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Visitors seek diamonds
at state park

Can you imagine a place where every turn of your shovel can reveal a gem
stone which has been hidden under the surface of the earth for millions of
years ago?

I can, because I have been there.

Arkansas boasts the only diamond producing site open to the public in the
world, the Crater of Diamonds State Park. The park has a finder keeper’s
policy; any gem found is yours to keep.

Once you have found the park, located in Murfreesboro, the hard work
begins. Whether you are a veteran diamond searcher arriving at the park
with knee pads and high tech gear or a first time searcher like myself and
purchase a plastic bucket and shovel from the park gift shop, the hope of a
big find is a real possibility for all visitors.

After you have bought your ticket for $6.50 a person for all day digging,
you have gathered your gear and attended a short session on diamond
hunting techniques all that is left is to get to work.

Walking out onto the 37 acres of field is an overwhelming experience.
Everywhere you look park visitors are literally up to their waists in mud,
holding a possible stone up to the sun to study it or walking up and down
the rows hoping to find a diamond on the surface of the ground. In 2006,
488 diamonds were found at the park.

It is a big decision to decide where to dig. If you chose a good spot you
might go home with a pocket full of diamonds or other gem stones. If not,
you might go home with a bucket full of regular old rocks.

There is no real definitive way to pick a good spot, so I wandered around
for a while until I found a spot that called to me. I dug small holes carefully
scrutinizing each shovel full of dirt. The dirt is a sticky, thick mix between
mud and gumbo. Your finds can be rinsed off in one of the many covered
water areas.

The park also has different equipment such as screens and buckets
available for rent.

If you find something you think is a diamond or other gem it can be taken
to the visitor center and will be identified free of charge.

On this trip I went home with a bucket full of calcite, jasper, regular rocks
and was covered from head to toe in dirt, but the experience hooked me.
Plans are already in the works for a return trip.

Visitors to the park should be sure to wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
It would also be helpful to bring sunscreen and the park allows coolers,
chairs and most anything you can carry in.

The park’s website, http://www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com, reveals
the reasons why diamonds are finding their way to surface of the earth in a
small Arkansas town.

The story of the diamonds recovered at the Crater of Diamonds State Park
begins over 3 billion years ago with the formation of diamonds as the
stable form of carbon in the earth’s mantle. At the tremendous pressures
and temperatures some 60 to 100 miles below the earth’s surface, diamond
crystallized from carbon, and under those conditions it remained stable.

During the past 3 billion years, many geologic changes have taken place
on the surface of the earth. About 100 million years ago, instability in the
Earth’s mantle caused the movement of gas and rock to the surface. This
volcanic vent, known as the “Prairie Creek” diatreme by geologists, rose
rapidly through the upper mantle and crust, carrying with it fragments of
mantle and crystal rocks and minerals, until it came near enough to the
surface to explode due to the release of gases.

When it exploded, it created an 83-acre funnel-shaped crater with sides
sloping inward at about 45 degrees. Much of the airborne material formed
by the initial explosion fell back into the vent. The speed of rise of the mass
allowed the diamonds to be preserved in this material. Geologists calculate
that only about 160 feet of the original vent has been eroded away,
concentrating the heavy minerals, including diamond, in the present day
soil. Diamonds at the Crater are typically found loose in the soil, having
been released during the rapid weathering of this unstable mantle rock.

The first diamond was found here in 1906 by John Huddleston, the farmer
who owned the property. The Crater of Diamonds has changed hands
several times over the years and several unsuccessful attempts have been
made at commercial mining. All such ventures are shrouded in mystery
and lawsuits. Lack of money and fires are among the reasons suspected
for these failures. The mine was operated privately, and later as a tourist
attraction, from 1952 to 1972. In 1972, the State of Arkansas purchased the
Crater of Diamonds for $750,000 for development as a state park. The park
is open year-round except for New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and
Christmas Day.

Pets are allowed at all facilities with the exception of the Diamond Springs
Water Park and Kimberlite Cafe', as long as they remain on a leash under
the owner's control at all times.

The diamond field is open the same hours as the visitor center. The park
features a 37-acre field of diamond bearing soil plowed periodically when
weather allows. These plowings are unscheduled. Historical structures,
old mining equipment, washing pavilions and sun shelters are located on
the field. Diamond mining tools are available for rent or purchase.
Diamonds and other minerals are identified at the Diamond Discovery