If you’re looking for a fun destination, earth sciences field trip or just a way to break up a long cross country drive, consider Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.
My son has been interested in minerals and gems for at least 3 years, so we have ventured out in search of fossils, Pecos valley diamonds and other crystals. This park deserves special recognition for its uniqueness.
A volcano erupted here about 100 million years ago which created an 83-acre crater. That eruption brought rocks and minerals including diamonds and other gemstones from the Earth’s mantle to the surface.
The Crater of Diamonds is the only place in the world where the public can mine for real diamonds. And you keep what you find!
The chances of finding a diamond are very rare- an average of two are found a day. But the possibility of finding is what makes the trip exciting.
I had no idea what to expect before visiting the park, but now that I’ve been twice I can share my observations and tips.
1. It feels like being on another planet.
The search area is about 33 acres, and at times one can feel completely alone. I’m not sure if it’s the way the sound carries, the possibility of hundreds of diamonds under your feet or standing in 10 million year old volcanic dirt, but I have felt a very quiet and calm, almost meditative feeling both times.
2. It also feels like being at a casino in Vegas. You get the feeling that everyone there is trying to hit the jackpot. There are obvious regulars who are looking for their fortune. But there are also many families who are just having a fun and interesting visit to the crater.
The first time we went was after a big rain. We basically spent the whole time in the mud- wearing shoes made it difficult to walk, as our feet felt cemented into the crater. We didn’t mind being barefoot- it was like a mud wrap for our feet, and I loved the idea of earthing in 100 million year old volcanic soil.
The second time it was sunny and dry and akin to walking in a large hardened dirt field.
Here are some tried and true tips to make the most of your visit:
You can rent screens, buckets and shovels from the park, but you probably already have most of what you will need.
***Take your own buckets- sand pails for the kids and a 3 gallon bucket like this one for the adults-
With your own buckets, you can take what you find home in them- in our case, my kids find big cool rocks and other minerals, and it’s great to have something to carry them in. You can also fill up your buckets with more volcanic dirt to take home, and your kids will have something to sift through on a rainy day.
If you don’t have any, they sell basic hand trowels for $2 at the park.
***It’s worth renting a screen at the park ($3 to rent) for the wet sifting.
***Take some small plastic baggies to keep your sparkly crystal finds safe while you’re still searching. There are staff members who will identify what you’ve found when you are ready to leave the park, and you’ll want to have those separate from the other rocks and collection you might have.
***Bug repellant is a must- both times I’ve gone I have been bitten by sand flies, also fittingly called no-see-ums. I never saw them, and then the bites itched like crazy for a week. Click here to find the best non-toxic bug spray for these critters.
***Hats, sunscreen and bottles of drinking water are all also very important.
***If it has rained recently- take trash bags with you to carry your muddy shoes after you decide it will be easier to walk barefoot.
Recap of things you need:
1. Trash bags
2. Insect repellant
5. Plastic baggies for those small crystals you might find
6. Sand pails, shovels and rakes for kids
7. Large utility bucket
8. Hand trowel and cultivator
9. Change of clothes for kids
We also took a picnic lunch both times, as there are many picnic benches in the park before you go into the crater.
Have fun and good luck!
PS- it is also worth noting that there is a small water park right in front of the crater, so if you want to cool off and swim and slide, take your bathing suits and towels!