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OUR DIAMOND MINING EXPERIENCE – Crater of Diamonds, Arkansas
You have probably read or heard about the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.
Stories abound about great diamond finds. These stories have a tendency to make one think that there is a volcanic crater filled with shiny bean size diamonds just waiting for visitors to pick them up and keep with little or no effort.
The truth is diamond searching is a difficult and dirty adventure. The odds of finding a significant diamond are perhaps about as good as hitting the Million Dollar Jackpot on a Las Vegas casino slot machine. Still, some visitors do make significant gem finds.
But – despite all of the above, it is fun. We met some great people while digging in the mud. Folks from all over the country were out exploring our true national treasures of openness and freedom. Many families with children were present as well as their pets. Oscar went with us but soon became tired climbing the furrows and wanted to be carried.
Nancy and I visited the Crater of Diamonds the day after a hard rain. We felt sure that the rain would have washed away the soil leaving our diamonds sparkling in the sunlight. We arrived at the mine entrance at 9 a.m. sharp for the Ranger demonstration on how to search for diamonds. We learned that in addition to our bucket and shovel we would need a set of screens – one with 1/4″ mesh and the second with 1/8” mesh. The objective was to fill a 3-gallon bucket with dirt from the crater, take it to the washing station, and reduce the dirt to a pile of grit-sized gravel. We would then carefully search through the grit hoping to find diamonds about the size of a match head. The needed screens were available for rental as were wagons, wheelbarrows, shovels, and buckets.
The “crater” or mine turned out to be a 40-acre field that had been plowed into deep trenches resembling the dirt bunkers dug by Civil War soldiers. The ground was muddy in the trenches requiring boots and old clothes on which lasting dirt stains would be acceptable. You will spend much of your time crawling around on your hands and knees.
We spent the morning digging, hauling dirt to the washing station, sifting, and searching through the clean gravel. Despite our diligence, there were no diamonds in our rubble. We left around noon for lunch back at the camper then returned to search some more.
At one time, there was a commercial venture to recover diamonds from the crater. We were told the venture failed and the mining equipment was left behind to rust away. More diamonds have been found by visitors to the crater than the commercial venture recovered.
By late afternoon, I finally abandoned the digging, screening, and washing. My arms and back were overcome by soreness. The sun had finally come out and was shining brightly on the furrows. I walked through the field occasionally raking the surface to disturb the hidden minerals underneath the top soil. I was hoping that the sunlight would reveal the sparkle of diamonds.
The field, or diamond mine, closed at 5 p.m. but the Rangers were calling visitors back to the entrance by 4:30. Having given up my quest to find anything resembling a diamond, I began to drag myself toward the boot washing station at the entrance.
Then – I saw it. “It” was something sparkling brightly in the sunlight with dazzling rays moving out in all directions. I picked up my speed to reach the source of radiance and stooped over to pick up the object. At first, I thought it was just a piece of broken glass. But, when I tried to scrape it with the blade of my pocketknife, there were no scratches left behind. It was not glass.
I wondered, Is it a diamond or a piece of quartz? The stone appeared almost water clear once the dirt was wiped away.
When I reached the exit there were at least a dozen people lined up waiting for the sole Ranger who was inspecting and evaluating other visitor finds. Time ran out and we were told that we could bring our stones back the next morning for evaluation.
We had to leave bright and early the next day. We never got back to have the stone examined.
BTW – the campground at the park is magnificent – paved roads and 70-foot RV sites with new picnic tables, grills, and fireplaces. Each site has at least one tent pad. Full 50-amp electric, water and sewer hook-ups are present. The sites are widely spaced from each other and each campsite has privacy due to the screening provided by the natural woodland and bushes.
Get your boots, buckets and shovels packed and head on out to the Crater of Diamonds. It was a tremendous amount of fun.