To Dig or Not to Dig

That is the first question that most first-time visitors to the Crater of Diamonds State Park usually ask themselves when they get ready to visit the park.

Crater of Diamonds Arkansas DiamodnEverybody knows that if you are going to go mining, you are going to dig a hole. So, visitors bring shovels, garden trowels, or even pick axes and posthole diggers, according to a news release. Actually, they only need small shovels or garden trowels.

The answer to the dig question is both simple and complicated, and generally involves two more questions:

How deep does the hole need to be to reach the diamonds?

Where should I go to dig the hole?

The answer to the first question is that visitors only need to dig holes if they are looking for ancient buried stream gravel layers. These stream gravels were laid down by the streams that have always drained the diamond field since the Crater diamond volcano erupted approximately 106 million years ago.

From looking at early 1900’s maps of the diamond field we can see that three areas originally contained the streams that have always drained the field. These areas are called the East Drain, West Drain, and North Drain.  Visitors can locate these areas by looking at the large map of the diamond field located just inside the back door of the visitor center.

To answer the second question, where should I go to dig the hole, the depth to these ancient stream gravels varies with the location within each of the drains. Experienced miners say that it varies from 2- 3 feet to over 10 feet below the present ground surface. If first time miners decide that they want to dig a deep hole, they need to consult our rules on the proper way to dig holes and of course they also need to fill the holes in completely at or before the end of each day.

cod_photos_19Most Crater of Diamonds visitors choose instead to look for diamonds in the surface gravels that are laid down each time the field is washed by a good, hard rain. Any diamonds that are washed out of the soil by the rain will end up settling out of the water in any place where the flowing rainwater streams slow down.

This phenomenon happens in many places between each plowed row and in the road ditches and natural low areas found throughout the field. When a visitor examines these areas they will see little gravel bars. These bars look like the gravel bars that form when we wash down our concrete driveways with a hose. Because the diamonds are slightly heavy for their size, they settle out with the heavier gravel pieces and make the gravel bars.

Then, all the visitor needs to do is scrape off the top half inch of material from those gravel bars to put through wet or dry screens, or use a garden trowel to spread the gravel out and look for the shiny diamonds.

Visitors who do dig shallow holes away from the drains will find themselves with a bucket or screen full of what is called the “evil, miserable clay” (EMC). Unfortunately, this EMC gums up the dry screens, and takes visitors a long time to work through the wet screens.

Trying to deal with the EMC wastes a lot of time which could be better spent by only working with gravel found in the surface gravel bars in the diamond field ditches and rows.

So, the answer to the “To dig or not to dig?” question is really the following.

YES, dig a deep hole in or near the old stream gravel drains.

And, NO, don’t dig a shallow hole in the rest of the field. Instead look for those surface gravel layers that Mother Nature gave us the last time the diamond search area was washed by a good, hard rain. Scrape up those gravels with a small shovel or garden trowel and then run the gravel through a screen.


Crater of Diamonds State Park

Crater of Diamonds cod_int_sub_diggingCrater 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:  December 4, 2012

Most recent significant rainstorms: January 12

Total diamonds found in 2013: 37

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


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

—Jaclyn Smith

Leave a Reply