The world of gold prospecting has lost one of its most beloved and adventurous figures, “Dakota” Fred Hurt. He passed away on July 11, 2023, at the age of 80, after a brief battle with brain cancer. He was a veteran gold miner and television personality known for his role in the reality TV show “Gold Rush” and its spin-off “Gold Rush: White Water.” He was the leader of the Dakota Boys, a team of skilled and daring miners who are willing to go where others won’t and do what others can’t. For years, he braved the harsh conditions of Alaska and the Yukon, chasing his dream of striking it rich. But behind his tough exterior, he was a man who faced many challenges in his personal life. He endured a failed relationship, a divorce, and a diagnosis of stage four cancer and succumbed to it. In this article, we look back at his life and legacy.
“Dakota Fred” Hurt was born on July 10, 1943, in Minot, North Dakota. This TV star got his nickname “Dakota” due to his original roots in North Dakota, and his other nickname was “BigFoot”.
From his early years, Fred was an avid fisherman and spent most of his time exploring the outdoors. Because of that, he did not do well in school. Later, in high school, he was able to improve his grade, but still, involved in fishing tremendously.
The man loved everything related to water which also got him in sport diving mostly off the coast of Corpus Christi, Texas, off Padre Island. During those years Fred was serious about making a career in Marine Biology but once he learned they do not earn much he did not pursue the profession.
After high school, Fred took Geology classes in college, unfortunately, he did not get much further with it too.
Career and Progression
You would be surprised and yet inspired to learn about Fred Hurt’s career transition. For most of his life, he worked in construction including running a company of his own for nearly 25 years.
In his younger years, Fred was a commercial diver in the Gulf of Mexico. There he learned underwater construction, demolition, and salvage. His hardworking nature helped him to gain the grit to establish a construction company of his own. He ran the company nearly for 25 years before retiring in 2004.
Even at the age of 60, Fred did not think of taking a rest from hard work in favor of a comfortable life with his family. Instead, he took a new leap and turned to gold mining in Alaska. Naturally, at first, it came hard for him, and suffered from fitness issues. He weighed over 10 pounds more than his initial weight and could not keep up with a younger crowd of miners.
In over 15 years as a gold miner, Fred adapted quite well, shed the extra weight, and buffed up to the requirement of the job. He also established himself as one of the most capable people to extract gold, especially in the frozen part of Alaska due to his experience in sport diving.
Fred Hurt first appeared on “Gold Rush” in Season 1 as a guest miner who helped Todd Hoffman’s team with his expertise and equipment. He joined the team full-time in Season 2 but soon clashed with Hoffman over mining strategies and leadership. In Season 3, he formed his own team with his son Dustin Hurt and took over the Porcupine Creek claim that Hoffman had abandoned. He continued to mine there in Season 4 but also explored other locations such as Cahoon Creek and Fantasyland.
In addition to the “Gold Rush”, Fred Hurt also appeared on other shows related to gold mining and adventure. He was featured on “Gold Rush: The Dirt”, a behind-the-scenes talk show that aired alongside “Gold Rush”. He also participated in “Gold Rush: South America”, a special season that followed some of the miners as they explored mining opportunities in Peru, Chile, Guyana and Bolivia. However, he did not enjoy this experience and called it “disastrous” in a Facebook post.
Leaving the Show & Return
After Season 4 of “Gold Rush”, Fred Hurt announced that he would not return for Season 5. He cited financial reasons as the main factor behind his decision, saying that he had spent more than he had made for four years straight and could not afford to continue. He also claimed that there was a conflict of interest between him and the production company and that he was not paid like an actor despite entertaining millions of viewers. He said that he did not agree with some of the ideas that the film crew came up with and that he and his son were left to their own devices creatively.
Despite his departure from the “Gold Rush”, Fred Hurt did not give up on gold mining or television. In 2018, he returned to the screen with his own spin-off show called “Gold Rush: White Water”. The series followed him and his son Dustin as they dive into the raging whitewater creeks of Alaska, using suction dredges to extract gold from the riverbeds. The show showcased their daring and dangerous exploits, as well as their personal struggles and conflicts.
Cancer and Death
Fred was diagnosed with stage four cancer in March 2023 which put his future plans in jeopardy. He shared the news with his fans in a press release from his production company, Thrill of the Hunt Entertainment. However, Fred did not specify what type of brain cancer he had but said he was exploring options for possible treatment. He said that he hoped to find more adventures that he can share with his fans despite his dark diagnosis. He also expressed his gratitude for his fans’ support and love over the years. Not long after diagnosis, Fred Hurt succumbed to brain cancer. He passed away on July 11, 2023, surrounded by his family and loved ones, who mourned the loss of a remarkable man.
Self-proclaimed “Not a Rich Man,” and “Working-class Category,” despite the claims, Fred was known to have riches in his possession. He was able to afford the luxury for his family as well, thanks to his net worth. During the time of his death, Fred Hurt net worth was estimated to be around $6 Million.
Wife & Family
Fred Hurt was married for over 42 years and it took him three different women to do it. There is no information about his first wife. His second wife was Lorrayne Frances Leier Hurt.
Lorrayne had a passion for collecting items and going to auction. She even opened a collectible business in a joint venture with Fred. The two also became part of the charitable cause by being very active in local civic organizations.
Fred loved Lorrayne and had no plan of parting with her but fate had a different plan. Lorrayne suffered from a long-time illness. Ultimately, she passed away on February 2, 2015.
His married life didn’t end there but took a new turn. After his wife left this world many of his friends were there for him, among them was Jennifer Sheets. Jennifer became his life partner on July 30, 2016, almost 17 months after his wife passed away.
Fred Hurt and Jennifer Sheets had their wedding at Letnikof Cove in Haines, Alaska. Jennifer also appeared on the Gold Rush where she showcased her cooking skill for the Dakota Boys.
Fred did not have any kids with his current wife but is survived by his four children from his previous relationship. The Hurt family line continues with six grandkids and five great-grandkids. His son on the show, Dustin Hurt is one of four children from the previous relationship.
Date of birth
July 10, 1943
Date of Death
July 11, 2023
80 Years Old
Place of birth
Minot, North Dakota, USA
Businessman, miner, reality TV star
$6 million (estimated)
Lorrayne Frances Leier Hurt (second wife) Jennifer Sheets (third wife)