This past summer when we drove cross country from California to North Carolina we decided to make the most of our road trip and stop at some points of interest. One of Jeff’s must dos was a visit to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. This was actually our second visit to the Park. We had visited on one of our other cross country drives while relocating with the Navy.
The Park is the only place in the world where the public can find and take home diamonds. Diamonds found in the Park come in three colors, white, brown and yellow. There have been some famous finds in the Park, including the Strawn-Wagner diamond, a stone that received a perfect triple zero (0/0/0) rating by the American Gem Society, and the Uncle Sam diamond, at over 40 carats it’s the largest diamond ever found in the US. The fee to diamond hunt for an entire day is $8.
The search for diamonds does not occur in what you think of as a mine, somewhere underground, it occurs in 37 acres of plowed fields. The work is not easy. You can bring or rent buckets, shovels, and panning equipment used to load and haul dirt to water tables where you can sift it to hopefully find your treasure! Believe it or not, you can also just walk along and look for diamonds in the dirt with your bare eyes. This surface searching is most effective after a hard rain and actually can yield pretty good results. In addition to diamonds you can also also find amethyst, garnet, jasper, agate and quartz.
There are some very interesting exhibits in the visitor center about the Park, geology, and diamonds. They also have park staff available to give demonstrations on mining techniques and to whom you can show your finds to identify them, hopefully a diamond! They ring a loud bell every time a diamond is identified.
The Park has campsites available as well and there were a lot of RV parks in the area. Jeff shared a sifting table with a couple who were regular miners at the Park. They had found quite a few diamonds that they were saving for their grandchildren.
I am going to be honest and say that a couple of hours of this was enough for me. It is hard, dirty work that usually does not yield a diamond. Make sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or bring a change of clothes if you don’t want the car to be filthy as well. Sam loved this for a few hours as well, he brought a few cars and played in the dirt. Jeff, however, was obsessed. We stayed an extra night so he could go back the next day. Sam and I went to a local Indian reservation and dug for arrow heads and looked at burial mounds. Jeff spent the entire next day in the pouring rain, thunder and lightning looking for diamonds. He did not find one, but found some interesting quartz pieces and rocks.
Be aware that the nearby town of Murfreesboro is tiny, but does have small town charm. We struggled to find restaurants open at 9pm the night we arrived. Everyone ends up at the local Mexican restaurant that stays open late. They do NOT, however, serve margaritas since the county is DRY! You have to drive about 25 minutes outside the county to buy alcohol. Jeff found himself at a place named Footsies, where their motto is “beer and wine at the county line”. Sam and I spent our day while Jeff toiled at the mine at Ka-Do-Ha Indian Village and at Hawkins Variety Store, a 1909 pharmacy/drug store that has been turned into a general store with a vintage soda fountain where you can enjoy floats and egg creams along with soups and sandwiches. They also sell old fashioned candy, jam, jellies, pickles, dressings, syrups and gift items. There were a few antique stores in town as well and a local pawn shop that was attached to a dino dig place. The dino dig was perfect for young children. You purchased a bag of stones/gems that they would hide in the sand and they dug to uncover. The are also a lot of rock shops, so if you like gems, rocks and geodes, this area is for you.
Whether you are a geology buff or are just looking for an interesting activity to break up a cross country drive, the Park offers a one of a kind experience with a chance of great riches. Happy hunting!