Part II: Off the Beaten Path

What is that shiny something on the ground? Our oldest son has asked us that question probably a dozen times in his quest to find the perfect rock for his collection. One place that we visited where we had to take a much closer look before responding to the boy’s question is Murfreesboro, Arkansas-—home of the Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Over 75, 000 diamonds have been unearthed at the unusual geologic formation (an eroded surface of an ancient volcanic pipe) since 1907. The largest find at the site was made in 1924 when a 40 karat diamond was discovered.

This park is a one of kind place where visitors are allowed to keep any of the rocks that they find. Last year, park officials reported over 612 white, yellow and brown diamonds being found at the site. The state’s website has a recent press release on a Michigan man who found a 4.6 karat white diamond on his trip to the site this past September.

Due to the rural location of the park, my own research, and after speaking with persons who live in that area, we planned to make the park one of several stops on our trip. Before going, we knew that it would be hot, there is little shade in the mining area itself, and that most folks do lots of digging with no idea what they are looking for. Fortunately, our crew enjoys digging and getting dirty, and I had prepared them for the probable outcome—-of not finding the big diamond.

As a result, we had several other activities to keep us entertained on a three day adventure.

--Ron Coleman s Quartz Mine was a big hit with the family rock hunting crew. We spent several hours digging at the site and collecting white and crystal quartz pieces on our first afternoon in the area, and stopped again on our way to the airport to for one last visit.

Staffers at the site were courteous and eager to help find hunks of quartz. My son brought back so much quartz that I had to the pay the airlines an extra fee for the abnormally heavy suitcase (no wonder my shoulder was hurting carrying that bag from the rental car place). Finding quartz helped ease the disappointment in not finding diamonds.

--We stayed at the DeGray Lake Resort which was fantastic and had lots of kid-friendly stuff to do. The water level was down when we visited, but grandpa and his grandson still caught a dozen or so small fish on the shore near the lodge. The lodge has guided night hikes, a restaurant (where the boy got his first taste of frog legs), a swimming pool, and nice rooms that were appreciated by all.

If you enjoy geocaching, several treasures were hidden near the lodge as well. If we had the chance to return to the area and bring the rest of the curtain climbers, I would want to stay at DeGray again.

--We took the Duck vehicle tour (the vehicle that travels on water and land) in Hot Springs and the guide was hilarious. He did recover nicely after we were all stopped in Hot Springs traffic and while waiting saw a young woman crossing the busy street nearly be run over by an SUV. We looked around some of the tourist areas in Hot Springs and climbed the mountain view tower.

On a final note about the Crater of Diamonds trip, we brought back a couple of small bags of dirt and rocks. I am still holding out hope that somewhere in our collection, a valuable diamond is waiting to be discovered. If you are ever in Central Arkansas, a detour for diamond hunting is certainly a worthy adventure.


mrs. fuzz said...

That actually sounds like a lot of fun! Digging for diamonds. Another place I've never heard of. I think Geo caching sounds like fun. My husband has said he would like to do that with the kids.

Slamdunk said...

Our oldest son loves geocaching--it is a great excuse to be outside and discover unknown places. I had an older posting on the subject here: Geocaching.