American Nomad Blog
About this blog
American Nomad covers the best of U.S. travel—from vacation deals to festivals, weekend getaways, travel tips, and more. A seasoned traveler and Moon author, Laura is the perfect guide to help discover new gems when traveling domestically.
- A Southern Girl's Wintertime Adventure in Yellowstone
- One Novelist's Odyssey Across America
- Gearing up for a Family Camping Trip
- Mint Juleps and More at Oak Alley Plantation
- Avoiding Identity Theft While on Vacation
- Money-Saving Travel Tips from Nomadic Matt
- Fashion, Fun, and Convenience for the Modern Traveler
- In Search of Irish Museums Across America
- The Inspiring Journey of a Solo Kayaker
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 2
- Getting Fit for Treks in Yosemite and Elsewhere, Part 1
- Experiencing Yosemite with YExplore
- Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning
- A Word About the TSA's No-No List
- A Reader's Advice About Airport Security
U.S. Travel Secret #3: Crater of Diamonds
In the first and second parts of this series, I accepted The Word Wire's challenge to share some of my favorite travel secrets. Besides revealing tips for gaining entrance to The Magic Castle and enjoying Louisiana's music and cuisine at the annual French Quarter Festival, I have a suggestion for amateur treasure hunters.
With my husband – a treasure hunter to the core – I've panned for gold in northern California, searched for shipwrecks on South Padre Island, and dug for diamonds in southwestern Arkansas. That last one has surprised a lot of folks over the years. “Did you say diamonds?” Yes, diamonds. In fact, Crater of Diamonds State Park (209 State Park Rd., Murfreesboro, 870/285-3113, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Mon.-Sun. Jan.-mid-May and mid-Aug.-Dec., 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sun. mid-May-mid-Aug., $7 adults, $4 children 6-12, children under 6 free) is the world's only diamond-producing site that's open to the public, the only place where you can search for diamonds and other gems – and, better still, keep what you find.
We first visited Crater of Diamonds in May of 2000. Upon our initial viewing, it didn’t look like much – just an ordinary farmer’s field, before the crops have emerged. Plowed into neat little rows, the soggy 38-acre dirt patch seemed no place for a sparkling diamond, but that’s the reason we were there. After purchasing our inexpensive day passes, we gathered our strainers, spades, gloves, and buckets, and trekked across the field – incidentally, the eroded surface of an ancient, gem-bearing volcanic pipe. Although April would have been a better time to visit – when the seasonal rains cause the diamonds and other precious stones (including agate and amethyst) to rise to the surface – we were eager to begin our search.
Beside a sheltered screening area, we filled a bucket with dirt, scooped a few handfuls onto our screens, and patiently shook the box frames in the water bin. When nothing but rocks and potential gems were left in our screens, we turned them over on a nearby workbench to let the gravel piles dry before sifting through them more carefully. We spent much of the day repeating the process, and though we discovered no diamonds, we were surprised by how many interesting rocks and minerals could be found in several handfuls of ordinary-looking dirt. Of course, it’s the possibility that has lured us back on multiple occasions – the possibility that we might find a record-breaking jewel, like the 40-carat Uncle Sam excavated at the Crater in 1924. Hey, it could happen.
If you, too, dream of finding your own gemstone, head straight for Crater of Diamonds, where there is, in addition to the diamond mine itself, an interpretive center, a gift shop, a restaurant and water playground (summer only), and a campground/picnic area (open year-round, with restrooms and laundry facilities open Mar.-Nov.). I wish you lots of luck on your prospecting adventures – whenever you choose to visit.
I hope this and the other “travel secrets” have piqued your interest. Of course, these are just the tip of the iceberg, so please feel free to share some secrets of your own by commenting below. In the meantime, I'd like to nominate the following five bloggers to share a few travel secrets, too:
As always, I’m open to ideas for future posts. If you have any suggestions, burning questions, or destinations that you’d like me to explore in greater detail, please comment below or contact me at laura [at] wanderingsoles [dot] com.