About five years ago, I saw a story on the Today Show about a family that found a large diamond at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Ever since I saw that, I knew I wanted to take the kids. Both of my kids LOVE to dig in the dirt and I knew that if I told them they could search for diamonds, they would totally want to do it. So I began researching Crater of Diamonds State Park.
Crater of Diamonds State Park is in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. If we had an RV, we could have stayed at an RV/campground right down the road from the park, but we (well mainly me) chose to stay in a hotel. We have family that work in the hotel industry so I had to look for a Hyatt or a Marriott hotel. I found a Fairfield Inn that was about an hour from the park in Texarkana, Texas. The hotel staff blew me away. They were the friendliest, most accommodating hotel I have ever stayed at. I would definitely stay their again!
About Crater of Diamonds State Park
From their website:
The history of diamonds in Arkansas began when the first diamonds were found in Pike County, Arkansas in August 1906 by John Wesley Huddleston. These stones were sent to Charles S. Stifft, a Little Rock jeweler who confirmed them to be genuine diamonds. Stifft described them as blue-white diamonds, one weighing 2-5/8 carats and the other 1-3/8 carats. To verify his opinion, Stifft sent them to New York and states that “…after subjecting them to every test they were pronounced diamonds of fine grade.”
Early in 1906, Huddleston, a farmer, purchased the 160-acre McBrayer farm to make a home for his family, a decision that would etch him into history. Huddleston recounted the first diamonds found in Arkansas to Tom Shiras of the Arkansas Gazette: “I was crawling on my hands and knees …when my eyes fell on another glittering pebble…I knew it was different from any I had ever seen before. It had a fiery eye that blazed up at me every way I turned it. I hurried to the house with the pebble, saddled my mule and started for Murfreesboro…riding through the lane, my eye caught another glitter, and I dismounted and picked it up out of the dust.”
Huddleston sold his diamond-bearing land for $36,000. According to a book by Howard Millar, it was Finders Keepers at America’s Only Diamond Mine, 1976, Huddleston became “… nationally famous, and had acquired the nickname ‘Diamond John’.” Although he was also known as the “Diamond King,” he later met with some misfortunes and died a pauper, but was said to have had no regrets. He is buried in Japany Cemetery, about three miles east of the diamond mine.
I find this to be extremely interesting! Can you imagine walking into your backyard and finding diamonds? Crazy!
How it Works
When you go to the park, you pay a small fee to go out and dig for diamonds. Kids are only $5 and adults are $8. For hours and hours of entertainment, I find those to be VERY reasonable prices! You are allowed to bring whatever you would like to dig with, so long as it is NOT battery operated. We brought:
- 2 buckets
- Small gardening shovel for each of us
- 2 medium sized shovels
One thing I wish we did bring was a pickaxe. Funny enough, when we were at Home Depot getting another gardening shovel, my son ran around begging us to get a pickaxe. I told him no, that we didn’t need one. However, I did see people there with them and it did make things easier for them!
Crater of Diamonds State Park also offers equipment rentals. You can rent everything you would need. The only thing we rented were the screens…two that were used for water sifting and then a finishing screen. You could easily make it yourself, but the rental is very inexpensive and I personally did not want to have to lug it back home. Simply pay a small fee (like $3 each item) and a deposit, which you get back once you return the items, and you have the tools you need.
When we arrived, I was impressed with the park. It has a water park (that you pay a separate fee for), a gift shop, a small cafe and then the huge diamond digging field. What I was NOT impressed with was the staff working the desk where you buy your tickets or pay for your gift shop items. We got there at 5:30 pm because the website stated that any ticket purchased after 4 pm would have those few hours to dig and then the entire next day. The lady at the desk told me I was wrong and that it was 6 pm. Now I know 30 minutes really isn’t the biggest deal in the world, but when I physically pulled the website up on my phone and she read where it clearly stated after 4 pm, she still argued with me and refused to sell me the tickets. Another employee even went on the computer, looked up their site and saw exactly what I just showed them and they STILL wouldn’t sell me the ticket.
Eventually one of the employees spoke with the manager and the manager told her that it did indeed change to 4 pm, so the woman sold us our tickets. She did apologize for arguing with me, which was nice, but at the same time, it wasn’t the greatest first impression of the place.
That night we decided to just dig and surface search for diamonds. I was super excited thinking I found one, but it was calcite! My kids, however were thrilled with all the Jasper (river rock) they found. We have BAGS of it in the trunk right now! We decided that the next day we needed to rent the screens. Using the screens and water sifting was the way to find the diamonds. We still didn’t find any, but we did find lots of quartz, Jasper, mica, and calcite!
We absolutely loved it there. Our kids are already planning another trip there for next year! I know they have dreams of striking it rich by finding a bunch of diamonds, but I’m just glad for the fun, family memories!