Digging for Precious Stones at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Hunt for hidden gems (that you can keep) at the only public diamond mine on earth in Murfreesboro, Arkansas
Guest dig through the earth in search of precious stones at Crater of Diamonds State Park.

Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

“I’ve played enough Minecraft to know where diamonds are,” my 19-year-old cousin says as we schlep across acres of muddy furrows with our rented bucket, sieves, and shovels. Although I’m highly skeptical of the real-world applications of Minecraft, there’s no sense in arguing when he points out a small rivulet of water trickling through the muck. After all, more than 35,000 diamonds have been found on these grounds since Crater of Diamonds State Park opened in 1972—and ours could be anywhere in these 37 plowed acres. So, we dig.

Now, just to be clear: No, this isn’t a joke. Because yes, there really is a state park in mapdot Murfreesboro, Arkansas, where you can find—and keep—actual diamonds hidden within the eroded volcanic soil. (It’s the only public diamond mine on earth.) And while it’s true that everything that glitters might not be an Amarillo Starlight (16.37 carats found in 1975) or an Illusion (8.66 carats found in 2011), much less an Uncle Sam (40.23 carats found in 1924), it’s tough not to feel a flicker of hope knowing a small diamond or two is typically found at the park each day.

After harvesting dirt using our highly sophisticated “pin the tail on the donkey” methodology, we make our way to the covered pavilion of a washing station. There, we begin plunging our hands into enormous tubs of murky water, sifting through dirt clods and rocks of every shape and color, looking for the telltale metallic shine. Around the time I realize that many of our fellow prospectors are using waterproof gloves and custom sieves, I happen to catch a conversation between two old-timers at a nearby tub.

“Never seen so many people who want to get rich quick.”
“Well, that ain’t gonna happen here.”
At this point, I’ll go ahead and state the obvious: We did not get rich quick.

Because while it’s true that someone did find a half-carat yellow diamond in the park that day, it wasn’t us. Not this time. But I think we were both okay with that. After all, there’s always Minecraft.

This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2023 issue of Southbound.