It’s no secret that The Natural State is a prime destination for outdoor activities and boasts some seriously beautiful landscapes. Popular attractions include hiking, rock climbing, and watersports, as well as gem mining! Did you know Arkansas is home to the only active diamond mine in the Continental United States? It’s true, and even better, Crater of Diamonds State Park is a keep-what-you-find dig site, making it the most popular spot for gem mining in Arkansas!
Along with the famous Murfreesboro diamond mine, there are also several fun options for quartz and crystal mining in Arkansas! In this travel guide, we’ll hook you up with all the details of visiting Crater of Diamonds State Park and highlight a few of the smaller gem mines in the state too. Let’s dig in!
Gem Mining in Arkansas: Exploring Crater of Diamonds State Park
When it comes to Arkansas gem mining, there’s no better place to start our journey than the premier diamond mine in the state. The rather famous Crater of Diamonds State Park draws visitors from all over the world to dig for its precious gemstones. Without further ado, let’s jump into the details of this unique Arkansas attraction!
What is Crater of Diamonds?
Crater of Diamonds is one of the only places in the entire world where the general public can pan for diamonds from the original volcanic source. You could say, it’s a real gem! The park consists of 37 acres of fields, featuring a large variety of rocks, gemstones, quartz, and minerals. This surplus of sparkle spreads across the eroded surface of a volcanic crater. When you arrive at the park, you’ll be outfitted with gear and sent to try your luck at finding a fortune. As mentioned, any gemstone you find in the park is yours to keep…or sell.
The park is home to white, yellow, and brown diamonds in their raw form. You may also see amethyst, jasper, garnet, agate, and quartz. The park opened in 1972, but before that, the Arkansas Diamond Corporation operated out of the Prairie Creek Pipe Mine.
Visitors and mine workers have found more than 35,000 diamonds in the fields. The largest ever found was a 40.23-carat diamond named Uncle Sam, the largest ever found in the United States. It is now on display at the Smithsonian’s American Museum of Natural History, though it has been massively cut down. Other notable finds include the 16.37-carat Amarillo Starlight and the 15.33-carat Star of Arkansas!
Fun Fact: Uncle Sam was faceted by Schenk & Van Haelen of NYC along with many other Arkansas diamonds over the years. The jewelers stated that Arkansas diamonds were so hard that they could only be cut with the powder remnants of other Arkansas diamonds!
Crater of Diamonds is located in the small town of Murfreesboro, in Southwest Arkansas’ Pike County. It’s about an hour north of Texarkana. Murfreesboro is an excellent educational day out as it is also home to the only open Native American mound settlement in the United States. Ka-Do-Ha Indian Village is more than 1000 years old, and it’s a perfect addition to your gem mining day. The small museum details the lives of the Native American tribes that built the mounds and displays artifacts found in the area. You can continue your gem hunting as well because any arrowheads or crystals you find on the site are yours to keep!
Crater of Diamonds State Park
209 State Park Rd
Murfreesboro, AR 71958
Ka-Do-Ha Indian Village
281 Kadoha Rd, Murfreesboro, AR 71958
Getting Your Bearings
Start your adventure at Crater of Diamonds in the visitor center. Here, you can view some of the uncut diamonds found in the park and educate yourself on the geology and history of the region. Then, head for the Diamond Discovery Center where they’ll teach you handy gem mining techniques to increase your chances of finding a big boy. We definitely recommend spending some time here first and asking a few questions. Raw diamonds rarely look anything like the polished beauties in Zale’s window displays. The more you know, the easier it will be to pick out a gem amongst the rubble.
Time to Dig
After you become a diamond expert, it’s time to get to business. If you have your own gem mining equipment, you’re more than welcome to bring it. However, no motorized or battery-powered equipment is allowed. This is a handtool-only operation. If you don’t have your own equipment, you can rent it on-site. The 37 acres are yours to wander, and the staff plows it monthly to keep the soil soft and help uproot gems. there’s also historic mining equipment, washing pavilions, and sun shade in the fields.
You access the digging fields by passing through the Diamond Discovery Center, where you can also get your equipment. Most pieces of mining gear rent for $5. Check out the full list of equipment and prices here.
There are three types of mining you can do at Crater. Surface searching is the most popular and the most productive. You simply walk along and scan with your eyes for anything of luster. You may use hand tools to disrupt the soil. Secondly, dry sifting involves using a mesh screen to sift loose soil. Once you only have gravel left in your sifter, you can examine it carefully for shiny bits! This method is most productive when the soil is very dry. Lastly, wet sifting involves taking a bucket of dirt and “washing” it with water, through a screen, to sort out the gravel. There are two wet-sifting stations on the lower part of the search area.
Note to diamond hunters: The park does not allow you to take dirt home, but each person may take home a 5-gallon bucket of sifted gravel. Many visitors have later found diamonds within the rubble they took home to study more closely.
Where to Find Gemstones
According to the state park statistics, most diamonds are found by surface searching the edges of the newly plowed rows. Diamonds are heavy, and they are often found near large mineral or rock deposits. Unlike diamonds, amethyst is found in veins. So, if you see one, you’ll likely find a few more nearby. Amethyst is more commonly found in the southwest corner of the dig site, known as Canary Hill.
What to Do if You Find a Gem
There are gem identification sheets under the pavilions on the dig site. If you think you’ve found a possible gemstone, take it to the Diamond Discovery Center. The experts there will verify what you’ve found and certify your diamond. They do not grade or appraise diamonds, but they’ll verify what you’ve found and give you some pointers on what to do next.
While gem mining is the main attraction, there’s so much more to do at Crater. Let’s start with the mini waterpark! After you work up a sweat in the field, you can shower off and hit the slides for a refreshing afternoon.
The park also features bank fishing for catfish, bream, and largemouth bass on the Little Missouri River. The river is regularly stocked with trout as well, and public boating is available from the Terrell Access point. The best time for fishing is in late summer. A fishing license is required.
Crater of Diamonds also boasts beautiful walking trails like Prospector Trail and the Little Missouri River Trail. If you’re a wildlife lover, make sure to check out the Wildlife Observation Blind Trail!
Lastly, keep an eye on the events calendar for the park. They often host special exhibitions like mining demonstrations, Daybreak Diamond Tours, and Jasper Bingo! To get the most comprehensive rock mining experience, you’ll definitely want to join one of these guided tours!
Don’t forget to stop in the gift shop before you leave for a unique souvenir to remember your day!
Crater of Diamonds State Park Tickets are valid for one full day. Tickets can be purchased online or at the visitor center.
Diamond Search Area Tickets
Admission Pass for 20 visits-$220
Children under 6 are free.
Hours of Operation
The diamond search area is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm; it’s closed on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day.
Diamond Springs Water Park Tickets
Children 42 inches and up-$12
Children under 42 inches-$10
Chaperone (non-water admission)-$3
Family Season Pass-$230
Group (20+) -$199
Hours of Operation
Diamond Springs Water Park is mining-themed, of course, and is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Hours of operation: 11 am- 5 pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
If you plan on turning your day trip into a weekend, there are several great spots in and around the state park to spend the night. The park offers multiple picnic sites: 47 Class AAA campsites, and 5 tent sites. The AAA campsites offer water, sewer, and 50Amp electrical hookups. Campsites can be booked online. Class AAA sites are $40 per night and tent sites are $15. The campsites are open year-round.
If camping isn’t your thing, stick with the mining theme, and book a room at Diamonds Old West Cabins. They are located just north of Murfreesboro, giving you easy access to Crater of Diamonds and Ka-Do-Ha Indian Village. The cabins are built to look like Wild West saloons and arranged with the feel of a frontier town. They’re adorable, and booking starts at $135/ night.
What to Bring
If you’re planning on Arkansas gem mining in the summer, you may need to bring some sunshade. There are a few tents and pavilions set up on the site, but you’re more than welcome to bring your own. You can set up your tent, umbrella, or pavilion anywhere on the dig site. Just make sure it’s taken down and that you’ve removed all your equipment before closing time. You cannot leave them up overnight.
You’ll also need a water bottle for each family member, swimsuits for those who want to enjoy the waterpark, sunglasses, sunhats, and sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty (that goes for clothes too). If you have sensitive hands, you might consider bringing some gardening gloves. If you don’t plan on renting equipment, then you’ll need to bring your own hand shovels, buckets, and sifting kits. Remember, each person can take home a 5-gallon bucket of gravel, so you may want to bring some storage buckets.
Also, pets are welcome, so bring anything you need to keep Fido comfortable!
Alternative Gem Mining in Arkansas
While our primary focus today has been on Crater of Diamonds State Park, there are actually several other viable options for mining gemstones in the state. Here are a few standouts!
Note: Due to the need for peridotite soil to produce gemstones, most of the Arkansas crystal mines are located within easy driving distance from one another in SW Arkansas.
Board Camp Crystal Mine-Mena
Board Camp is located 10 miles east of the city of Mena in the Ouachita Mountain area. They offer a self-dig mine that is very accessible to all, and they help show you how to hunt crystals. They also offer guided tours to discuss the extraterrestrial phenomenon at the site that has brought it some fame in the last few years. Unlike most of the dig sites, this mine is located in the forest, so it’s shaded!
Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines-Mt Ida
Just up the road in Mt Ida, Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines offers rare Phantom crystals. They have multiple mining options on site with varying levels of difficulty and prices. It’s a stunning area with close proximity to Lake Ouachita State Park and Rich Mountain (the second-tallest Arkansas mountain).
Sweet Surrender Crystals-Story
Sweet Surrender is a completely primitive digging experience located at 288 Horseshoe Bend Rd, Story, AR 71970. There are no facilities, just a port-a-potty and a big quarry to dig in. They don’t have a website. Owners just ask that you call ahead to let them know you’re coming (870) 867-0104).
Ron Coleman Mining-Jessieville
Located just 30 minutes from Hot Springs National Park (also famous for quartz) is the little town of Jessieville. The Coleman family dominates the mining industry in Jessieville. There are a couple of dig sites— Ron Coleman Mining and Jim Coleman Mines, as well as several rock shops. This is a great place to find huge crystal clusters. The largest found in the Ron Coleman Mine was 9 feet long and weighed over 3,000 pounds! The owners guarantee you’ll find enough quartz to cover your entry cost, or they’ll give you a gift card for the gift shop to cover it! They offer guided mine tours, ziplining, and camper/tent campsites.
Avant Mining Fisher Mountain Rock Shop and Public Dig-Mt Ida
The second Mt Ida entry is Avant Mining. Opened in 2010, the mine is over 12,000 acres and encompasses the oldest public dig mine in the state—Ocus Stanley Claim on Fisher Mountain. Uniquely, it’s not only a crystal mine. It’s also the only gem-quality turquoise mine in the Eastern United States! Along with a public dig site, they also have a mineral museum, a gift shop, and a coffee shop!
Closing Thoughts on Gem Mining in Arkansas
Hopefully, we’ve convinced you that Arkansas is a great place to dig in the dirt! Whether you’re looking for a colorful gemstone to make your own jewelry, need a cheap diamond for your future fiance, or are just trying to entertain the kiddos for a while, the gem mines of Arkansas are the place to be! Our gem mines are the perfect educational day out! Benefits of gem mining include family bonding, increased geological knowledge, time spent outdoors absorbing minerals from the Earth, and much more!
Arkansas gem mines feature a wide array of digs, varying exhibits illustrating the geology and history of mining in the state, and fun extra attractions. If you’re lucky, it might even be a pretty profitable day trip! So, pack your bucket and shovel. Lather up that sunscreen, and head for your closest gem mining park!
‘Til next time…happy digging!
For more fun Arkansas days out, take a look at “Exploring the Natural State With Kids: 60+ Fun Attractions in Arkansas!”
Winter’s dreary days got you down? Check out our list of “The Best Arkansas Museums for Cultural Family-Fun Day!”