a 100-ounce goal that the team had established. During his time on the show, he was clearly in pain, which he discussed openly and tried to deal with.
Harness had been the victim of a severe car accident years before coming on the show, which left him in constant pain. He became addicted to pain medication. His addiction to painkillers was one of the sources of his troubles on the program and may have even contributed to his getting canned. After he left the show, his addiction worsened. He ultimately suffered a stroke, which ended up taking his life in 2014.
Cast Members Get Paid Well
Gold Rush’s cast members make more the more screen time they get, but in general, the talent gets a nice paycheck. Despite what the production crew might want you to believe, they pay their miners. At the end of the day, these people are working for Discovery despite the implication that they’re working for the gold they find in the ground.
By law, they have to be paid. And they’re paid very well. Their salaries aren’t exactly public knowledge, but estimates have put these cast members at earning in the mid to high six-figure salaries. Parker Schnabel gets paid $25,000 per episode, and Monica Beets earned around $175,000 in annual salary. This salary is on top of their earnings from the gold they dig up. So it looks like amateur gold mining is a good profession – as long as Discovery is there to film it.
Many Scenes are Scripted
Surprise, surprise! Reality TV isn’t as real as we’re made to believe. Most, if not all, reality shows have at least some scripted scenes. Sure, there are parts that aren’t scripted at all, but a lot is not realistic and can be categorized as scripted television. People who left Gold Rush have spoken out about it and let the cat out of the bag.
After having left the show, miner Jimmy Dorsey gave an interview with Oregon Gold, and he confirmed this. He said how many of the things that happened on the show were planned well in advance. This even included his leaving the show and almost all of the events that took place when he was on camera.
The Poor Bears
It’s not much of a surprise that people operating in the wilderness, especially in northern Canada, will come into contact with wildlife from time to time. Back in May of 2010, one bear got a little too close to the production area and didn’t fare too well from it. Keep in mind, that in reality, bears rarely interact with humans that result in a dangerous situation.
That’s because people who are familiar with being in the wilderness generally know how to deal with them. Ask any camper, and they’ll tell you not to leave food out. If only someone, the miners who worked for Gold Rush, were more “bear aware.” When a bear wandered up to the site to find some food, the miners freaked out, and Mike Halstead tracked down the bear and shot it.
Drama Beats Maintenance
When you risk all your money on a venture like gold mining, it’s pretty much imperative to ensure that your equipment is top-notch and works properly. But it seems that the somewhat inexperienced crew let some of their equipment die rather than maintain it properly, which any true miner would tell you is reckless and dumb. But, as you know, it is reality TV. And drama always makes for good TV.
It makes for good viewing if mining equipment being used to get to that last ounce of gold suddenly shuts down. Whether it’s due to improper maintenance or because they used the device in a way that wasn’t intended, it’s not the right way to dig for gold. Claims have been made about the crew being encouraged to forego maintenance by the production team to make for some extra drama, which could explain why their stuff doesn’t last the whole season.
Miners Have Disappeared
So you like Gold Rush? Great! You might even enjoy watching a particular miner. Maybe they’re funny, cute, whatever. Well, there might be a chance that your new favorite miner will disappear without any further explanation, leaving you to Google the name of that miner and find out through some Reddit forum what exactly happened.
Both of the Hursts, Jason Otteson, Michael Halstead, and Dustin Hurst all vanished from the show without a single mention in the following episodes. This is confusing and frustrating for viewers who watch the show religiously and follow the events. Especially since nobody even talks about these people ever again. Dave Turin, for example, left the show after the finale on season seven. There was a brawl between him and Trey Poulson. Turin was on the show for six seasons and then suddenly vanished.
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys
Every show, reality or not, has its good and bad characters. At the end of the day, it’s a story, and every story needs its good and bad characters, right? If you have a reality program and everyone’s getting along, it comes down to editing to inject some drama. So keep in mind when you watch Gold Rush that whoever is depicted as villainous, it’s really just what the producers and editors of the show want us to see.
Former miner and cast-member Jimmy Dorsey claimed that 90% of what he did was never seen, and the 10% that didn’t end on the cutting room floor cast him in a negative light. According to Dorsey, production was more interested in creating a character out of him than just showing who he truly was.
Parker’s Love Life
Parker Schnabel sat down with The Times to talk about his life, including his girlfriend. “My life has been pretty much work-dominated. I had a girlfriend for a couple of years. That didn’t work out.” After a quiet moment, Parker then said, “She’s great, but it didn’t work out. You know how these things go.” Unfortunately, work got in the way.
Parker may be young, but he has a strong work ethic, and nothing will get in the way of his gold-digging. Parker and Ashely Youle split up about two years ago. Youle is an Australian who Parker met during the offseason. The veterinary nurse came to the Klondike and worked on his team for two years. Parker told Maxim that her presence was the best part of his day.
A Really Cool Chick
“Yes, Ashley was a huge help. I don’t think she gets quite enough credit for how well the summer went. She is great to be around, she is great for me, and she is just a really cool chick.” Ashley (Youle) had a lot of duties on the site, but Parker had her working the gold room with Chris Doumett.
Doumett clearly enjoyed working with the attractive blonde. And she was in charge of cleaning millions of dollars worth of gold, apparently. Youle was a big part of Parker’s success. The film crew sent out drones to try to capture a photo of Ashley and Parker kissing. But they didn’t really let the young couple have alone time since he sometimes worked 24/7.
Producers Bypass the Law
Environmental protections exist for a purpose, and there are those who go to mining sites to ensure people are doing their jobs properly. The show’s producers had to deal with this since the series began, but they handled things in their own way. One time, representatives came to the site to instruct the crew on how to use groundwater instead of diverting water from a river or stream.
They could have issued a fine and told them to fix their mistake, but they demonstrated what to do instead. But as it turns out, the producers wanted that fine. Why? Because a fine creates drama. The producers were upset when they learned that they missed out on the free publicity that would have come from it.
They’ve Been Sued More Than Once
Gold Rush has been sued a number of times by people in the communities they are digging in. Following the 2017 season, residents of South Park (it’s a real place) have filed a lawsuit hoping to prevent the crew from returning to their Colorado town in 2018. The claim made by “Save South Park” have insisted that the Hoffman crew is simply “Mining for ratings.”
Many of their complaints revolve around the noise the miners make. But other claims have been made about that their mining claim; that they’re mining in a land that was originally zoned as residential. These land-use claims might prevent production from shooting again if the residents are successful. But lawsuits take time, and we might not find out for a while.
Parker Schnabel Is Rich
If you’re a fan of the show, you’ve heard how Parker Schnabel lives in poverty since he says it on camera. He may not have started out wealthy, but his time on the show has changed his life around. Big time. According to Fox News’ report in 2015, Schnabel is filthy rich. His stint on season five earned him a million dollars.
He’s on a TV show where they dig for gold, so it’s not too surprising that the guy literally struck gold. It’s the secretive nature of his wealth that becomes an issue. Schnabel still claims that he has more debt than anyone else his age, basically searching for pity. But pity is not what you’re going to get when people find out that you’re making seven figures.
They Prefer Inexperienced Miners
Gold Rush is all about inexperienced miners trying to strike gold. It began with Tod Hoffman selling almost everything he had to take on the prospect of digging for gold full-time. But he didn’t really know what he was doing, so he took on people that he hoped did know. If you watched the first few seasons, you saw that they knew more about gold mining than your average Joe.
But still far less than the average gold miner. Putting people who don’t know what they are doing in an inherently dangerous activity is, well, dangerous! Fortunately, the series hasn’t (yet) seen any major injuries or deaths. But it’s probably because the producers keep people around behind the cameras to ensure nobody does anything crazy.
Camera Time = Money
When you work as a cast member on a reality series for Discovery, your salary is related to the amount of screen time you get. So obviously this is going to mean that people are going to act out in order to get more airtime. And a lot of this has to do with how the show is shot.
Instead of filming everything that’s happening and editing out the parts they like or don’t like, the film crew sets up shots and shoots whatever and whenever they think is best. This caused some of the miners to act out to attract the attention of the crew. This ensures that the camera is rolling on whatever action is happening, whether it’s real or staged.
The Poor Salmon
The bear wasn’t the only one who had to pay the price with Gold Rush. An entire run of salmon and their habitat were destroyed. The crew drove a 50-ton piece of mining equipment through the habitat. Salmon breed in the same place they were born, and amazingly they know where to go when it comes time to procreate.
A group of fish were unable to breed in this habitat, which resulted in their demise. There’s a reason why salmon habitats are protected: to ensure the survival of the species. But the producers insisted that State laws permitted them to drive the machinery across rivers and streams. But even if that were true, State officials wouldn’t have intended for entire ecosystems to be destroyed.
Dorsey Leaving the Show
Throughout the show, you would see some of the miners arguing with each other. As it turns out, the fights are even scripted. As Jimmy Dorsey told Oregon Gold, “They actually direct you into these situations. It became very real. That is why I actually got my ribs broke. There was a fight…not even a fight…I was assaulted by Greg. He broke my ribs. That was very real, but it was also in the script for episode four, which ended up being episode six.”
As Dorsey explained: “They would tell me to say,” We’ve got get gold in seventy hours,” so I say, “We’ve got to get gold in seventy-two hours.” Then they would say, “What are you going to do if you don’t get gold in seventy-two hours?” And I am like, “I don’t know you just told me to say seventy hours.” Then they said, “What are you going to do if you don’t get gold?” They push you towards saying I was going to leave if we did not find gold. It was never my intention to leave.”
“Dakota” Fred Hurt
Gold Rush villain “Dakota” Fred Hurt was a fixture on the show from seasons one through four. But then he mysteriously up and left, taking his son with him. Some say he became a hermit, living alone in the mountains. But what really happened, according to the Gazette Review, Hurt bought the Porcupine Creek land, where all gold-digging action took place and told the Hoffmans and everyone else to get lost.
But in addition to thinking that he would find more success on his own, Fred also wanted more money from Discovery Channel. He told the Gazette Review that if Discovery wants him to be an “actor,” then they need to give him the amount of money an actor would get paid. Fred went on to film his own pseudo-documentary series called All That Glitters.
Unusual Birthday Gifts
As a young man, you would think that Parker Schnabel would like typical gifts, like a gadget or just plain cash. Nope. Schnabel has an unusual taste in gifts. On birthdays, Schnabel would ask his parents for construction equipment. His dad owns a construction business in Alaska, so it’s not a far fetch to bring home some equipment.
Speaking of Parker, Gene Cheeseman, an expert contractor, joined Schnabel’s team in 2013 as his right-hand man. When Gene left the crew, it was a shock to audiences and even to Schnabel. But it didn’t affect their friendship. When asked how he feels, Parker said that he still talks to and meets up with Gene. He actually speaks highly of Gene, saying he learned a lot from him.
Fans Take Gold Rush Seriously
People don’t just watch the show from the comfort of their sofas in their living rooms. As the show grew more and more popular, viewers took their love of Gold Rush to the next level. Producers stated that from the second season on, fans turned up at different mining locations around North America. Series producer Ed Gorsuch said that while filming in the Yukon, a family from Louisiana drove up in their RV.
There are also international fans of Gold Rush. The show isn’t just a success in the United States. Gold Rush airs in most of the 170 countries that The Discovery Channel is available (which is about 430 million households). Producers shared stories in which fans from Germany crossed the Atlantic to visit the crew while filming in various locations.
Growing Up So Fast
Parker Schnabel was only 16 when the show started filming, and he was 17 by the time season two rolled around. He was forced to grow up fast when his grandfather stepped down from his mine, The Big Nugget. Schnabel was thrust into running the place alone, which Schnabel said he sees as both an advantage and a disadvantage.
On the one hand, he is willing to try new technologies out, but on the other hand, he wishes that he had the experience of the more senior miners. But regardless of his inexperience, Parker was adamant about picking his own team for Gold Rush’s special ‘Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail.’ On his journey through the Klondike, it was important for him to choose his team members, consisting of Rick Ness, Karla Ann, and Levelle.
Dustin Hurt Was a Firefighter
A series regular of three seasons, Dustin Hurt, made a name for himself on the show. But he wasn’t always a gold miner. Before he became a reality TV personality and made a living from finding and selling gold nuggets, Hurt risked his life to save others! He was once a firefighter.
Dustin Hurt was once a trained firefighter for the California Forest Service. He learned and honed many of the skills that would later come in handy when he found himself mining for gold. For example, his ax and chainsaw abilities came from his firefighting experience. His comfort and expertise dealing with heavy machinery is obvious when you consider his 20 years of experience as a firefighter.
The Gold Bet
One thing that is truly genuine and doesn’t need any “help” from production is the famous big bet. The rivalry between Parker and Todd is deep, and it’s real. The two head each of their crews on the show, and as the seasons rolled on, the competition intensified, and their rivalry was set. The competition got so intense that it had to get to a new level.
And by a new level, I mean a bet. In season eight, Schnabel bet Hoffman that his own team would find significantly more gold than Hoffman’s. And the bet was huge! The winner would essentially get 100 ounces of gold from the loser. What was the goal? Mining 5,000 ounces of gold in one season.
Chris Doumitt Got Into Mining by Accident
Although it seems like Chris is a natural fit for mining, he actually became part of the Hoffman team purely by accident. Doumitt said he got into the business after having worked as a carpenter on a cabin project with the Hoffmans. His assigned job was supposed to take only 10 days, but a conversation with them changed his future.
After talking to Todd and Jack about how exciting gold mining is and how it helps them pay the bills quite well, Doumitt made a change of career. He decided to take a leap of faith and join their crew in mining for gold. And I think I can safely say that he does not regret the decision.
Jars Are All You Need
Being in the gold mining business, you would think that Parker and the Hoffmans would have invested in safes or even armed guards to safeguard their golden nuggets. But, nope. Apparently, they’re not too worried about them being stolen. Fans of the show probably noticed that throughout the seasons, Parker has used his own method of storing them.
Schnabel actually has an unorthodox method of storing and keeping gold nuggets. He keeps them in simple glass jars, you know, the ones you would usually keep the jam in. Schnabel always jokes about how he does own safes and guns, but seeing the show, we aren’t so convinced. If he has a collection of anything other than gold, its jelly jars.
A Meaningful Tribute
Parker Schnabel’s grandfather eventually passed away after stepping down from the mining industry. And Parker found a very respectful and special way to honor his late grandfather, John, who died at the age of 96. He and Parker were very close throughout his life, so much so that he gave his grandson his own “Big Nugget” mine.
For Parker, there was only one way to commemorate the man. The spinoff, Gold Rush: Parker’s Trail, was dedicated to Parker’s journey across the 600-mile Klondike trail, which was done in honor of his late grandfather. Taking his closest friends along with him, Parker chose that trail for its history of gold rush pioneers. It’s actually a very nice way to commemorate a man who lived and breathed gold.
Todd is a Basketball Buff
Did you know that Todd loves himself some b-ball? The miners on Gold Rush have interests outside of gold and mining, of course. When Todd is not out on the ground searching and digging for his prized gold nuggets, he enjoys basketball and considers himself to be quite a basketball buff.
In 2015, Todd Hoffman uploaded a video of himself playing basketball and practicing his shots. But it wasn’t just an amateur hobby. Hoffman told the Discovery Channel that he used to play college basketball. But he joked around about how that was a very long time ago. When he joked about that, he could have been cracking a joke about his age or that his skills have declined over time. Or maybe both.
The End of an Era
Last year, the Discovery Channel promoted ‘Gold Rush: Live’ as an episode that announced something that would change Gold Rush forever. Todd Hoffman announced that he was leaving the show. Hoffman, from Sandy, Oregon, has been larger-than-life since the show began. Gold Rush’s whole hook was that Hoffman, his father Jack, and his crew of Oregon men had suffered in the recession and were chasing the dream of searching for gold in Alaska.
Fans rooted for Hoffman and his crew, and others loved to hate Hoffman, finding his habit of issuing grand predictions amusing; predictions that often fell short of reality. In one instance, Hoffman led his crew to Guyana, as we already know, which was an expedition that ended in failure.
This is Hard, He Said
“This is hard,” Hoffman said emotionally. Times were tough, but as he saw his friends struggling with difficult financial circumstances, he said, “I believe God gave me a vision for Gold Rush.” While he didn’t know anything about mining when the show started, he said he believes “we played a small part in giving hope back to America.”
Host Matt Rogers asked Hoffman why he has decided to step away from Gold Rush. Hoffman replied by saying that filming the show means he has to be away from home for six to seven months. And it was taking a toll on his family. Despite leaving Gold Rush, “I am not done mining.” He then mentioned his new production company, ZUM Media.
Starting His Own Production Company
Even when other people, like Parker Schnabel and Tony Beets, came on board, viewers were still fixated on Hoffman. Which means that Hoffman leaving is like the end of an era. Hoffman has mentioned that he has interests that go beyond trekking to frozen locations. In recent years, Hoffman has become interested in singing, believe it or not.
In 2016, Variety reported that Hoffman started his own production company, ZUM Media, with Jose Behar, who is a producer on the TV show called “Leverage.” He also went in on the company with the former vice president of business development at Electric Entertainment. Their production company is behind the show “Leverage” and two other projects, “The Librarians” and the movie “Bad Samaritan.”
A Simple Man
I just mentioned how Todd became interested in singing. Well, after leaving Gold Rush, he made the decision to release a single as part of the way to get into the music industry. His first rock song is called “Simple Man,” which is a cover of the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic. If you want to hear, you can just find it on YouTube.
So even though Todd left Gold Rush, he’s still out there living his best life. And really, who doesn’t want to spend time working on a budding music career? He’s still mining, though, but it’s just in a very different way. If you were a fan of the Hoffmans, then maybe you’d like to know a bit more about Jack’s story…
Jack Hoffman’s Story
If you hadn’t noticed, Jack Hoffman lives for adventure. Even at the age of 72, he’s flying airplanes, skiing, riding motorcycles, and snowmobiles. He built homes by hand, and mined for gold in Alaska… to name a few. Over time, the impact of his “work hard, play hard” life has taken a toll on him physically. His back is paying the price.
“It just disintegrated,” Jack says. With years of severe pain, Jack had to take high doses of narcotics that left him foggy, and thus he couldn’t fly or ride his motorcycle. With over 20 years of suffering from chronic back pain, Jack didn’t have much hope in living a pain-free life and enjoying his adventures and hobbies.
The Reason for Gold Rush
Jack Hoffman is obviously best known for being on Gold Rush, but mining wasn’t always his thing. He was born and raised in Oregon, and his first career was in real estate as a broker. After years in the real estate business, he “got bored and wanted to do something different.” Seeking something new and exciting, he tried gold mining.
He had friends who had gone gold mining already, and it inspired Jack to give it a try. After a first attempt in the 80s, Jack returned to Alaska with his son Todd in 2010. Then the Discovery Channel heard of their story and thought their father and son quest for gold would make a great story. And thus the show Gold Rush was born.
He Was Suffering Every Day
While he was working his dream job with his son and being a star on a reality TV show, Jack was still suffering daily. With agonizing back pain, he had to take strong medication to get through the day. He didn’t like having to be on narcotics, but he didn’t have an alternative. But as soon as he met a specific neurosurgeon, his life changed.
Jack met Dr. Martin Baggenstos, a neurosurgeon in Oregon, who specializes in the treatment of cranial, skull base, and spine disorders. He provides non-narcotic pain management through spinal cord stimulation. Jack was referred to Dr. Baggenstos, although he had little hope, and can you really blame him? But according to Jack, “It was like a last-ditch effort. I was beside myself and in agony.”
Getting Rid of the Pain
Spinal cord stimulation involves a small device that is surgically implanted into the spine to block pain signals to the brain. It allows patients to reduce or eliminate back pain without the fear of getting addicted to pain pills and deal with all the side effects and repercussions. Jack agreed to try it, saying, “I’ll go through anything to get rid of the pain.”
After the surgery, Jack felt like something wasn’t quite right at first. “I felt something was wrong, and I couldn’t figure out what it was,” Jack recalls. Then he realized: “It was that I didn’t have pain and I’d had pain for over 20 years. To have relief from that was just unbelievable.” What an awesome result! Jack’s life has transformed. “I don’t have any pain. I enjoy life. I’m clicking along at 72 right now, and my family lives pretty long. My parents lived well into their 90s. I don’t expect anything different.”