I’m planning my diamond mining adventure: What should I bring?
By Margi Jenks
Every time I plan a trip I try to figure out the right things to pack to stay comfortable and healthy. Most of my trips are repeats-- just in a different state or country. However, going diamond mining is not an experience that most of our visitors to the Crater of Diamonds State Park have previously encountered. I am fascinated by the wide range of items brought by our visitors. So, of course, I have some opinions, based on my own experience out on the diamond search field, as to what works best.
Clothing: When you come to the diamond mine, you should be prepared to get dirty. Whether it is wet or dry, our diamond search area is basically a plowed dirt field. So, wear clothes that you don’t care if they get really dirty or muddy. I recommend the clothes that you wear gardening or hiking. Then, I always hate it when a visitor brings up in a cut diamond that they found on the field, because that means that some other visitor has lost some piece nice jewelry. So, it is wise to leave the jewelry at home. If the forecast is for rain or windy conditions, be sure to bring a wind breaker or rain gear, and layer your clothes. We do sell plastic-bag thickness ponchos, but they don’t do much to cut the wind. Our field this time of year can go from 38 degrees in the morning to the mid-seventies by lunch time. The wind lowers the temperature dramatically as it sweeps across our open field. Finally, rain or shine a hat is an essential part of your diamond mine outfit.
Shoes: Remember those old shoes that you only wear when you are washing the car or mowing the lawn? Bring those. In the summer many of our visitors wear flip-flops or nice sandals. Our field is plowed and not level, so close-toed shoes make the walking easier and safer. For several days after each rain, our field is a muddy mess. Rubber boots work the best, and we sell shoe covers. We have a cleanup area where you can wash the mud off. Children in particular tend to lose their shoes to the mud, so bring an extra pair of dry shoes and socks for them. That will insure that the trip home is more comfortable.
Tools: Mining is not something that most of us have experienced. We know, from watching TV or movies, that mining usually involves digging holes. So, I am fascinated by the variety and ingenuity of the tool choices that people bring to help them dig holes and sift. However, the truth/reality out on our field is that digging a hole, or disturbing the field’s surface, actually works against your odds of finding a diamond. A good hard washing rain prepares our field for people to find diamonds in two ways. First, by washing away the dirt rain reveals any diamonds that are just under the surface. Second, a hard rain may wash a diamond off and carry it along in the little water streams that flow between our plowed rows or in our ditches. If you look for the little gravel bars, and only skim off their tops, you are ahead of the game. That hard rain has not only pre-washed the dirt, but has also concentrated and pre-sorted the gravel by weight. So, all you really need to bring is a garden trowel or a short handled shovel.
We rent a basic kit consisting of a double screen set, used for washing the gravel, a bucket, and a shovel. So, look around in your garage, and bring your own. The bucket will come in handy to carry the dirt up to the washing pavilions, and then later in transporting the washed gravel home. About half of our registered diamonds are found at home. Once you dry the water out of the heavy concentrate gravel, the only rocks that remain really shiny are diamonds. We allow each visitor to take home, each day they visit, up to a 5-gallon bucket of the rocks that remain after screening the dirt. However, you are not allowed to just dig up a bucket full of dirt to take home. If you do, you may be asked to repatriate it back out to our search field.
The double screen set that we rent for water sifting is wooden framed and measures 12 inches square. The top screen is ¼” mesh and the bottom is 1/16” inch, the size of window screen mesh. The plastic or aluminum screening tends to stretch or break, so invest in the sturdier metal screening.
Big and little stuff: All types of wheeled, unpowered wagons or wheelbarrows are allowed out on our field and can come in really handy. They are very useful in the summer for hauling coolers of cold water and drinks out on the field. Our heat index routinely rises over 100 degrees from June to September, so it is important to keep everyone hydrated and comfortable. You can also bring beach umbrellas and pop-up canopies to provide shade. Sunscreen is also an essential item, although the wet sluicing troughs are covered with a roof. In the winter, rubber gloves are essential because those same troughs contain unheated water.
I hope that this list helps when it comes time to pack for your diamond adventure. However, we strive to make sure that our visitors are safe and comfortable. So, if you forget something it is very likely that either the gift shop or the tool rental desk will have what you need for sale.
Search area last plowed: March 8, 2013; Most recent significant rainstorms: thunderstorm
April 10, 2013, 1.9 inches.
Total diamonds found in 2013: 153
Diamond finds for the week of April 7-April 13, 2013 (100 points = one carat):
No diamonds registered April 7
April 8 – Adam Hardin, Barberton, OH, 22 pt. brown
April 9 – Adam Hardin, Barberton, OH, 2 pt. yellow; Cubby, Daytona Beach, FL, 2 pt. white
No diamonds registered April 10 and 11.
April 12 – Kenneth Shoemaker, Murfreesboro, AR, 3 pt. brown
April 13 – Kenneth Shoemaker, Murfreesboro, AR, 23 pt. white; David Anderson, Murfreesboro, AR, 9 pt. yellow