As we headed out West for a road trip cross country, we had the opportunity to stop at a hidden gem. The only diamond mine in the world where visitors can dig and keep what ever they find. Some visitors leave with rocks, gems, and even diamonds! Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro in SW Arkansas. After hearing about some great recent diamond finds there for the $10 entry fee, I always wanted to go there and try my luck digging for my find. The park is located only 60 miles from Hot Springs National Park and about 120 miles from Little Rock Arkansas, both great places to visit. Thus, my mission was to stop for the day to try my luck and learn more about the area. Besides digging for treasures like diamonds, amethysts, jasper, there are hiking trails, RV spots with electric/water, and 5 tent pads.
There is a nice seasonal water park called Diamond Springs Water Park attached to it with its entrance fee, plus areas where you can have a picnic. The park also rents out shovels, sifting screens, buckets, and various kits to help your dig, or you can bring your own. The park was opened/reopened by the State in 1972 and over 34 thousand diamonds have been found since visitors first started coming to the park.
Dogs/pets are allowed but must remain on a leash and can’t just be left tied to a tree (i.e. under control of the owner).
The park contains 911 acres of land with a 37.5-acre site plowed for diamond digging. Periodically they plow the fields to help turn the soil. The easiest areas to look at are in the ravines between the plowed areas or where water runs through the area say it rained, etc. In some areas, the visitors may find amethysts, garnets, jasper, etc.
When you enter the Discovery Center you can learn more about the process and park. The park also has a certified diamond specialist that can verify if it’s a diamond or other gem. You can use your equipment to dig, but no mechanical equipment can be used. The dig site is typically wide open and some do dry or wet sifting methods to search for gems. There are a few covered areas where you do the wet sifting.
History of Park
In August 1906 John Huddleston found 2 strange crystals on his 243-acre farm. He later gave some investors in Little Rock, the option to buy his farm. Well while there were some finds early on and they thought it would be a boomtown, several operators owned it over the years. In the end, the State bought the property from Arkansas Diamond Company and Ozark Diamond Mine Corporation in 1972. It turns out these diamonds are here from prior volcanic activity in the area.
Earlier methods to mine had sifters with larger openings so newer sift pans can now find the smaller diamonds that fell through the crack, although many good size diamonds have been found. The Park also lists all the larger finds online and recent finds at the Discovery Center.
The largest diamond found in the USA, called Uncle Sam, is 40.23-carats and was found at this spot. At the 1993 and 1997 Inaugural Galas for President Clinton, Hillary Clinton wore the 4.25-carat Kahn Canary diamond to show her pride in the State of Arkansas.
Food and Drink
I recommend you bring your food and drinks to the Park, including extra water in the summer when the heat is more significant. In the downtown, about 2 miles away, there are some smaller restaurants and we ate lunch at one; later the Sonic Drive-In was a popular place to stop. When we visited the town, the times were more limited likely impacted by Covid.
Where to Stay
While camping is a popular option, there are also a few smaller places to stay.
Crater of Diamonds camping spots: The well-treed camping area has 37 Class A campsites, with reported 50-amp electricity and water. There are also 5 walk-in tent sites (but bring your tent). The camp area has 2 bathhouses with hot water. We saw many during the hot summer day go back to their campsite for lunch, then return later with their wagons/tools to dig more. Once you pay your entrance fee and keep your armband on, it’s good the entire day.
Diamonds Old West Hotel/Cabins:
DiamondsCabins.com is such a great place for yourself or your family. We enjoyed our stay here. The cabins are buildings with the looks of an old west frontier town. You might stay in a building that looks like the mercantile, jail, old church, etc. There are various activities to make it fun for kids. There is a little general store where you can buy candy, etc. and it is truly a unique place to stay and well located, not far from the center of town. Most of the restaurants are located around the courthouse square downtown.
Hot Springs AR:
Notably, you may want to stay in Hot Springs, AR which has more hotels and Hot Springs National Park. It is about 60 miles away and has one of the closest airports to Crater of Diamonds. We Also visited Hot Springs another great place to visit.
(Note: About 40 miles away from Crater of Diamonds is Hope, AR where President Bill Clinton was born.)
Getting to Crater of Diamonds – Murfreesboro
Notably, Murfreesboro is about 120 miles from Little Rock, AR, and one of the largest airports around. Most appear to drive to the town/park and the Arkansas State Parks site outlines all the routes from major cities in various directions, as well as more info on the Crater of Diamonds State Park. See: ArkansasStateParks.com
Crater of Diamonds Round-Up
Crater of Diamonds is truly a hidden gem. While I didn’t find a diamond, I enjoyed learning more, trying my luck for only $10. I stayed at a unique frontier-style village which was also an experience. There were people from all over, met some others from Florida. While there were many families there some seniors from the area seem to go there all the time and have their chairs situated off toward the shaded area and will occasionally look or dig around. We also met some folks that go to other areas for other gems to make jewelry, etc. This vacation spot is good clean fun for the kids too, although they likely will need a shower after all that digging.
Crater of Diamonds– A Gem of A Vacation
Would you try your luck at Crater of Diamonds State Park? The daily count for diamonds averages to two diamonds per day at the park.
Remember Finders Keepers (and you are free to sell them).