Diamond hunting in Arkansas?
Updated: Sep 14
More than 30,000 diamonds have been found in the Natural State.
Note: Updates to this story can be found at the end of this post.
Brave the heat and start digging, y'all!
My lure to the mountains of western Arkansas was to hunt for crystals, not diamonds, but I arrived in Mt. Ida, home to numerous crystal mines, on a particularly hot summer day. We're talking 106 with no relief in the shade. As I drove into town, I began thinking that a stop at a roadside vendor or rock shop might be in order instead, then I'd head to the cheap motel I secured for the night and spend the last daylight hours in the pool.
I was disappointed because I was looking forward to digging through dirt that stains your clothes and hands red, hoping to pull up crystal points to add to my rock collection that's slowly taking over my home. But, I'm not one to endure intense heat so I stopped at the first roadside stand I found, one featuring tables of crystals in front of a house.
"You know that Mt. Ida is a dry town," the owner said, noticing my Louisiana license plate.
I should have laughed at my state's reputation. Instead, I balked, wishing I had brought my own wine. No worries, the kind man explained, there are places to acquire alcohol closer to Hot Springs.
Standing there in the hot sun, I picked out numerous crystals and purchased the lot for an affordable amount, then envisioned that pool and a glass of wine in my near future. Somewhere in the conversation, however, my crystal owner mentioned the nearby Crater of Diamonds State Park, where diamonds — yes, diamonds! — had been pulled from the earth, including the largest ever found in America, a white diamond weighing 40.23 carats. Called "Uncle Sam," that gemstone was later cut into a 12.42-carat emerald shape.
Imagine that on your finger.
So, I decided to stop at the state park in Murfreesboro on the way home. Like the state's other 52 parks, visitors pay admission, enjoy picnic areas, camping and hiking trails, but also a 37.5-acre field where they may dig for crystals and other gemstones and, yes, diamonds. I quickly joined dozens of people playing in the dirt, looking for Arkansas diamonds that come in all colors of the rainbow.
I never found diamonds — found quartz and a few cool-looking rocks — but if you're suspicious this is a ruse to get people in the park, think again. According to park officials, one to two diamonds are found each day and 246 diamonds have been registered in 2020 alone as I write this, a total of 59.25 carats. In total, more than 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed at Crater of Diamonds since the diamonds were first discovered in 1906.
On Labor Day 2020, for instance, another scorching hot day in Arkansas, Kevin Kinard found the second-largest diamond in the park's history. Kinard's rock weighs 9.07 carats, following Armarillo Starlight's discovery in 1975 that weighed 16.37 carats.
“I honestly teared up when they told me, Kinard said. "I was in complete shock!”
Currently, COVID restrictions apply to those entering the diamond field. Only 1,000 tickets are given out to encourage social distancing and equipment rentals have been suspended temporarily. Visitors are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance at www.CraterofDiamondsStatePark.com.
Good luck digging. You never know what you'll find.
But there's more!
Since we published this story, a visitor to Crater of Diamonds State Park found a 4.38-carat yellow diamond, the largest diamond found at the park in 2021! The gemstone was found by Noreen Wredberg of Granite Bay, California. “I first saw the park featured on a TV show several years ago,” she said. “When I realized we weren’t too far away, I knew we had to come!”
UPDATE (from a press release)
Crater of Diamonds State Park will celebrate an important moment in its history in the coming weeks this fall (2022), as staff prepares to recognize the 35,000th diamond found and registered there since the state park opened in 1972. The Crater of Diamonds celebrated its first “milestone find” in 1986, when park staff registered the 10,000th diamond. The 30,000th diamond was registered in 2012.
“It’s been about 10 years, and we’re excited to celebrate this next significant step in the park’s history,” Park Superintendent Caleb Howell said.
According to Assistant Park Superintendent Waymon Cox, “This will be a historic moment for Crater of Diamonds State Park, but we also want it to be a surprise for the person who finds the diamond. To help build the excitement and give all park guests a fair chance, we are withholding the exact number of diamonds found until after the milestone is registered.”
Park and community leaders plan to reward and recognize the diamond finder with prizes, including a two-night stay at an Arkansas State Park.
According to Rodney Fagan, the mayor of Murfreesboro, the park plays an important role in the local economy, as well as statewide tourism. “Most store and restaurant owners will tell you that when the Crater of Diamonds is busy, their business is good,” Fagan said. “We could not support the quality businesses we have without the Crater of Diamonds, and we are very proud to be the home of Crater of Diamonds State Park.”
And on Sept. 6, a milestone...
Scott Kreykes of Dierks has been visiting Crater of Diamonds State Park for the past four years and has registered more than 80 diamonds. On Sept. 6, 2020, he registered his 50th diamond of the year and the 35,000th found and registered since the state park opened in 1972.
Kreykes recently spent a day at the park sifting dirt from the East Drain of the diamond search area. He took his sifted gravel home to look through later. Park Interpreter Tayler Markham said, “Each visitor that comes to the park is allowed to take one five-gallon bucket of sifted gravel home with them per day. Some visitors like to resift their gravel at home or wait for it to dry to look for the metallic shine of a diamond.”
While searching through his gravel at home, Kreykes spotted a pearl-shaped diamond and excitedly called his wife over to show her. He knew the park was preparing to celebrate the 35,000th diamond find since 1972 and was hopeful that he would register the milestone gem. As he left for the park on the morning of Sept. 6, he slipped his diamond into a glass vial and told his wife, “This could be the 35,000th diamond!”
Kreykes carried his gem to the park’s Diamond Discovery Center, where staff registered it as a 3 pt. white diamond. Markham said, “Diamonds are weighed in points and carats. One hundred points is equal to one carat, like pennies to a dollar. Most diamonds found at the park weigh between 20 and 25 points.” When park staff revealed that Kreykes had indeed registered the 35,000th diamond, he told them he had goosebumps.
As finder of this significant milestone, Kreykes received a free two-night stay at an Arkansas State Park, recognition from Murfreesboro officials, and a special display for his diamond and registration card, donated by Sam Johnson and Caddo Trading Co.
Weird, Wacky & Wild South is written by award-winning journalist Cheré Dastugue Coen, who dug to her heart's content and came home with quartz, which was good enough for her. She's also the author of the travel-oriented Viola Valentine mysteries under the pen name of Cherie Claire. Viola, by the way, loves crystals!