Coping with Crater mud
By Margi Jenks
The 1.1 inches of rain that we received here at the Crater of Diamonds State Park on Saturday, the 26th, prompted today’s topic. Yes, when it rains our search area field turns into a muddy mess. Usually discussing mud is not a very interesting topic. But, because the search area mud poses some hazards for our visitors, I decided to tackle this “boring” subject.
First, a little geology—our volcanic mud is naturally more or at least as sticky as the red clay or the black gumbo commonly found in other areas of the United States. All of these soils are sticky for the same reasons. First, adding water brings out the soil's adhesive properties. Second, generally clay soil has a negative electrical charge and therefore sticks to things that are positively charged, like our shoes. Volcanic soils also often contain a particular sticky type of clay called “bentonite.” Bentonite weathers from volcanic ash, which we have in abundance here at the diamond mine. It is highly self-sticky, which gives us that growing many inches taller feeling as the clay builds up on the bottoms of our shoes. It also is absorbent, swells when it comes in contact with water, and so it doesn’t dry quickly.
So, how do you cope with such sticky, nasty stuff? A little preparation goes a long way. First, wear clothes that you don’t mind getting muddy. Second, either wear rubber or leather boots or at least shoes that velcro or tie. The shoes should also be the ones that you don’t care if they get dirty. A good wash in the washing machine usually gets off the clay, but may not get off the clay color, so you don’t want to wear your nice white athletic shoes. Flip-flops and sandals generally don’t work at all, because they literally get sucked off by our mud. When we plow we always resurrect lots of shoes and socks, and some of them are adult sizes. We have a cleanup area to wash off the mud, but after that wash a change of shoes is always nice, rather than riding home with uncomfortably wet feet.
Finally, the Crater mud sometimes causes two hazards. First, when people dig holes, especially the large and deep ones, they do fill them in with dirt, as our rules require. However, they don’t generally tamp the dirt down. When it rains, these holes fill up with water, and turn into what I call “quick mud”. People often sink to their knees in the mud, and we have had adults sink to their hips. It makes for an exciting and memorable day, which sometimes requires our maintenance department to help with the extraction. The best way to avoid this adventure is to keep everyone, especially children, away from areas of standing water on our field. Yes, I know that children and puddles are like magnets, but because our puddles do not have a hard “floor” under them, it is best to avoid them.
For many of our visitors, especially in the summer when temperatures are warm, the solution to our mud problem is to go barefoot. It is lots of fun, especially for children. Unfortunately, in the 1960’s, the owner of the south part of our search field let people camp on the search area. This means that our search area contains quite a bit of “historic” broken glass. Several times each day visitors bring pieces of glass to our rock ID table. And, at least once a year some visitor will get cut with the glass, sometimes enough to need stitches. So, be careful when you go barefoot out on our diamond field.
As with any hazard, a little prevention will make your diamond-hunting visit enjoyable, even in the mud. We don’t want our field of mud to spoil your field of diamond dreams.
Search area last plowed: Weekly; Most recent significant rainstorms: 1.1” October 26, 2013
Total diamonds found in 2013: 405
Diamonds registered for October 20 – October 26, 2013 (100 points = 1 carat):
October 20 – Thom Bishop II, Houston, TX, 7 pt. white
October 21 – No diamonds were registered
October 22 – Adam Hardin, Norton, OH, 4 pt. white
October 23 – Kenneth Shoemaker, Murfreesboro, AR, 30 pt. yellow; Monica Kelsey, Woodburn, IN, 56 pt. yellow
October 24– No diamonds were registered
October 25 – Adam Hardin, Norton, OH, 3 pt. yellow, 7 pt. white; Kenneth Shoemaker, 4 pt. yellow
October 26 – Brian & Max Mayhew, Middleton, WI, 16 pt. yellow; Emma Wood, Chidester, AR, 53 pt. brown