Digging Diamonds in Arkansas
In all of our travels, the one place our middle daughter has really wanted to visit was Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. We almost made it about three years ago but her older sister wanted to visit the Oklahoma City Memorial (and she had been asking about it longer) so our drive from southern Alberta to Orlando took us along a different route. As we were making plans for our Walt Disney World visit this fall, the request for a stop at Crater of Diamonds was again added to our list. Since I was only traveling with my middle daughter and grandson this trip, I made sure a stay in Arkansas was a priority.
Once we had decided on visiting Crater of Diamonds, I started to look for other things to do in the area while we were there. I was amazed at all of the “kid friendly” activities I found. Way too many for us to accomplish during our four day stop (so, of course, I am already planning our next visit!) Although Crater of Diamonds is near Murfreesboro, we booked our stay at the SpringHill Suites in Little Rock (I have a LOT of Marriott Reward points and it was a bargain as a category 1) so we would be central and also be able to visit some of the attractions in the state capital.
After just over two weeks in Orlando (this included the arrival of Hurricane Matthew) we were all tired and suffering from summer colds so the first couple of days in Little Rock were pretty laid back. We caught up on some schoolwork (we homeschool and science experiments are tough to do on driving days) and checked out the area. Did you know that all state parks in Arkansas are free? They only charge a small fee for activities. (Very helpful for the travel budget.)
Today we visited Crater of Diamonds. The hour and forty-five-minute drive took us through some beautiful tree lined country roads and tiny towns (EJ thought it was cool that we drove through Hollywood to get there.) During the drive, we talked about what we might find at the park today and how we thought diamonds ended up in a field in Arkansas (a volcano) and how we would know if we found a diamond (they have an identification office.) We did get little worried at one point when we hadn’t seen a sign for a bit but there was one at the next fork in the road.
Arriving at Crater of Diamonds we parked by the Visitor Center where we paid our admission to the diamond search field (as I said, admission to the park is free but there is a fee for activities.) You can purchase a starter kit here as well as items like cloth bags and gloves. There is another building downstairs where additional equipment (shovels, wagons, buckets) can be rented for the day. They do require a deposit so if you are paying cash, be sure to account for this (our deposit was $60 and rental $13 for a deluxe kit including everything we needed.) The identification office is located here as well as washrooms and a few picnic tables. (You will find more tables out in the treed picnic area and dotted around the dig site)
Another social media traveling mom suggested we bring a change of clothes and a bag for the dirty ones. After spending the day digging in the dirt and wet screening our finds the value of this advice was very clear! There is a spot where you can spray off your equipment (and your shoes) near the rental building, that was a big help. (It’s best to start your clean-up by 4:30 as you will need to return your rental equipment by 4:45 to get your deposit back)