I was watching a TV show on the Travel channel last winter and they were talking about all the various places to visit around the United States where you can find hidden treasure. I was intrigued and want to eventually visit them all, but the closest place to where I live within driving distance is the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. So last week we loaded up the car and headed out to dig for diamonds!
Once we got off the main highway and turned off at Hope, Arkansas, the drive became very scenic. There were a lot of tall pine trees along the roadway and the branches were very full and looked like they were soft and puffy. I know pine needles aren’t soft but they looked like they were from the road. There were a lot of other trees as well that the leaves were turning colors on and it was a very pretty drive. There were a lot of twists and turns in the road so if you’re in a hurry to get there you might want to pack your patience because the roads aren’t made for speed!
As we got closer to the Crater of Diamonds State Park, there were a lot of signs pointing the way so we were able to find it without any problems. I noticed as we passed through the small town of Murfreesboro that a lot of the businesses have Diamond in their name. It was sort of cute. Diamond Cuts for a hair salon, Diamond Café, etc. The town square itself had a couple of interesting shops. There was an antique store on one corner that had a lot of old-time candy and stuff that was fun.
Once we arrived at the diamond digging site at the Crater of Diamonds State Park, we were pleasantly surprised at the amount of information available to visitors to help them understand and identify the different types of rocks and minerals to be found, not counting the elusive diamond of course! Along with diamonds, over 40 types of rocks and minerals can found here. These rocks and minerals include lamproite, amethyst, banded agate, jasper, peridot, garnet, quartz, calcite, barite and hematite. We mostly found jasper and agate on our visit, and a good sized chuck of quartz that we thought was a diamond. Has we paid better attention to the identification charts at the visitors center we would have known it was quartz and not a diamond, but we had fun and were excited for a while thinking we had found a treasure!
When you first enter the building before getting to the digging area, there is a gift shop on one side and some information and history on the diamond mine on the other side. There is an audio room that tells the story of the diamond mine and how to identify rocks. There are also a lot of wall charts and story boards along the walls that give the same information.
Everyone we met there was very friendly and helpful. I was very impressed with the staff in the “Rock Identification” area. After you dig and come back with your rocks you can take them to an area where one of the staff members will tell you what you have found (you get to keep everything you find, even if you find a diamond). The rock identification staff seemed genuinely excited as they helped each person, like they were just as eager as you to know if you had found a diamond or not. I’m sure they do this a thousand times a day but their enthusiasm never waned while we were there.
One thing we will do differently if we go back is to make sure to go on a sunny day and to hunt in the sun. We stayed under the shade of a tree for a good while and then towards the end of the day we got out in the sun and started to see things sparkle. It was one of those “duh” moments. I’m not sure if you would see an actual raw diamond sparkle or not but the quartz and mica we found sure did sparkle. Had we not been in the sun we probably wouldn’t have spotted it as easily.
We learned that three methods of searching for diamonds or other rocks. 1) Surface searching by walking or crawling on the dirt looking for 2) digging in the dirt and using a screen to sift the dirt 3) wet sluicing the dirt and sifting between a set of two screens. We were told that quite a few diamonds had been found by surface searching the dirt by walking up and down the rows, but the “pros” prefer to use the wet method of searching and feel that is the best way to find diamonds. We did the surface search and digging and sifting with a screen. We didn’t feel ready to try the wet method, as we were told it was a bit more challenging and time consuming.
The digging area is 37-acres of plowed field. We were told that it’s better to hunt after a hard rain because dirt won’t stick to diamonds and they are easier to spot. They also said it was better to search after a recent plowing of the fields. It had not rained, nor had the fields been plowed recently, the day we were there. But despite the lack of rain and plowing, there were 7 lucky folks who found diamonds that day – and one person found a diamond while we were actually on site and it turned out to be the 2nd largest diamond found at the site this year. It was a 4.38 carat tea colored diamond. So I guess some theories are just that … theories.
You can either bring your own digging equipment or you can rent it there for a small fee. I think you can rent the entire “digging kit” for around $10.00. There is a $50.00 deposit but you get that back when you turn the rental equipment back in.
To enter the park area for digging, it costs $6.50 for adults, $3.50 for children ages 6-12, and children under 6 get in free.
Besides the diamond digging area there is also a water park that is open during certain parts of the year. They also have camping facilities located nearby for lodging options and there are also several small lodging options in Murfreesboro or one of the surrounding towns.
To find out more, visit the Crater of Diamonds website at http://www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com/