Diggin’ for diamonds? Can’t say that that activity has ever been on our bucket list of things to do! But when our friends, Nancy and Betsy (RV-A-GoGo) suggested that we meet up with them at Crater of Diamonds State Park in the tiny town of Murfeesboro, AR, we thought, why not?
From Amarillo, TX it was a 575 mile drive to Murfeesboro, AR. Since we don’t like to drive over 300 miles per day, we planned to stop twice along the way. Our first night was a quick overnight stop at Wichita Falls RV Park (review coming) in Wichita Falls, TX where we didn’t even unhitch our toad so not much to report there.
The next three nights we spent at beautiful Hickory Creek Park, an Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Park (review coming) in Lewisville, TX where we had a lovely, very spacious site (#26) right on Lewisville Lake. Beautiful spot to enjoy bird watching and gorgeous sunsets! And fish jumping!! The stop in Lewisville (just north of Dallas) was a bit of a detour, but we wanted to meet up with the folks at Orbital Machine Works to discuss the compatibility of their Coleman Mach 8 Air Conditioner “Hush Kit” with our AC units. Well they are compatible and they really do work! More about this in a more detailed post coming this summer.
It was news to us that Arkansas was the first place outside South Africa where diamonds have been found at their original volcanic source – it is the only public diamond mine in the world! Since the first diamond was discovered in 1906 over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed! Now that’s a lot of diamonds!
In addition to the diamond hunting adventure, the Park offers 47 full hookup big rig friendly campsites, picnic areas, a seasonal restaurant, laundry, gift shop, hiking trails, interpretive programs and Diamond Springs Water Park.
If you’re not sure what a raw diamond looks like or need motivation to spend hours digging, begin your diamond hunting adventure at the visitor center where geological exhibits and an audio/visual program are offered. For incentive, on permanent display is the Strawn-Wagner Diamond, the most perfect diamond the American Gem Society (AGS) ever certified in its laboratory. It has the perfect grade of 0/0/0 (Ideal cut/D color/Flawless), or “Triple Zero,” It was found in 1990 by Shirley Strawn of Murfreesboro. A diamond this perfect and weighing over 1 carat (3.03 carat in the rough) after cutting is estimated to occur one time in a billion! The Park purchased it from her for $34,700!
For a mere $10/day, you can spend the entire day digging in a 37 1/2 acre plowed dirt field that is the eroded surface of the world’s eighth largest diamond-bearing volcanic crater pipe (a geologic tube formed by an ancient underground volcanic explosion). The field is plowed occasionally to expose underlying layers of dirt. Be forewarned though, on the day we were there, the dirt was pretty hard packed so it wasn’t easy to dig. In the Visitor Center, we read that the best time to surface search for diamonds is to dig after a recent rain – but do so only if you like playing in the mud!
There are three basic methods used for diamond searching: 1) surface search by just walking and looking for the white, brown or yellow gems in the dirt; 2) dig, then sift the dirt using a screen; 3) for the more experienced or “professionals” (yep, people make their living here), wet sift (similar to panning for gold) at one of several washing pavilions. Bring your own shovel, trowel, screen and bucket or rent them for a fee. And the best news is that it’s “finder’s keepers” – whatever you find you get to keep. Not sure if you found a diamond? Bring your potential treasures to a desk staffed with rangers and they will identify each rock or gem that you find. How cool!
Oh, and you are allowed to remove up to 5 gallons of material per day. Many of the wet sifters would sift out a bucket full of possibilities, then take them home to where they had plenty of time to ferret out any valuables.
Boy, diamond digging works up an appetite! After spending a few hours walking and digging, a lunch break was in order. Very limited choices in town but surprisingly there was a really good Mexican restaurant, Los Agave Mexican Restaurant with good food (especially the Taco Salad) and colorful and attractive decor. Also pay a visit to Hawkins General Store with its soda fountain and Caddo Antiques, both located in Court Square.
After lunch, it was back to the diamond field! Boy, this takes a lot of patience.
Alas, despite our best efforts and spending hours walking around staring at the ground, inspecting every shiny thing and digging in the very hard dirt, we didn’t find any diamonds or any other gems for that matter. Darn, no fortune for us but we sure had fun trying to find some! Maybe next time!