Diamond hunting in Arkansas?
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.