Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Flowers Explore - Diamond Mining at Crater of Diamonds State Park - 2021/07/13

Today we've got a special experience planned. We're in Arkansas at one of the only places in the world where the public can mine for diamonds directly from their volcanic source. This is one of the things we've been looking forward to since hitting the road. 

From our campsite in Crystal Springs, we took some very narrow and winding back roads to get to the main road. Theresa, who gets car sick was not having a fun time. Alli on the other hand loved it, comparing it to a roller coaster. I definitely wouldn't want to try to bring the RV down this road. 

The nearby town of Murfreesboro seems to have gone all-in on the diamond puns, with such business names as Miner's Diner, Queen of Diamonds Inn, Yellow Diamond Inn, and a bank called Diamond Bank. 

This diamond field is the 8th largest diamond reserve in the world!

The fields open at 8am, but we're not quite to the "getting up early" stage of RV life yet. Plus it was over an hour drive to get there, so we didn't show up until 11am. Once we'd arrived, the parking lot was packed! Up to 1500 guests can be accommodated here. 

It's world famous!

We got a photo in front of the sign, but we'll have to try again on the way out. It's way too sunny and bright for eyes to be open. 

Theresa had already purchased our tickets online. At the counter they verified her purchase. It's $10 for adults, $6 for kids 6-12 years old, and Alli was free! 

There's a mining museum showing the history of the area. 

Plus a look at some of the things we might find here. 

There's yellow, white, and brown diamonds. 

Will we get lucky and find something here today? 

Where did the diamonds come from? 
Over 300 million years ago, the Prairie Creek Volcano pushed its way to the surface. Diamond crystals were over 100 miles below the surface and were pushed up and out with the lava. 

Diamonds are a big part of Arkansas. They're represented on the state flag, the state quarter, and even on their license plates!

Walking outside we can see that we're about to become a part of history! Might we be the lucky ones to find a diamond today? 

There's a further sign showing some of the bigger diamonds that have been found here. All before the 1960s. Hmm. So an average of 600 found every year. That's about 2 diamonds a day, but it also doesn't say what size diamonds they are. 

The search field is about 37 acres, and stretches for about half a mile. 

You're welcome to bring your own gear, but there seems to be a pretty big business here of rental gear. The prices are listed, plus a hefty deposit, and the items you'll get are displayed above. 
We asked the employee at the counter what they recommended and she suggested the basic kit. The advanced kit comes with a Saruca (the circular sifter in the photo below). On top of that we'll be getting a wagon to carry the gear, plus all our packs. 

So that's $105 initially, but we'll be getting back $85 when we return it all. 

All set? 

Let's go out to the fields!

The field is a wide open area with a couple trees dotting the landscape. There's not much shade to be had at all. The temperature is pushing into the mid 90s and it's humid. We brought lots of sunblock and water. 

The fields themselves are tilled in the hopes of bringing new materials to the surface. There's not a lot of rhyme or reason to where to dig. There's a small waterway that's going through the field now that people have congregated around, but I'm not sure if they've had any better luck than the rest of us. 

Ian wanted to pull all our gear in the wagon until we found our spot. 

Theresa and I watched a couple videos about how to search for diamonds. There's three ways that have varying degrees of success. The first was dry sifting, which we didn't really do. The second is surface searching where you're basically looking across the top of the dirt for anything shiny. There's not any real digging involved. The last method is wet sifting, and we'll get to that soon enough. 

They're doing their best, but it's a lot of dirt and only a few shiny spots. The things they are seeing are probably quartz. 

Since it's so close to lunchtime, we took a break at one of the two Shade Islands where there's benches and a roof. The kids enjoyed hot dogs, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, and Goldfish crackers. 

Next we walked through the bumpy fields until Ian's "Lucky Bug" told him that this is where we should start digging. 

We set down our stuff, picked a place in the ground, and started filling our buckets with material. 

These are what the wash pavilions look like. Giant troughs of dirty water with a few people around them sorting through their buckets. 

Ian and I took a bucket up to the wash station. It's a bit cooler in the shade and all the water helps too. 

The goal is to rinse off the dirty pebbles and try to find something shiny. The big screen sits on top of the smaller screen. We'll rinse as much dirt off everything as possible and then take a look. 

There's a wire mesh running about halfway up the trough, so you're not putting your sifters all the way on the bottom with all the other sifted material. The water is so murky you can't even see what you've put in it. 

Alli is here with our second bucket! Together they ran their fingers through all the material. The only reason they're able to stand this high is because a fellow searcher had about a dozen buckets of material he was sorting through and I asked to borrow a couple that he was finished with. 

Feeling lucky? 

Looking through their little pebbles for anything shiny? Nothing? Maybe someone with more experience could help. 

Meet Bill! He's the one I borrowed those buckets from. He's from Vegas, visiting Arkansas for his son's spearfishing tournament, but he's been doing this for a while. 

He sorts through all his material with a Saruka (the thing we were told not to get). By twisting it, a bit like a gold pan, all the heavier materials, like diamonds, congregates into the center. 

Wow, look at all that white material in the center! Bill scoops up the "centers" for further processing later. When it's wet, everything looks shiny. Once it's dried out, the diamonds will keep their luster while quartz and other things will appear dull. 
I don't remember how long Bill said he's been doing this, but the kids asked him if he's actually found any diamonds. He said that indeed he has before, two tiny little diamond chips that he discovered when he got his material back home. Yikes! If he's only found 2 tiny diamonds I don't hold out much hope for us. 

But half the fun is just the experience of it all. Now we can say we've gone gold mining and diamond mining!

Sorting through a bit more material, now with Theresa getting her hands dirty. 

Nothing on top.

Hey, where's our white center? 

I tried again with the next bucket. Since it's not round, I shook the square sifter on the diagonal to make a "loaf". I did this quite a few times going back and forth so hopefully things will merge into the center. 

Is it my imagination, or is that a little white streak down the middle?

After a few hours, especially with not a lot to show for it, the kids were done. We packed up any of the shiny or pretty rocks and headed back to the rental counter. 

Ian still wanted to get our finds checked out. The workers there will look through your stuff and tell you if you've found anything worthwhile. 

Looks like you've found some Jasper, Calcite, and Quartz. Any other questions? 

After turning in all of our gear, as we were walking back up the ramp to the visitor's center, Ian was transfixed by the pool and splashpad. 
Ian - Can we come back tomorrow and go on that? 

Theresa found one of the biggest Daddy Long Legs spiders she's seen, hanging out in the visitors center.  

Thanks for visiting!

After we got home, I took our wet "centers" and tossed them in the toaster oven to dry out. 

Any treasures in there? 

I picked through it and came away with the little pile on the left. The pile on the right are the "interesting" things the kids found, including a nail while came from our hole about 2 feet down. 

There were a couple pebbles that did stand out a little bit. Quartz and other minerals are supposed to have sharp edges when they break. Diamonds are more rounded and smoothed over. The bit that's furthest right seems to have different properties than the other pieces. And that super shiny black piece near the bottom was interesting too. 

Here's the kids' thoughts. 
Ian - Diamond mineing was not fun. First we dig a dirt bucket. Next we put it in a sifter and wet sift. Last we find quarts and jasper.
Alli - Dimind Mineig was not fun. We did int like it and we didn't get any dinds. And we found jasper. 

Well going into it, Theresa and I both knew the odds, and everything was as we were expecting. It was fun to do it for the experience, but there's not really any chance that you're actually going to find anything. I asked the kids if they were still glad they went, just to say they did it, and they said yes. 

1 comment:

  1. That's the spirit, Alli & Ian...at least they are glad they tried diamond mining, despite not being as fun as they expected! After such a long, hot day no wonder the pool looked so inviting to Ian (plus the fact he loves to swim!) Kind of Bill to share his knowledge and answer questions from Alli & Ian. The museum had lots of interesting info...nice to see potential diamond samples so one knows what to look for. Anything come of those two unusual pebbles? Thank goodness for the shade structure to enjoy lunch, along with all that sunblock and water! Interesting experience at Crater of Diamonds State Park...now the Flowers are both gold and diamond miners! P.S. I'm with Theresa with those winding roads (ugh!!) EOM

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