Thursday, March 31, 2011
Crater of Diamonds State Park
I've used a pick axe to mine coal in Nova Scotia, picked up garnets from the ground in Maine, sluiced for rubies and sapphires in North Carolina and now I've dug for diamonds in Arkansas.
The Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only diamond mine in the world that is open to the public for mining. Arriving at the Crater of Diamonds State Park you'll see people wandering around with pick axes, 5 gallon buckets, trowels, box screens and wearing heavy rubber mucking boots. And here came Denny and I with our little gardening trowel and a small little bucket and knee pad--what rank amateurs we were! But we were soon to find that you can rent (for a large deposit) all the tools you need to either dry-screen or wet-screen for diamonds here at the park.Upon entering the visitor center/mine entrance you will pay your $7 adult entry fee (no senior discount, sigh) and then you are pointed in the direction of the mine. There is a small display of rough diamonds in the lobby of the visitor center so you at least have an idea of what you are looking for. Walking downstairs to the video area, there are some story boards that tell of finds by other people and there's a brief video clip on how to dry screen for diamonds and one on how to wet-screen for them. Then you walk to the cashier where you can purchase trowels, plastic booties, bags and other supplies or you can rent a basic kit (bucket, shovel, two screens) for your search. Then you walk out to the mine, which is simply 37 acres of plowed field.There is no rhyme or reason as to how you'll find diamonds or where. They have been found by people walking along the furrowed rows and simply picking them up, by people digging down deep and washing buckets of gravel in the sluice area and by people shaking a shovel's worth of dirt through a box screen. Denny and I rented a box screen which Denny used while I hand-sifted through the dirt. You are told that you should lo0k for "the sparkle" but unfortunately we picked a cold, damp, dreary, overcast day to go to the park so we didn't have that advantage. Plus it had rained on Monday so the ground was damp to sit upon and to try to work through the box screen was difficult as in places digging in the soil would just bring up clay-like lumps of dirt. We did work through the greenish colored soil that is known to bear diamonds but alas, there was no joy in Mudville this day. On the 20th of March someone went home with a 2 carat white diamond but we were diamond-less on this search. It was fun, but we left sooner than we would like because it was cold and windy and we became thoroughly chilled which took away from our little adventure. We would both like to return someday but the next time we would bring something to sit upon, either a waterproof mat or a camp stool or folding chair and I would make sure it's a bright sunny day and that the park staff had recently plowed the fields (apparently they do that every so often.) Overall it was a good experience and we definitely would return if we were ever in the area again.
Now I just have to find an emerald mine....