Park Visitors May Dig, Pan or Scan for Stones

Some Methods More Successful Than Others

There are plenty of places across North America where tourists can try their hand at panning for gold, from the Klondike to the Black Hills of North Dakota, but if you want to search for diamonds, you must go to the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas.

However, if you expect to go into the park, kick over a rock and find a diamond, you will probably be disappointed.  Even though the park staff plows the crater once a month during warm weather to bring new stones up to the surface, the diamonds along with other precious and semi-precious stones are not easy to find.

But the park staff recommends several techniques that make looking for stones a little simpler.


Depending on the season, hunting for diamonds is an extremely messy prospect.  Spring and fall bring rain that turns the diamond field to mud, while dry summer months make the field dusty.  Always wear old shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty while walking through the field.  During summer wear loose-fitting clothing that breathes as well along with a hat and sunscreen to cope with the hot weather.

Searching By Hand

It is possible to find stones without equipment.  One of the most common means of searching is to walk up and down plowed rows scanning the ground.  Park employees say that if you keep the sun to your back, the stones may reflect light where they lie in the dirt.  The best time to practice this technique is right after a rainstorm, when the raindrops wash dust away from the stones.

Screening With Tools

The best tools to use for digging in the dirt include a shovel, bucket and sieve.  Shovels may include anything from a full-sized digging implement to a tiny gardener’s hand trowel.  The park prohibits using any heavy equipment, mechanical tools or tools that must be brought in with a truck.

To search for gems, dig 6 to 12 inches deep, scoop shovelfuls of dirt into a sieve and shake the sieve back and forth to remove the dirt and look at the remaining stones.

Advanced Searching Techniques

Repeat visitors to the park with experience hunting for diamonds often use a more labor-intensive method for searching for stones.  These visitors may dig very deeply into the soil until they find tailings, which is waste gravel leftover from the old mining operations.  This type of dirt contains a higher concentration of gravel than the rest of the soil in the park and may contain smaller diamonds that the old mining operations missed.

Rock hounds then remove this type of soil from their hole by the bucketful and carry it to a park washing station.  They then wash the dirt through a series of screens, starting with a large mesh screen and then working their way down the screens until screening soil through a fine mesh screen.  Finally, they examine the gravel left to see if any of the stones are diamonds.

Spotting Stones

Diamonds found at the crater are typically smooth and rounded.  They may have a polished glass appearance and may feel oily to the touch.  Typical diamond size found at the park is no more than the size of a match head, although on rare occasions a diamond the size of a cherry tomato has been found in the park.

Although park employees can help identify minerals and stones, they are not trained to assess the value of any find.  A diamond’s value typically hinges on whether it can be cut.  If you find a stone large enough to cut, you should contact a gemologist to assess the value.

According to the park’s website, most diamonds found in the park are not large enough to cut and are only valuable as souvenirs of the trip.

You can find out more about the park's history and other amenities located in the park in this article.