Dredge No. 4 was built in 1912 on Bonanza Creek and was said to be the largest dredge in the world. A wooden-hulled bucket line sluice dredge it operated from 1913 to 1959 and produced millions in gold for her owners.
She was built in the summer and winter of 1912, on claim number 112 below discovery on Bonanza Creek, by the Canadian Klondike Gold Mining company. Looking like a huge floating hotel, she was a massive eight storeys high and two-thirds the length of a football field. With its 72 large 16 cubic foot buckets, the dredge excavated gravel at the rate of 22 buckets per minute, processing 18,000 cubic yards of material per day. It was in use from late April or early May until late November each season, and sometimes throughout winter. During its operational lifetime, it captured nine tons of gold, which today represents about $446,945,625.
The dredge, with huge 16-cubic-foot buckets, could dig down almost 50 feet to bedrock where millions of dollars in gold lay waiting to be dragged to the surface. When she started work in the spring of 1913, it took 300 men to keep the dredge operational from April till November. She slowly, but surely, dug her way upstream into what was then known as the Boyle concession, ground owned by Big Joe Boyle. There, in 1924, she sunk and was out of service for three years. In 1927, dredge no. 4 was refloated and dug her way down the Klondike valley and over to the rich ground on Hunker creek. Here it’s said, she dug up 800 ounces of gold in a single day on claim 67 below discovery.
Designed by the Marion Steam Shovel Company, the bucketline sluice dredge was built on site at Claim 112 below Discovery from mid 1912 until the onset of winter. The assembly site was near Ogilvie Bridge, named for William Ogilvie, near the current location of the bridge carrying the Klondike Highway to Dawson City. Construction was supervised by Howard Brenner, an engineer employed by the Marion Steam Shovel Company, who also supervised construction of Dredge No. 3 at the same time.
In 1941, she was dismantled and rebuilt by the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation on lower Bonanza, where she operated until 1959. The end came because the gold just wasn’t enough to maintain the operating costs. The dredge sat in her final pond for more than 30 years. In 1991, she was excavated, refloated and moved to her present location on high ground near the world famous Bonanza Creek, an impressive reminder of how gold and the Klondike made Yukon history.