Maximizing my Crater of Diamonds dig
February 9, 2016 8:57 AM   Subscribe

I'll be at the Crater of Diamonds state park for ~4 days, camping on site. I want to have a ton of fun, while doing some serious diamond hunting. Advice?

4 full days, will have my jeep, and can get any tools needed.

posted by Jacen to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The diamonds are located in a rock called lamproite, which looks like this (about the first 20 images). They do eventually come out in the surrounding soil, though. You will generally have better luck after it rains and new areas are exposed.
posted by Gneisskate at 9:55 AM on February 9, 2016

I've only been there a day but had the best results walking around (it was after a heavy rain) and sifting. However, I'm a geologist, super practiced at "walking around" and looking for things - I saw a few minerals and a very very small diamond (much smaller than pea sized) that other people walked right over - so sifting might be your best bet since you have the time. The best stuff is in the tailing piles - small "runs" of gravel. You'll probably see some regular collectors there - watch where they dig and note the soil. With four days, you can try different methods out (washing station, walking around, digging, etc.).

Bring some tweezers to help pick up smaller finds. Are you planning on renting screens onsite? You might want to consider bringing your own that's made for your reach if you have an unusually long or short wingspan, torso, etc. You just need some fine mesh and some spare lumber to DIY. If you have an excellent trowel or shovel that you prefer, bring those too - you'll be much more comfortable than with the stuff they rent. If you're planning on screening and digging and want to sit, bring a comfortable, collapse type chair - they rent some but they're not great. And an umbrella that you can lash to your chair or stick in the ground, that might be a good idea - it can get hot. Sunscreen, water, hat, sunglasses, water, gloves if you might get blisters. It can be (alternatively) dirty, dusty, muddy, so appropriate clothes and boots.

The biggest thing to be prepared for is what the diamonds in the rough look like. They're small, a few different colors, and somewhat rounded and smooth, almost greasy. If you walk around, try it after you've been sifting and found one - it will help your eye. The best time of time of day for walking is the late afternoon and early morning. Full sun washes everything out - looking for minerals kind of follows the same rules as photography.

I could say a lot more but the staff there do a really great job at explaining what to look for and how to look for it that I won't do as good a job as you just showing up and listening to them/reading their information. Don't get down if you don't find one for a day or two - I talked to a regular there who said he could go a few days without finding anything, and much longer without finding anything "good".

I would like to add that when I go to place with a lot of different mineral types I like to make a little pocket cheat sheet to help me ID 'em. To do that, I simply make a nice little grid print out for an index card, include a picture or two and how to ID each mineral, then tape it to the index card with clear packing tape as a cheap laminating alternative. A streak plate can be handy if you're serious. There's amethyst and garnets - I found some really nice garnets. IIRC there's quartz and agate as well.

If you want to do other things in the area, there's some great parks 'round there, some good, but short, hiking to the Little Missouri; I heard there's some great fishing as well. Hopefully some folks from the area will chime in with more detail. Also if you like a wee nip on the sly (since you're in a state park), the state park itself is in a dry county.
posted by barchan at 9:58 AM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

Definitely go in the visitors center and take a good look at what the diamonds will look like before they're cut and polished. Good luck! I hope you find one!
posted by ilovewinter at 11:46 AM on February 9, 2016

If you're going this time of year, be prepared for mud mud mud MUD MUD MUD MUD. You will get muddy. This surprises many people, for some reason.

I went all the time growing up. It's a pretty awesome trip for kids, because you don't often get handed an educational field trip that includes getting as filthy as possible. I never found a diamond, but lots of other neat things. Plus, check out the dozens of crystal and gem shops nearby.

If you drive up to Hot Springs, have a soak in the tubs to soothe your bones when you get tired of being cold and wet. The Arlington is a popular choice, but I like the Quapaw better.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 1:15 PM on February 9, 2016

This may be relevant, a recent article called "Rockhounding in Arkansas" that features an earth science assistant prof from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. There's a link to the radio segment the article's based on.

While you're there, get yourself a piece of novaculite to use as a whetstone (these are still called Arkansas stones or Arkansas whetstones in the area).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2016

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