Plowing for Diamonds in Arkansas

Crater of Diamonds State Park is the world’s only diamond-producing site open to the public. On average, two diamonds are found each day at the park.

The state park’s policy is finder-keepers. What park visitors find is theirs to keep.

Diamonds come in all colors of the rainbow. The colors found at the Crater of Diamonds are white, brown, and yellow, in that order.

The search area at the Crater of Diamonds State Park is a 37 ½-acre plowed field, the eroded surface of the eighth largest diamond-bearing deposit in the world in surface area.

Why plow the search field at the diamond mine?

The practice of plowing the diamond field goes back to the earliest days of commercial diamond mining, according to Park Interpreter Margi Jenks.

In the early 1900s miners used a mule team and farming plow to dig trenches. After tourism began in the 1950s, Millar’s Crater of Diamonds used a road grader to turn over the dirt on what is now the north end of the present diamond search area.

Today’s plowing does several good things. First, it fills in any holes that our diamond searchers may have left unfilled. Unfilled holes are a hazard to our visitors, which is the reason that we ask our searchers to fill in their holes at the end of each search day. Filling those holes one-by-one would be time-consuming for our maintenance staff. So, with the blade on the dozer, as we plow the field, we also fill all the holes at one time.

The second, and most important reason to plow, is to turn over the dirt. That ensures searchers are not always looking through the same dirt.

Visitors at Crater of Diamonds look through freshly plowed field.

However, more important is to bring up new lamproite volcanic rock to expose it to the elements. When that exposure happens, the lamproite ash and lava break down and weather to dirt and clay fairly quickly. As the volcanic rocks break down, the diamonds are released from the volcanic materials that hold them, and become mixed with the dirt on the field surface. This weathering characteristic is the reason that our visitors are still finding diamonds after 106 years of searching.

Because the plowing brings up “new” or fresh dirt, many visitors believe that the best time to look for diamonds is just after the field is plowed.

That idea is partially true, but the really great time to look for diamonds is after the field is plowed and followed by a good washing rain. This washes the dirt away on the tops of the plowed rows, leaving diamonds exposed. Or, if the rain water picks up a diamond, the visitors find them in the little areas of gravel and diamonds, which settle out where ever the water slows down.

However, one of the negatives about plowing the field is the process essentially erases the ways that people find the diamonds.

The past two summers after the field was plowed and there wasn’t any rain, were lean months for finding diamonds. Thus, it is not too surprising that the diamond count is low so far this year, and visitors have only found 13 over one carat diamonds.

However, with some good rains, like the four inches on Saturday, October 20, visitors hope that visitors will be back to finding more diamonds in the plowed search area.

Details

Crater of Diamonds State Park

Crater of Diamonds State Park is one of the 52 state parks administered by the State Parks Division of the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism.

Search area last plowed:  September 28, 2012

Most recent significant rainstorms: 2 inches on November 11

Total diamonds found in 2012: 464

Operating Hours: Visitor Center/Diamond Discovery Center is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m., extended summer hours

Admission: Adults $7.00, children (age 6-12) $4

Camping: $21-28

Location: From Murfreesboro, take Arkansas 301 and go 2.5 miles southwest to the park

Address: 209 State Park Road, Murfreesboro, AR 71958

Phone: (870) 285-3113

Website: craterofdiamondsstatepark.com

Worth Pondering…
Angels are like diamonds. They can’t be made, you have to find them. Each one is unique.

—Jaclyn Smith

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Navistar Ends Sponsorship of LPGA Classic

The future of Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) golf tournament at the Robert Trent Jones (RTJ) Golf Trail in Prattville, Alabama is at risk after title sponsor Navistar withdrew from the event.

The golf event has been held at the Senator Course at the RTJ Capitol Hill facility from 2007-12.

“Navistar has been proud to be the lead sponsor of the Navistar LPGA Classic for the last six years and we’ve maintained a strong relationship with both the LPGA and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail,” Navistar spokesman Stephen Schrier said in a news release.

“However, our current business climate requires a reduction of our sponsorship activities, including our sponsorship of the Navistar LPGA Classic.”

Stacy Lewis, who this year became the first American to win the LPGA’s Player of the Award since 1994, won this year’s tournament in September by two shots over teen-ager Lexi Thompson.

According to LPGA Chief Communications Officer Kraig Kann, the LPGA is working on continuing the event in Prattville in 2013.

“The LPGA appreciates and applauds all that Navistar has done to support the Tour and Alabama. While they won’t return to partner with us in 2013, to say that the LPGA, the Robert Trent Jones Trail, and RSA won’t return to Prattville next year is premature, stated Kann.

“We’re all committed to continuing the tradition of women’s professional golf in Alabama and the city of Prattville and are working together to deliver on those goals in 2013.”

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Capitol Hill, site of LPGA Classic

The SunBelt Golf Corporation and the Robert Trent Golf Trail is in search of a new event sponsor.

Jonathan Romeo, tournament sponsor and SunBelt Golf Corporation Director of Business Development, is in Florida for the LPGA annual tournament owners and director’s meeting.

When asked recently what type of sponsors they might be looking at, Romeo stated, “The LPGA is a world brand and it takes a world company to get the benefit of everything and there are a lot of those here.”

“We are working on a daily basis with the LPGA and with business in the state of Alabama and have for 12 years in a row,” said John Cannon, Sunbelt Golf Corporation President.

“We are working on these events and actually pursuing a new title sponsor and committed, if possible, to continue doing an LPGA event both in Mobile and Prattville.

“We can’t do it ourselves. It requires community and business involvement to make it happen.”

When asked what the deadline would be to have a title sponsor for an event to played in 2013, Cannon indicated that you would get a different answer depending on who you asked.

“In an ideal world, the LPGA would like some answers now,” Cannon said.

The LPGA traditionally announces its partial or full event schedule for the upcoming year in November.

The SunBelt Corporation said it is committed to pro golf in the state but would not rush into anything moving forward.

“We’re not going to jump into a commitment without knowing we can accomplish it and do the event the way we have done it,” Cannon said.

“It’s an expensive proposition. We are working with third parties and groups that have not done something with us.”

Runner up in 2012, Lexi Thompson won the title in 2011

Romeo said the event costs about $3.5 to $4 million annually. According to a study conducted by the Prattville Area Chamber of Commerce, the event has a $7 million impact on the region.

Details

Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail is a collection of championship caliber golf courses, designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., distributed across the state of Alabama, as part of investments by the Retirement Systems of Alabama. The Trail started with 378 holes at eight sites throughout the state, and has grown to 468 holes at eleven sites.

The concept was created and executed by Dr. David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

Website: rtjgolf.com

Worth Pondering…

Keep your eyes on the horizon and blaze a trail.

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