We’ve been on the longest roadtrip this year I’ve taken in my entire life! We left Chicago, crossed Iowa and Nebraska to reach Colorado, where we spent six weeks. Then, we drove through Colorado to New Mexico and onto Texas, where we stayed another 3 weeks. From there, homeward bound by way of Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and finally Illinois! We had been itching to try some diamond hunting in Arkansas at the Crater of Diamond State Park, and this was the perfect opportunity!
Crater of Diamonds State Park
Located in Murfreeboro, Arkansas, this park is one of just a handful of spots around the world where you can hunt for diamonds! The stones were first discovered in the area in 1906 by a local farmer. The subsequent decade saw a diamond rush with thousands of prospectors flooding the area. Over the following decades, the land passed from one mining operation to another, the companies often meeting questionable ends. Stories abound as to why the mining companies never succeeded, and what was reputed to be a potential diamond mine of epic proportions passed into state hands in 1971.
Lucky for us! The largest diamond found in North America was right here in 1924, as well as plenty of other multi-carat rocks right up through the last couple years! In fact, it’s actually quite common for visitors to find a diamond, but they’re usually tiny, not the $50 million dollar kind. For in depth history and details on diamond hunting, check out Genuine Diamonds in Arkansas by Glenn Worthington. Our B&B had a copy for perusing too.
The park is open year round, but is in full swing Memorial Day to Labor Day. We visited in March, so the pool and restaurant were closed, but the visitor center is year round. I packed a lunch assuming no food would be available, but there’s actually a food truck from a local restaurant stationed here. It was nice to have a hot lunch after digging in the cold mud! If you visit in summer, be prepared for the heat. The mining field has a few shade shelters, but otherwise there isn’t a tree in sight.
The park rents prospecting tools, but they’re readily available for purchase around town. Every store sells shovels, sieves and buckets. Our bed & breakfast provided tools for us too, which was great since we hadn’t planned this expedition and came very unprepared! I highly recommend bringing a wagon or Gorilla cart for hauling all the equipment and buckets of gravel.
Everyone is town is full of differing tips and tricks on how to find a diamond. The park service plows sections of the 37-acre field on a regular basis, but hard rains will also turn up the soil. We visited after (and during) a rainstorm, but they say it’s best to dig dry so you can see the diamond’s glint. It’s harder to notice when everything is wet. We only spent a day here, but most people come for at least a week, some even longer. Honestly, we didn’t find anything, but we were told often you need to visit over a few days to really make an effort. Or, maybe we just aren’t lucky!
Where to Stay
For such a small town, Murfreesboro has it’s fair share of accommodations. The park offers camping, and there are hotels and AirBnB/VRBO rentals all around town. We stayed at the Diamond Oaks Inn, a bed and breakfast almost across the street from the park.
It was clean and reasonably priced, and we were very grateful for the prospecting tools. During high season, they also a pool. Breakfast is a light continental, not the usual at B&Bs, but they’re very upfront about that during booking. The hosts are also so nice and helpful! We had to change our reservation due to unexpected events in Texas and they were totally accommodating.
Another spot that grabbed my attention was Diamonds Old West Cabins. We didn’t stay, so I can’t vouch for it, but it looks so cool! The rooms are all old west themed- jail cells, saloons, brothel and so on!
The town is small, its main attraction being the state park. However, the downtown square has some unique shops. Driving by, you can’t miss the piles of colorful slag stacked outside the shops. Slag is the by-product of metal processing, and is actually quite beautiful. I found a bucket full in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, thanks to the 19th century iron ore business. So, when I saw the piles here, I got super excited- where can I hunt for it?! Oddly enough, though, it’s imported from North Carolina! I guess they just know how to catch the rock hound’s eye! Just outside of downtown, checkout the Gypsy Underground. An upscale ‘flea market’, the stalls have everything from arrowheads to World War II memorabilia to vintage clothing.
There are three restaurants on the main square in town, and we tried all of them! Keep in mind, Pikes County is a dry county, so no whiskeys to toast your diamond find. In addition to these three, there’s a Mexican spot, a Sonic and few other options outside of downtown.
Feed Bin Cafe
The cutest restaurant in town, the Feed Bin Cafe serves up southern classics with a Louisiana focus. You’ll find options like fried catfish, gumbo and boudin balls, along with chicken fried steak and fried green tomatoes. They also have a coffee and tea bar, and occasionally live music.
Z’s Japanese Hibachi and Sushi Cuisine
Sushi, in Arkansas? I was skeptical, but what the heck. It’s not very traditional, but the rolls were good! Try the Crawfish Roll for a local specialty. It’s not actually a hibachi restaurant, as the kitchen is out back in a food truck, but the service was quick and the food tasty. If you’re a sushi purist, you might not appreciate this place, but give it a chance.
Located across from the Feed Bin, Southern Dine is very casual and laid back. Despite the name, the menu isn’t all that southern, offering things like burgers, hot sandwiches, steaks and fried chicken. They also have the food truck, with hot dogs and chicken fingers, at Crater of Diamonds.
We were on a mission to get home, so only stayed two nights. However, there are plenty of other activities for the outdoor enthusiast! Lake Gleeson is massive with camping, boating and swimming. Just six miles from Murfreesboro, it would be a great spot to cool off after digging for diamonds!
For the rock hound, there are also a number of crystal mines within 45-60 minutes of town. Honestly, they probably would’ve been more fun, just because they’re easier to find than diamonds! Wegner Quartz and Coleman Crystal Mines are two of the closest. I definitely plan to check those out on our way to Texas next time!