Dakota Fred Hurt Mined More Gold In Alaska Than You May Realize

The July 2023 death of "Dakota" Fred Hurt came as a blow to fans of Discovery's "Gold Rush." The reality TV star died from brain cancer at the age of 80, Entertainment Weekly reports. A fan favorite, Hurt appeared alongside his son Dustin in the first four seasons of "Gold Rush" as well as a number of "Gold Rush" spinoffs, including "Gold Rush: South America," and "Gold Rush: The Legend of Porcupine Creek." Hurt hails from South Texas but moved to North Dakota after his retirement from the construction industry, per the North Dakota Newspaper Association. The move was prompted by his son-in-law who asked if he wanted to try gold mining. 

More recently, Hurt and his son Dustin returned to TV in "Gold Rush: White Water," which premiered in 2018 and aired its series finale about a month before Hurt died, and only a few months after his stage 4 brain cancer diagnosis was announced, according to People. These days, gold prospecting might seem like a difficult and outdated way to make money, but over the course of 10 years in Alaska, Hurt and his son brought in $750,000 in Alaska's Porcupine Creek area, a centuries-old gold mining site, per the U.S. Geological Survey. The first gold was discovered there in 1898, according to Gold Rush Nuggets, and today there is still gold to be found there from "flour gold" to nuggets that weigh "several ounces."

Spending his golden years searching for gold

According to Georgia news outlet the Jackson-Progress Argus, much of the money "Dakota" Fred Hurt made mining for gold in Alaska was accomplished through suction dredge diving, when high-powered vacuum devices are used by a diver to suck up sediment at the bottom of a body of water in hopes of finding gold, per the Idaho Conservation League. On the occasion of Hurt and his son Dustin's 2018 return to TV in "Gold Rush: White Water," Hurt commented on resuming the difficult work at the age of 72, "saying it was quite the physical endurance for this old man."

He told Alaska Sporting Journal, "I'd always done construction work I was a commercial diver in my younger days out in the Gulf of Mexico — oilfield diving and things of that nature. And I had my own construction business and that kept me in very good shape for pile driving and dock building and all that type of stuff," he added. "When I retired out of that when I was 60 years old and went to Alaska, it was like stepping from one profession that prepared me for gold mining." 

Hurt may have never anticipated spending his golden years searching for gold, and it wasn't always as lucrative as he might have liked, but it was a new thrill "... getting gold is fascinating, Hurt told Alaska Sporting Journal. "Every time you see that yellow stuff in the sluice box or in your pan, let me tell you, it's a thrill. I think it's the pioneer spirit."

For Hurt, it was about the people and scenery

In his 2018 interview with the Alaska Sporting Journal, "Dakota" Fred Hurt also commented on what kept him going in the difficult business of gold mining. Surprisingly, it wasn't the gold itself, he said, rating his relative "gold fever" at around a two. "I've been going gold mining for now 15 years in Alaska. And I've never gotten rich at it, but I've always been fascinated by the scenery, the people who I've met — man, did I meet some characters," he said.

On the prospect of a second retirement, Hurt added, "When I'm 6 feet under, I'm retiring." On July 11, 2023, Hurt's death was announced in a statement on the reality TV star's Facebook page. "Fred touched many lives and was loved and supported by many," it read, and asked for donations to the MikeRoweWORKS Foundation, supporting skilled laborers, like Hurt. When Hurt's cancer diagnosis was announced, he said in a statement (via PR Newswire), "I've lived a full 80 years of an interesting life. If I emerge from this dark diagnosis, I'll have another adventure to share with you folks."