Park Allows Visitors to Dig Their Own

Tourists Keep What They Find

If you want to pan for gold, you might head to the mountains of Colorado.  But if you are looking for diamonds, you head to Arkansas.  The Crater of Diamonds State Park in southern Arkansas, to be precise.  The park is the only diamond-bearing site open to the public in the world.

CraterSearching for Diamonds(74978)Credit: Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism of Diamonds State Park lies above an ancient volcanic pipe that was active 100 million years ago.  During that period, diamonds, quartz and semi-precious gems rode waves of magma to the surface of the volcano.  When the pipe went dormant and crusted over, the gems remained stuck in the dirt.

The Great North American Diamond Rush began in 1906 when farmer John Huddleston found two strange-looking crystals while plowing his field.  The crystals were the first diamonds ever discovered at their source outside of South Africa.  Within a month, Huddleston sold mining rights to his property to investors, who named their mine Kimberly, after the famous South African mining district.

Huddleston’s discovery created a boomtown in nearby Murfreesboro, Arkansas.  Initially, the mine changed hands several times.  However, the property remained privately owned until WWII, when the United States Government took it over to mine minerals for the war effort.  The government found that although the mine produced just as many diamonds of the same quality as any other commercial mine in the world, the cost of US labor made mining the property impractical.

Shortly after the war, the government returned the mine to its previous owners.  Between 1951 and 1972, various owners opened commercial tourist attractions on the mine site.  In 1972, the State of Arkansas took over the tourist operations and turned the crater into a park.

Because of the location of the mine within the state, Arkansas is sometimes known as “The Diamond State.”  A diamond is the central motif on the Arkansas state flag.  Former First Lady Hillary Clinton wore an Arkansas diamond, The Kahn Canary, at each of her husband President Bill Clinton’s inaugurations.

Today, visitors to Crater of Diamonds State Park are welcome to search for and take away any precious and semi-precious stones that they find, regardless of the stone’s value.  The park charges a nominal admission fee, which covers admission and readmission to the park to search for stones throughout the day.

The park is not a Vegas or Branson-style tourist destination with large themed hotels and theatres.  Instead, the 37 1/2 acres resemble nothing more than a plowed field.  What few structures found in the crater area consist of old, rusted mining equipment from the Kimberly mine.

Crater of Diamonds Visitor CenterCredit: Arkansas Department of Parks & TourismAway from the diamond digging area, visitors will find forested hiking trails, fishing in the Little Missouri river, a campground and a water park.  A visitor’s center provides information on the history of the park and how to dig for diamonds.  For visitors who forget to bring their own equipment, the visitor’s center will also rent sieves, rakes and shovels.  Unsuccessful rock hounds may also buy minerals at the gift shop. 

According to the park, visitors find over 600 diamonds each year.  The most common of which are white, brown and yellow diamonds as well as 40 other types of minerals including quartz, amethyst, jasper and garnet.

Most of the diamonds found in the park are the size of a grain of rice, although some very large diamonds have also been discovered.  The largest diamond found so far at the park was a 40 caret stone named “Uncle Sam.”  Other famous diamonds found at the park include the Strawn-Wagner diamond, which was found in 1990 and is the only diamond in the world to receive a perfect rating by the American Gem Society and the Gemological Institute of America. 

If you plan to visit the park, here is an article on  how to locate diamonds in the crater.