• Crater Of Diamonds State Park

      Photo by Kimberly Goza
      There's only one place in the United States where diamonds are harvested, and there's only one place in the whole world where the public is allowed to dig its own diamonds. Both are the same place: Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. On 37 acres located in a rustic recreational area, you can sift through the dirt or mud and whatever you find, you can keep. An average of 2 to 3 diamonds per day are found here, though most are not valuable (occasionally, however, a very valuable one will be unearthed). The average size is about the size of a match head, so the hunt requires some careful searching. And of course the natural gems look nothing like the cut stones used in jewelry. At this location, they come in three colors: white, yellow and brown. Additionally, semi-precious stones of other varieties often turn up. An orientation film will inform you about what to look for, and park staff will assist you in identifying anything you do find.

      The ground is plowed at irregular intervals to help bring the stones to the surface. Visitors may look for them on the top of the soil, or dig with hand tools (no power digging implements allowed). And you have the option of wet sluicing or dry sluicing, provided the ground isn't too muddy from rain for the latter. In either case, you can rent the equipment you need on-site for a very modest fee. You may also bring your own tools if you wish.

      The odds are against finding a gemstone on any given day, but searching for them is a unique experience. There are few other times when adults have such a good excuse for playing in mud.

      IF YOU GO: An RV campground is located in the park, and nearby recreational opportunities include fishing, hiking and a water park. Wear old clothes when you go prospecting for diamonds, with shoes that you don't mind getting muddy.

      WHEN TO VISIT: Open all year. Winter can be cold in Arkansas, summer is always exceptionally hot, and spring receives a great deal of rainfall.

      JURISDICTION: Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
      INFORMATION VERIFIED: Dennis Goza, March 2011
      ADDRESS: 209 State Park Road, Murfreesboro, AR 71958