By Donna Long
Do you have a yearning to hunt for gemstones? Consider yourself a rock hound with a nose that sniffs out minerals? Then perhaps you should consider a visit to the only mine in the world where you can hunt for your own diamonds.
My husband and I are rock hounds. So, when we learned about the Crater of Diamonds State Park we knew we had to go. We decided the best way to maintain social distancing, but still be able to explore, was to rent an RV. That is what we did. We had a fabulous time glamping and digitally disconnecting.
There are a number of diamond mines scattered throughout the world but only one that is open to the public, and much to our delight, that mine is an easy weekend road trip from DFW in Arkansas. Crater of Diamonds State Park located on Arkansas highway 301 in Murfreesboro is the only mine, not just in the United States but in the world where you can dig for your own diamonds.
Crater of Diamonds started out as a simple farm in 1906 belonging to John Wesley Huddleston. While tending to his land one day he spotted a glittering pebble and then another. He hurriedly “saddled his mule” and headed to Murfreesboro to get the brightly luminescent stones identified.
Since that exciting day, Crater of Diamonds has changed proprietors several times as a privately owned tourist attraction until the State of Arkansas purchased the 911-acre tract in 1972 to establish the land as a state park. Today, 37 of those 911 acres are available for visitors to search for diamonds.
Diamonds are the solid form of carbon whose atoms have been rearranged under a billion years of extreme pressure and temperature to form a crystal. They are created approximately 60 to 100 miles below the earth’s surface in the mantle layer. According to geologists, the continents we now call South America and North America collided roughly 300 million years ago creating the Ouachita Mountains. Through the millennia, parts of the mountains eroded as ocean waters receded. During this time, the Earth’s mantle continued to move and shift creating a volcanic vent.
When the vent exploded a crater was formed in the shape of a funnel approximately 83-acres deep. Minerals and molten debris shot into the air, much of which, fell back into the funnel-shaped vent. It is estimated that a mere 160-feet of the vent has eroded exposing a varied selection of minerals, semi-precious gemstones, and diamonds.
Since the first diamond was found in 1906, 75,000 diamonds have been discovered. Since the creation of the park in 1972, 33,100 diamonds have been found by visitors to the crater. The largest diamond ever found was 40.23-carats discovered in 1924. The most recent discovery was August 29, 2020. The majority of diamonds found are approximately the size of a paper match head and 20 to 25 points in weight. To put that in perspective, one carat equals 100 points. Diamonds come in a variety of colors and shades. Yellow, brown, and white are the most prominently found colors at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Diamonds are not the only gemstone found hidden in the dirt at the state park. Amethyst, garnets, jasper, agates, quartz, and other minerals also can be found making this spot a true adventure for rock hounds.
Hunting for diamonds is quite simple, albeit tedious and back-breaking work. The tools needed are a bucket, a screen sifter, and a shovel. What I found useful were two buckets (one for fresh dirt and one for sifted/washed dirt), a long-handled shovel in addition to a compact/travel shovel or even a sturdy garden trowel, a multi-layer screen sifter, and a folding wagon to carry everything back and forth.
Fresh dug dirt can either be dry sifted in the field or washed in water troughs also located in the field. It is important to remember the average size of diamonds found at the state park are the size of a match head. So be mindful about not using your fingers to work the dirt through the screens. You could potentially lose a diamond if you do. Just gently sift or swish water over the dirt.
Another bit of advice I will share is to plan on spending the morning in the field when the temperature is cooler. Do a “first” sift or wash in the field and then take your buckets back to your campsite to do the final wash. At your campsite, you can relax, have lunch, maybe a cold refreshing drink while sitting around the campfire looking for diamonds.
Speaking of camping, or glamping as I am more inclined to do these days, Crater of Diamonds State Park has both tent and RV spots. If you have an RV or tenting gear, you are good to go. Just call to make a reservation and have a fabulous (and hopefully successful) weekend. If you don’t have an RV, there are a number of sites online and around Texas that you can rent an RV from. We rented an RV and had an incredible time. We packed everything from the toilet paper to cookware to bedsheets. I think the big plus to packing everything is knowing that it was all Covid-free.
Other amenities at Crater of Diamonds SP are hiking trails (most are paved and handicap accessible), a visitor center where you can have your discoveries identified, a public restroom, and a gift shop where you can purchase memorabilia trinkets, T-shirts, bags of ice, or charcoal. The park has other amenities such as a cafe and a water park for the younger adventurers, but unfortunately, they were closed during the time we were there due to Covid-19. With that being said, be sure to call ahead to verify what amenities are available and which are not.
Make the time to discover the natural beauty and serenity that Mother Nature has to offer. There is no better place to do that than at one of the more than 10,000 state parks located throughout the United States. Arkansas proudly displays 52 of those state parks for adventurers and nature enthusiasts to explore.
So get out, and get a breath of fresh air.
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