You might find it quite surprising to learn there are diamond mines in Arkansas,
let alone ones where you can keep anything you find. Until 2002, there was a
commercial diamond mine on the borders of Colorado and Wyoming. Today there
is only one diamond mine in the United States, and that is in Crater of Diamonds
State Park near Murfreesboro.
Of all the state attractions, this is the only place where you can combine diamonds
with trout fishing. This is
the region known as the Diamond Lakes Region, with all the outdoor activities
you might expect of lake tourism.
Unique geologic conditions in this region led people to believe there might be diamond mines in Arkansas when the precious stones were found in similar peridotte soil in Kimberly, South Africa in the 1870s. The state geologist made an unsuccessful search in 1889, but the first stone was not found in what is now Crater of Diamonds State Park until 1906 by the owner of the land, John Welsley Huddleston. These were sent to a Little Rock jeweler who declared them genuine fine grade stones. He sold his land for only $36,000 and died a pauper. But his memory is kept alive by a historical marker marking the site of the first find, and by one of the state's events in the annual June Huddleston Day. The Crater of Diamonds State Park has changed hands several times over the years and several unsuccessful attempts have been made at commercial mining. The mine was operated privately, and as a tourist attraction from 1952 to 1972. In 1972, the State of Arkansas purchased the site for development as a state park.
The site of these Arkansas diamond mines is the only one in the world where the public can search for diamonds and keep any that they find. Prospecting visitors pay a small daily fee to search the eroded surface of an ancient gem-bearing volcanic "pipe" that is now a 37-acre field and is periodically plowed. The Arkansas diamond mines staff will provide free identification and certification of stones. Historical structures, old mining equipment, washing pavilions, and sun shelters are located on the field. Diamond mining tools are available for rent or purchase. To locate your Arkansas diamond mines treasure, you can use any tool without a battery, motor, or wheels that can be used to transport your haul. Visitors use everything from garden tools and kitchen utensils to their bare hands.
Will Crater of Diamonds State Park make you a fortune? Probably not, but there have been some exciting finds among the 20,000 or so stones thus far recovered. Three stones were particularly noteworthy, weighing in at 17.86 carats (1917), 20.25 carats (1921), and the record-setting Uncle Sam Diamond, a brilliant 40.23 carats (1924). About ten percent of the overall swag yields gem-quality stones. Even the industrial-grade stones usually have an attractive natural luster in the rough. Experts declared the gems at least as brilliant and valuable as those produced in South Africa or South America. Most of the stones found at these diamond mines in Arkansas are too small to be cut, and remain as fascinating souvenirs of your Arkansas vacations.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is open every day throughout the year, except
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Numerous nearby attractions in
the region make this vacation destination. There are nearly 60 camping
sites in the park. There is a nearby water park, fishing in the Little Missouri
River, and hiking trails that
are partially wheelchair accessible.