Crater of Diamonds State Park Celebrates 40 Years
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Zoie Clift, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
North America’s largest diamond and more than 75,000 other diamonds have been found in a field southeast of Murfreesboro since farmer John Huddleston discovered the first gems in the field in 1906. Since 1972, the site has been preserved as Crater of Diamonds State Park.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the park.
Park Superintendent Justin Dorsey says special programs will be held on March 15th, the anniversary date of the park’s creation. “We’ll be doing programs on the history of the park and how it has changed over the past 40 years,” he said. “Because the anniversary falls on a Thursday, we’ll continue the special programming over the weekend and through the next week, which is Spring Break.”
Many are surprised to learn there is a place in Arkansas where one can go and dig for diamonds. The park, the world’s only diamond-producing site open to the public, is located above an eroded volcanic pipe. For a small fee, visitors can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep what they find.
The search area at the park is a 37 1/2 acre plowed field on the eroded surface of the eighth largest diamond-bearing deposit in the world (in surface area). More than 500 diamonds were found at the park last year.
“It was a record year for large diamonds,” said Dorsey. “We registered 30 diamonds over one carat.” He added that two of them, the 8.66 ct Illusion Diamond (3rd) and the 6.67 ct Teamwork Diamond (9th), are among the ten top diamond finds at the park in the past 40 years. “I hope to see this trend continue into 2012,” he said. “We are also nearing the milestone 30,000th diamond mark (as of January 20, the mark was at 29,933). I expect it to be found this year.”
What sets Crater diamonds apart are color (the vast majority of diamonds found here are white, brown and yellow), luster (many look like small pieces of metal) and shape (if not broken they are usually very smooth and well rounded). The largest diamond discovered by visitors since the site became an Arkansas state park was the 16.37-carat Amarillo Starlight found in 1975.
It is stories like these that park interpreters enjoy sharing. “Every day we meet people who have just learned about our park,” said Waymon Cox, who has worked as a park interpreter at Crater of Diamonds for four years. “They don’t realize the state park has been here for 40 years now, and they haven’t heard of the many fascinating discoveries folks just like them have made over the years. It’s always a lot of fun to share some of the park’s best stories with someone new.”
March also marks the start of a new program series at the park called Visit with an Expert Miner. The program (scheduled for March 14, 24, June 2, and October 6) offers visitors a chance to meet the park’s regular diamond prospectors.
The idea started after a similar scenario was filmed as part of a reality show demo this past summer. “People really enjoyed the opportunity to hear from some of the ‘regulars’ that search here almost every day,” said Dorsey. “They have a chance to interact and ask questions that only they can answer. The miners are equally excited to share their story with hopeful visitors.”
More than 106,000 visitors came through the park last year. “My favorite aspect of this job is the visitors,” said Cox. “Every time I do a demonstration, I ask where people are visiting from. It’s fascinating to hear all the different states people name off. I also love pointing out the social aspect of this park. While searching for diamonds, visitors will often talk to each other and make connections with people from all over the country. Not only might someone from Michigan be working right next to someone from California, but as they talk they often find they either know the same person or once lived in the same area. It’s a visitor experience not often found at other parks.”
Dorsey said he is honored to be a part of the park staff that will be celebrating this landmark year. “Over the past 40 years we have had a number of special people work here, and the current staff and I continue that legacy,” he said. “We realize this park will be here for visitors to enjoy for many more years after we are all gone. And as we celebrate how far we’ve come, we remember that we are charged with ensuring future generations the same experience.”
Crater of Diamonds State Park is located two miles southeast of downtown Murfreesboro. For more information contact Justin Dorsey, park superintendent, Crater of Diamonds State Park, at 870-285-3113, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Crater of Diamonds State Park is located at 209 State Park Road in Murfreesboro.
Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
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