Crater of Diamonds State Park Enjoying Spotlight
Zoie Clift, travel writer####
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
News about Crater of Diamonds State Park has been making the rounds. The park, affectionately known as the “Crater,” has been in the spotlight recently, routinely harnessing coverage from national and international outlets such as the BBC, CNN and the Travel Channel.
“The year was a banner year because so many nice large diamonds came out of the park,” said park superintendent Tom Stolarz. “At least eight or more notable diamonds made the news.”
On average, park visitors find more than 600 diamonds each year of all colors and grades. Though the year’s totals came in a bit below average, 488 were found; the difference, and what has caught people’s attention, is that visitors were finding bigger diamonds. Over 15 diamonds weighed in over a carat, with the total weight for the year coming in at 117.51 carats.
Many are amazed to learn there is a place in Arkansas where they can go and dig for diamonds, which were first mined in India over 2700 years ago. The park, which is the only diamond site in the nation 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 crater itself is a 37 ½-acre open field that is plowed from time to time to bring diamonds and other gemstones to the surface. Recently, park staff have worked to enhance and increase a visitor’s chance at finding diamonds. New levels of dirt have been unearthed for searching in the park, including a trench in the East Drain in August of ‘05 and another trench in the West Drain that opened in September the next year. Stolarz credits these new trenches as catalysts for the speed at which visitors have currently been finding diamonds.
Over 25,000 diamonds have been found by visitors since Crater became a state park in 1972. 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 first diamond was found here in 1906 by John Huddleston, who owned the property. Other noteworthy finds include the “Uncle Sam” (40.23 carats), the largest diamond ever unearthed in the nation; the “Amarillo Starlight” (16.37 carats) the largest diamond ever unearthed by a visitor; and the “Strawn-Wagner Diamond,” which was certified a perfect grade by the American Gem Society. It weighed 3.03 carats in the rough and 1.09 carats cut. A diamond this perfect, and weighing over a carat after cutting it, is estimated to occur around one time in a billion. It’s even rarer coming from a non-commercial diamond mine such as Crater. Some diamonds from the park are also on display at the Smithsonian’s Musuem of National History in Washington, DC.
The diamonds may not always be easy to find, but they are out there. “If you really want to find a diamond out here, you will,” said Stolarz, who has worked at the park for 24 years and served as superintendent for three. “It’s a matter of patience, persistence and perseverance.”
In addition to diamonds, visitors may find semi-precious gems such as jasper and amethyst, or minerals such as quartz and barite. The remainder of the park consists of a visitors center, an interpretive center, the Diamond Springs water playground, campsites, and walking trails such as the 1.2-mile River Trail along the Little Missouri River.
Murfreesboro is located just south of Hot Springs. The park is open daily (except designated holidays) and admission to the diamond search area is $6.50 for adults and $3.50 for kids 6-12 years old. With advance notice, organized groups of 15 persons or more can receive a group discount. More information can be found at craterofdiamondsstatepark.com.