Does the idea of hunting for treasure excite you? What about the idea of seeing something that no human has ever seen or touched before? Surely, that has to appeal to you on some level.
What sort of diamonds can you find at Crater of Diamonds State Park?
Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas is the only place in the world where you can look for natural diamonds and keep what you find. And these diamonds are legit. In 2018, a 2.63-carat diamond was found that was designated as flawless. The diamonds found here can be clear, yellow, or brown and on average, at least two visitors find one each day.
How did diamonds form here and what is the history of Crater of Diamonds State Park?
A volcanic eruption over 100 million years ago is responsible for bringing rocks from the earth’s mantle to the surface here.
In 1906, landowner John Huddleston found the first diamonds on the 37-acre property. Over the years, various efforts were made to make this a profitable mine, but they never came to fruition. Finally, in 1972, the property was purchased by the Arkansas state park system and it was opened to the public. Since then, over 33,000 diamonds have been found on the property including some real gems (ya’ll know that I love puns).
How do you get tickets and what is important information to know before you go?
Visitors are capped at 1,500 people per day and you can often buy tickets just days in advance, but not always on the actual day that you want to visit. So plan at least a few days ahead. Hours change, but as of press time, the hours were 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. and they will start announcing closing starting at 3 p.m. every 15 minutes until they actually close. They may think this is a nice thing to do, but it’s really stressful when you are 15 minutes away from closing and haven’t found the diamond that’s going to take you straight to retirement. In 2022, it costs $10 for adults and $6 for kids.
When is a good time to go to Crater of Diamonds?
I purchased our tickets on Sunday leading into our Spring Break week. I looked at the weather forecast, and it looked good all week temperature-wise: in the mid to high 60s with rain on Wednesday. I’d heard that post-rain is an ideal condition to dig, so I opted to buy tickets for Thursday, the second to last day of our trip, and the day after a planned downpour.
This being our second time to the park, I knew that there was no way that our kids were going to be willing to do two days of digging. I knew I had one shot and I wanted the conditions to be perfect. Unfortunately, the weather took a turn on us, and it was cold and windy on our day to dig. Lesson learned: don’t wait for perfect, just go when it’s nice out. We waited for the weather to improve and ended up with only an hour to dig.
COVID precautions are still in place, so the rangers had set up a partial roadblock on the road into the park and were checking reservations and dates. We parked, walked through the visitor’s center, and then made our way down the meandering ramp to get down to the field.
I will forewarn you: it is a plowed field with dirt. Period. If you like rocks, you will be happy but if that doesn’t appeal to you, then this is not the place for you. There is nothing else to see. It looks like a farm that's been plowed with no seeds planted yet.
What do you need to bring to dig for diamonds and other gems at Crater of Diamonds?
For a successful dig, you will need the following materials:
Trowels or a trench digger
2 or more buckets (one to collect unprocessed dirt and the other for sifted gravel)
Fine mesh sifter
Bigger mesh sifter
Knee pad (optional but recommended)
Rain boots if it's recently rained
Note: You are not allowed to bring any sort of metal detector or anything with batteries to search.
How to Look for and Sift for Diamonds and Other Minerals
There are three ways to look for diamonds: dry sifting, wet sifting and just walking along and looking down. This wikiHow article will show you how to do each method, noting that wet sifting provides the best odds.
Some of the most common gems that can be found here include amethyst, garnet, jasper, agate, and quartz.
Remember how I said that we only had an hour to look? That was too long for half our party (the kids) and not long enough for the rest of the party (the adults). Because I am competitive and hadn’t found a diamond, Bill finally just took the kids and left me on the field as last calls were being made.
Can You Take Any Diamonds or Minerals That You Find?
You are allowed to take 1 5-gallon bucket of sifted gravel when you leave per person. That’s a lot to take but also a lot of work to process. We ended up leaving with about a quarter of one of our buckets filled. We are hoping that there is a diamond in there that we somehow missed.
The verdict? This is our second time there and Bill and I really enjoy the hunt. There are a lot of places that fabricate a treasure hunt experience but not many can deliver on a real experience with diamonds that have never been seen or touched by another human. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.
Do Kids Like Crater of Diamonds?
But then there are the kids. They should love to do this: our daughter loves rocks and our son loves to dig. Unfortunately, both wanted to leave almost immediately. We witnessed kids totally into it and others less so. In hindsight, I think I would mention to the kids the diamonds, but focus on learning how to identify the other types of rocks that there are there. If you know what you are looking at, there are lots of cool things to find. And that’s not just for the kids. I had a lot of fun looking for rocks that I recognized from books even though I didn’t know the name. Time to get out the rock tumbler and polish these babies up!
Mining for Quartz and Other Options with Kids
Two other mines came highly recommended from the Crater of Diamonds Facebook page (which I highly recommend joining in advance of any trip there): Ron Coleman Mining (which also has zip lines) and Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines. Both allow visitors to search for quartz and also take anything that they find. Because they are very plentiful and easy to find, many people swear by these places for kids, often over Crater of Diamonds.
Next time, I'll teach my kids more about what else they might find but still go to Crater. We may add in one of the other mines as well for fun but limit the time.
Park Location, Accommodations, and Other General Information
Crater of Diamonds State Park is just 3 hours and 45 minutes northeast of Dallas in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. The State Park has RV and tent sites. There are also hiking trails and a water park that is open in the summertime. We took our camping trailer to nearby Daisy State Park and camped there - they even have yurts ($58 a night) which look new and fun. There are also some good options on Airbnb including a stay in a beautiful log cabin (~$130 per night) or the red barn loft (~$175 per night) in Historic Old Washington.