When it comes to reality television, there are a few shows out there that draw a lot of viewers. No, we aren’t talking about anything the Kardashians are up to, but rather, some of the shows over on the Discovery Channel. One of the biggest is Gold Rush, which features a group of inexperienced miners trying to dig out enough gold to earn a living in the harsh wilderness. Viewers tune in to see what a bunch of folks, not too dissimilar to themselves, are doing to make it big in a profession many people know little about.
Reality television isn’t as true to reality as viewers might like to believe, but the production team works hard to ensure everything looks natural. Of course, they can’t keep everything buried for long and eventually, things tend to be revealed from behind the scenes.
Some people may leave a series and spill the beans or things might just come out in an interview but no matter what, nothing stays buried forever.
We dug through the dirt and came up with these 15 Dark Secrets Behind Gold Rush You Had No Idea About.
15. TODD HOFFMAN ISN’T THE NICEST GUY IN THE WORLD
While he looks like a big teddy bear and he certainly seems like a nice enough fellow on the show, according to several other cast members, Todd Hoffman isn’t that nice of a guy. According to some sources, he has turned away family and friends in the pursuit of fame and fortune at the bottom of a gold mine.
Former miners from the show have given interviews where they describe a man who is deeply troubled and an inexperienced miner. In one episode, he can be seen screaming at a fellow miner, which was reportedly not scripted (more on that later), but straight from the heart.
14. JAMES HARNESS’ ADDICTION AND TRAGIC DEATH
You might remember a miner who had some trouble back in the first two seasons of Gold Rush. Miner James Harness was a regular for the first two years of the show but ended up getting canned for failing to achieve a 100-ounce goal that was established by the team. Throughout his time on the series, he was clearly a man in pain, which he discussed and tried to deal with.
Harness was the victim of a severe car accident years prior to the show, which left him in constant agony. To treat this, he took and eventually became addicted to pain medication. His addiction to painkillers was also one of the sources of his troubles on the series and may have even contributed to his termination.
13. THEY KILL BEARS
It may not come as much of a surprise to learn that people operating in the wilderness might come into contact with some of the wildlife from time to time. One of the residents of the local bear population got a little close to the production area of the show back in May of 2010 and didn’t fare too well from the encounter.
Bears rarely interact with humans in a manner that represents a dangerous situation. That’s due to the people knowing how to deal with them. Ask any camper and they will tell you not to leave food out where a bear can get it. If only someone told the relatively inexperienced miners who worked for Gold Rush.
12. MAINTENANCE IS COMPROMISED FOR DRAMA
When you stake all of your money on a venture like gold mining, it’s important to ensure your equipment is top-notch and that it works properly. Unfortunately, it seems that the rather inexperienced crew have let some of their equipment die instead of maintaining it properly, which, as any true miner would tell you, is just reckless and stupid.
Of course, it does make for good television if an important piece of mining equipment needed to get to that last ounce of gold suddenly shuts down. Whether this is due to improper maintenance or simply using the device in a way it was never intended, it’s not a great way to dig for gold.
There have been claims that the crew may have been encouraged to forego maintenance by the production team to allow for some additional drama, which could explain why some of their stuff doesn’t last the season.
11. YOUR FAVORITE MINER MIGHT JUST DISAPPEAR
So, you decided to sit down and watch Gold Rush? Great! Now you might find that you really like a particular miner due to their professionalism, character, charisma, or whatever. After a season of only a few episodes, that miner might just disappear without any further explanation leaving you to have to dig through the bowels of the Internet in an attempt to find out what happened.
Both of the Hursts, Jason Otteson, Michael Halstead, and Dustin Hurst have all vanished from the series without a single mention in subsequent episodes. This can be confusing and frustrating for viewers, especially since nobody even talks about them ever again.
Dave Turin ended up leaving the show after the final on season seven. If you missed it, there was an actual brawl between him and Trey Poulson. Turin had been on the show for six seasons and then he vanished.
10. CAREFUL EDITING CREATES GOOD GUYS AND BAD GUYS
This world is full of good people and bad, but for most folks, we all just want to get along. That doesn’t work too well when it comes time to edit a reality television series where everyone is getting along most of the time. For many of the people on the show who are depicted as villainous, the audience is just seeing whatever the producers and editors of the show want us to see.
For former miner/cast-member Jimmy Dorsey, he claimed that 90% of what he did on the show was never seen, but that 10% that didn’t end up on the cutting room floor sure painted him in a negative light. According to Dorsey, the production team was more interested in “creating a character” out of him than just showing the world who he really was.
9. PRODUCERS SKIRT THE LAW TO CREATE CHAOS
Environmental protections exist for a reason and there are representatives who go out to mining sites to ensure people are doing things properly. The producers of the show have had to deal with this sort of thing since the series began, but not exactly in the manner you might think.
In one instance, representatives went out to the site to instruct the crew on how to properly use groundwater instead of diverting water from a river or stream. It was nice of them to do that since they could have just issued a fine and told them to fix their mistake, but it turns out, the producers wanted the fine.
A fine creates drama and what would a television series be without drama? The producers were upset they missed out on the free publicity that would have come from having to deal with the courts and things were settled civilly.
8. LAWSUITS TO BAN GOLD RUSH FROM MINING COMMUNITIES
The miners and producers of the show have been sued a number of times by people in the communities they dig for various reasons. Following the 2017 season, the residents of South Park have filed a lawsuit attempting to prevent the crew from returning to their claim in the Colorado town in 2018. The claim made by the group calling themselves “Save South Park” have insisted the Hoffman crew is only “Mining for ratings”, which may not be too far off from the mark.
Many of their complaints are related to the noise the miners make, but there have been other claims that their mining claim was improperly given and that they are mining in land that was originally zoned residential. While land-use claims aren’t the most interesting things to discuss on television, the lawsuit might prevent production from returning if the residents are successful.
7. IF A SHOT DOESN’T WORK, THEY SIMPLY RESHOOT IT
Some reality television shows film everything for hours on end and just edit out the bits and pieces that make for good television. When it comes to Gold Rush, they take a more relaxed approach to filming and just turn on the cameras whenever they feel they should. This can lead to them missing some of the action, which is never good for ratings.
What’s a film crew to do in this situation? Simple: they feed the lines back to the cast and has them “act” out the scene as if it’s happening for the first time. This way, if they miss a line or one is delivered poorly, it’s no problem! They simply reshoot the “scene” and make sure the camera gets what it wants. What’s a little reality television without some reshoots?
6. PARKER SCHNABEL IS ACTUALLY RICH
If you are a fan of the series, you know that Parker Schnabel lives in poverty since he basically says as much in front of the camera. He may not have started out rich, but his time on the series hasn’t left him destitute and begging for scraps. According to a report on Fox News back in 2015, Schnabel is filthy rich.
His time on season five earned him a cool million dollars, which is more than the average American sees in decades of work. That’s all well and good–he’s on a television show where they dig for gold so it shouldn’t be too surprising that the guy is rolling in the dough. The secret nature of his true wealth is what we take issue with here.
Additionally, Schnabel still claims that he is in more debt than anyone else his age so the world should probably take pity on him. That’s a tough request to follow given that the guy is pulling in seven figures.
5. THE SERIES PREFERS INEXPERIENCED MINERS, WHICH IS DANGEROUS
Let’s face it, Gold Rush is all about inexperienced miners trying to make it big digging for gold. The series began with Tod Hoffman selling most of his possessions to take on the prospect of digging for gold full-time. He didn’t really know what he was doing so he surrounded himself with people who hopefully did, but if you ever watched the first few seasons, they knew more about gold mining than your average person but far less than your average gold miner.
Putting people who don’t know what they are doing into an activity that is inherently dangerous is… well, it’s dangerous to them and to the people around them. Fortunately, the series hasn’t seen any major injuries or deaths, but that’s likely due to the producers keeping people around behind the cameras to ensure nobody lops off a foot trying something crazy.
4. MORE CAMERA TIME = MORE MONEY, SO PEOPLE ACT OUT
When you work as an actor/miner on a reality television series for Discovery, your pay is related to the amount of time you spend in front of the camera. This has pushed a couple of people to act out in order to get more airtime, which isn’t all that surprising when a gold claim isn’t producing as much as the crew would hope.
A lot of this has to do with the way the show is shot. Instead of filming absolutely everything happening and editing out the parts they like, the film crew sets up shots and films whenever they decide its best. This has caused some of the miners to act out in order to attract the attention of the crew and get themselves filmed.
3. THEY DISRUPTED A SALMON HABITAT
It wasn’t just the bear who had to pay the price for the glory of Gold Rush; an entire run of salmon and their habitat were also destroyed. The crew reportedly drove a 50-ton piece of mining equipment through a salmon habitat, resulting in its destruction.
Salmon spawn in the same place they were born and they somehow know where to go when it comes time to procreate. An unlucky group of fish was unable to spawn, which certainly resulted in their demise– not to mention the failed attempt at reproducing.
Salmon habitats are protected to ensure the survival of the species, but the crew insisted that State laws permitted them to drive their machinery across rivers and streams. Even if that were true, State officials probably didn’t intend for the destruction of an entire ecosystem.
2. THE PRODUCTION PAYS THEIR TALENT VERY WELL
Speaking of earned income that doesn’t come out of the ground, the people on the show actually make a pretty good living. At the end of the day, this is a television series and despite what the production crew might lead you to believe, they do pay their miners. These people are working for Discovery despite the suggestion that they are working for the gold they retrieve inexpertly from the ground.
They have to be paid, by law, and they are compensated very well. While their salaries aren’t exactly public knowledge, some estimates have put them at earning in the mid to high six-figure salaries for their work on the show. This salary is in addition to their earnings from the gold they dig up, which makes amateur gold mining a pretty good profession so long as there is someone from Discovery there to film it.
1. MANY PARTS ARE SCRIPTED
We hope you are sitting down for this one because it is the most shocking revelation of all… well, not really, but if you didn’t already know, reality television shows are scripted. Sure, there are parts of the series that aren’t scripted at all, like some of the dialogue, but many shows are laid out in such a manner that you might as well simply call them scripted television. Normally, this is a closely-guarded secret, but people who have left Gold Rush have spoken out and let the cat out of the bag.
Miner Jimmy Dorsey gave an interview to Oregon Gold where he confirmed this. He said that many of the things that happen on the show are planned well in advance. This included his leaving the show and most of the events that took place while he was on camera.
Do you know any Gold Rush secrets we might have missed? Let us know in the comments!
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