• Category: TV Reviews
  • Written by Rick Ellis

Review: 'Devil's Canyon'

Redemption is an underappreciated motivator in life. Sure, everyone needs to put food on the table and pay the bills. But beyond that, what most people want is the chance to realize that their work life hasn't been in vain. That the time they spent away from their family, the times when they counted pennies and skipped meals to feed their kids was worth it. Everyone wants to believe that even if they struggle for years, there is some level of
payoff at the end of it all.

I think that's what at the heart of television shows that feature gold mining. Most miners might love the process, but they're out digging up dirt because it's their last, best way to find redemption. To provide for their families and maybe build a legacy for the next generation. As a parent, there is no sweeter dream than one day being able to sit across a kitchen table from your family and say "I know I haven't been here for you as much as I would have liked, but now I'll never have to leave again."

We all want to be proven right.

There have been a lot of gold mining-centric television shows over the years, but the best ones have ultimately been about redemption. The story of how someone prevails when no one else believes in them. The tale of how that one last, desperate push led to the golden ticket back home. It's a theme Discovery has done very well in shows like "Gold Rush" and "Bering Sea Gold." The hunt for gold is the obvious purpose of those shows, but what gives them heart is the way they illustrate what men (and a few women) will do to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of creating wealth from hard work and not a small amount of luck. Every great show in this genre comes down to someone hoping to sit back at the end of the struggle and say "See? I did it."

While I've only seen one episode of Discovery's newest series in the gold mining genre, "Devil's Canyon" has the potential to be one of the great ones. It strips the struggle down to three miners, each battling the elements and a short time-frame to wrestle gold out of one of the most inhospitable places in North America.

Devil's Canyon is located deep in the heart of British Columbia in an area so inaccessible that few miners are willing to even attempt to tackle it. The canyon has a history of giving up gold to a few miners tough enough to survive, but the dangers have killed and injured many that have tried and failed to find riches. Devil's Canyon is a winding canyon with a river at the bottom that is only accessible in the six weeks or so the waters recede in between the end of summer and the first hard frost. There are no real trails, the cliffs are nearly vertical at times and there are plenty of bears and other predators. Combine that with unpredictable weather and an uncertain food supply, and the search for gold can quickly take a back seat to simply surviving.

Extreme prospectors Boyce Goff, Ben van der Valk and John Belchik travel separately into Devil’s Canyon, toting all of their supplies in massive backpacks. They each make their own decisions about the mix of mining equipment to food, but they each also carry in cameras to document their efforts. They have maybe six weeks to find gold and everything is stacked against them.

Episode one of the show introduces the backstory and two of the miners, so there's a lot more exposition than will likely be the case in upcoming episodes. But even this set-up for the series illustrates the daunting task these men face. It's just a brutal landscape and it quickly becomes clear that no matter how experienced you might be before entering the canyon, surviving and still finding gold is a going to be a long-shot.

"Devil's Canyon" is a fabulous addition to the story of gold mining and even after only one episode I already feel that mix of anticipation and dread as I wait to see which of these miners will ultimately find redemption in such an unforgiving land.

"Devil's Canyon" airs on Discovery, Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT