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May 27, 2020
Reservations were limited and visitors needed to bring their own tools, but the good news is that Arkansas’ field of dreams — the Crater of Diamonds State Park — reopened on Friday, May 22, just in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
The 37½-acre search field in Murfreesboro is actually the eroded surface of an ancient diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe. Treasure hunters test their luck at the only diamond site in the world that’s open to the general public.
More than 29,000 diamonds have been found in the crater since it became a state park in 1972.
“We are pleased to be able to welcome people back to search for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds just in time for the Memorial Day weekend,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism. “It is one of the most popular destinations in our system of state parks, and we have had many questions from people who are anxious to again have the opportunity to find and keep their very own gem.”
Due to health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular tourist destination will be limiting attendance and enforcing some restrictions.
The number of daily visitors has been capped at 500, and all of those tickets may be booked online. Be sure to check this site for ticket availability. It’s very likely that the daily tickets will be sold-out and walk-up tickets will be unavailable.
Visitors are encouraged to bring their own diamond mining tools, because there are no rentals at this time. Even though prospectors have found plenty of gems on top of the soil, most diamond hunters like to do a little digging. They use a range of simple tools, from small flowerbed trowels to full-size shovels. Some bring their own sifting screens.
The park staff provides complementary identification and registration of diamonds found at the park.
Face coverings will be required for all persons present in the Visitor Center, Diamond Discovery Center, North & South Sluice Pavilions and all four sun shelters. Children under the age of 10 are not required to wear face coverings. Hand sanitizer will be available for guests in the Visitor Center.
To keep a safe distance in the search field, guests/associated groups will be asked to keep a 12-foot distance between other guests/associated groups, unless they are wearing face coverings.
The mining area is now open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Visitor Center closes at 5 p.m. Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $6 for children 6-12, and kids under 6 get to search for free.
In an average year, amateur diamond hunters will find more than 600 diamonds in all sizes, colors and grades.
In 1990, Shirley Strawn discovered a 3.03-carat diamond near the East Drain section of the park. That rough gem was transformed into a world-class, 1.09-carat round brilliant-cut sparkler, and became the first diamond from the Arkansas state park to earn a perfect grade of “Triple Zero” (Ideal cut/D color/Flawless) from the American Gem Society.
The find was so momentous that the State of Arkansas purchased the diamond, now known as the “Strawn-Wagner” diamond, for $34,700 and made it the centerpiece of the park’s special exhibit. There’s even a prominent marker in the East Drain section of the park to show exactly where it was found.
Credits: Photos courtesy of Arkansas State Parks.