Can you imagine walking along and seeing something shiny on the ground, picking it up to examine, and finding out it is a diamond? Better yet, you are permitted to take the diamond home with you? That is exactly what happens almost every day at Crater of Diamonds State Park near Hot Springs, Arkansas.
When we were planning a visit to Hot Springs, my husband indicated visiting the State Park to try his luck digging for diamonds was on his bucket list. I'm always up for a new adventure or experience, so I was more than willing to add this to our list of things to do.
Located in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, Crater of Diamonds State Park is just over an hour-long drive from Hot Springs and a 2-hour drive from Little Rock.
1. Park Access And Details
When you arrive at the park, you are greeted by a diamond-shaped wood and stone feature at the entrance.
The Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only productive deposit of precious mineral diamonds in the U.S. Visitors are invited to hunt, dig, and sift for diamonds from 8 a.m. till 4 p.m. in this State Park.
The visitor center is a modern building with a gift shop, restrooms, guest registration, displays, and gem examinations.
Outdoor amenities include picnic sites, shade areas, walking trails, and Class AAA and tent camping sites. There is also an area to rinse your shoes and tools as you leave the diamond fields.
The park is open 361.5 days per year, closing only for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Near Year's Day, and at noon on Christmas Eve.
The main path is handicapped accessible, but the plowed field area would not accommodate a wheelchair.
2. Crater Of Diamonds’ History
The diamond field is an eroded surface of a volcanic crater.
Before the field was a state park, John Huddleston, a farmer who owned a portion of the crater, found the first diamond in 1906. He sold the ground, and it changed hands several times and served as a private tourist attraction for over 20 years.
The State of Arkansas purchased the Crater of Diamonds in 1972 to develop a state park. Once opened, there were few visitors until 1975, when a 16.33-carat white diamond was found on the surface by W. W. Johnson. He had it cut into what is known as the Amarillo Starlight.
Another notable diamond find is the Uncle Sam, the largest diamond unearthed in the United States, it was 40.23-carat. This was found prior to the area becoming a state park.
Park visitors have found over 35,000 diamonds since the Crater of Diamonds became a state park.
The three most common diamond colors in the park are white, yellow, and brown.
3. How To Make Reservations Online
Only 1,500 people are allowed to visit the park each day. Once that number is met, no one else can enter. You can purchase your tickets online to be sure you get to attend on the day of your choosing. Most tickets sell out several days in advance, so be sure to make your reservations online ahead of time. Tickets are for a specific day.
4. Diamond Field Details
You will find 37 acres of ground plowed once a month. The entire field is considered diamond-bearing soil.
The diamonds are naturally spread throughout the soil.
There are yellow boundary markers, and you may search anywhere within them.
If you can visit right after they have plowed the fields, it improves your chances of finding diamonds.
When we visited, it was a rainy, overcast day, so we had to deal with a bit of mud. But it wasn't hot, so that was a good thing.
5. Ways To Find Diamonds
There are multiple ways to find diamonds at the park.
Surface searching is where you walk along the plowed surface of the field and look for crystals. They glisten after being exposed by rain or plowing.
Turning soil over with a shovel or garden-type tolls. Any holes you make in the ground while digging must be filled in before leaving for the day. Holes deeper than four feet must be shored up for safety reasons.
Screening Or Sifting
Using a screen, you shake the soil to find the minerals that are too large to sift through the mesh. Screening or sifting requires dry dirt to be effective.
Using available water at washing stations, you rinse dirt through a screen to see what minerals are left behind.
Each person is permitted to remove up to one 5-gallon bucket of sifted dirt per day. Unsifted soil may not be removed.
6. Come Equipped
Some bring wagons, buckets, shovels, screens, and flashlights. You can bring the tools you desire, but they do not permit battery-powered (other than flashlights) or motor-driven devices. If you plan to just walk along and surface search, a flashlight is very helpful on cloudy days.
7. Stay For The Day
Some come for an hour as a quick stop, and others stay for the entire day. Some come back day after day. It is a neat experience and a fun hobby. You never know when you’ll find a diamond -- or how long it will take. We were there for about four hours.
8. The Daily Find
On average, one or two diamonds are found at the park each day.
As of September 23, Crater of Diamonds State Park has had 246 diamonds registered in 2020, weighing a total of 59.25 carats.
On the day we were there, two diamond finds were recorded: One an 11 point diamond and the other a 4 point diamond. Just so you can imagine the size, 100 points equal a carat. 5 points would be the size of a match head.
The day prior to our visit, a 1.46-carat diamond was found.
9. Big Finds Are Marked
As you look across the fields that are part of the park, you will notice several shovels with large signs marking the locations of the first diamond find and the largest diamond find locations.
10. More On Big Diamonds
The largest diamond to be found since the area became a state park was found in August of 1975. The Amarillo Starlight still holds the record as the largest stone found here at over 16 carats.
Just this past September, a nine-carat diamond was found by Arkansas resident Kevin Kinard. It is the second-largest diamond found since 1972.
These are the newsworthy finds. Most of the diamonds are about the size of a match head with a metallic shine.
11. Diamonds Aren’t The Only Find
Other rocks and minerals are found in this area, too, such as jasper, agate, quartz, amethyst, calcite, barite, mica, and lamproite. Some are of value, and others are just volcanic material making up the diamond field's soil.
12. What Happens If You Find A Diamond?
If you find a diamond, no matter how large or small, you get to take it home with you.
If it is a record breaker-type diamond, you will be invited to return for a press photoshoot.
Most times, you won't know you have a diamond till the staff checks your findings at the Diamond Discovery Center. They verify the stones you have. All diamonds are weighed and certified free of charge, and they are yours to keep.
13. First-Timers Find Diamonds, Too
While we did not find a diamond while visiting the crater, we met a young man who found a diamond during his first visit a year ago. Cason from Dallas, Texas, was 10 when he found a diamond. He and his family were back for a second visit to try their luck again.
Cason and his brother were kind enough to show us the ropes of wet sifting. Cason is a pro at this. He told me that although the diamond he found was small, it was still very exciting, and he had fun telling everyone about it. He was hoping to find an even bigger diamond this year.
14. Additional Tips
- Wear shoes that can get muddy or even be ruined.
- Wear comfortable clothing that you don't mind getting dirty.
- Sunscreen on sunny days is a requirement. There is little or no shade, just open fields.
- A hat would be helpful to shade your face from the sun.
- Bug spray would come in handy at times.
- Bring a snack and plenty of water. They do have a cafe, but it wasn't open due to COVID.
- Bring from home, purchase, or rent equipment to use for digging, sifting, sorting, et cetera.
- Pets are welcome but must be leashed. We saw numerous dogs on the day we visited.
- Get everything you find checked. Some diamonds and gems don't actually look like anything special, but they are!
If you are visiting the Hot Springs area, I highly recommend you try your luck hunting diamonds. It is a one-of-a-kind experience and an adventure to share with friends and family when you return home. Who knows? You just might take home a diamond. Another gem? Our fantastic Arkansas road trip: Bentonville to Memphis. While in the area, you can also plan to enjoy some of our picks for the eight best hikes in stunning Arkansas.