Friday, March 30, 2012

Crater of Diamonds State Park, AR

2012 Mar 28

 We left Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas on Wednesday. It had been a really nice time, in spite of not finding any diamonds, even teeny ones. The park itself was very nice. The sites were spacious and nearly level, with full hook ups, including sewer, which surprised us. The sites also each have a huge fire ring, along with a camp grill, if you don't want to cook over your fire. There were trails, though they weren't extremely long. There were birds galore and clear, star filled skies most nights.

We arrived shortly after some extremely wet weather. In fact, we had a little rain when we first arrived. The day after our arrival we headed out to the digging fields, to dig for diamonds. Because of the wet conditions, it was necessary to water sift through the mud. What this means is that you rent a kit, which consists of a 5 gallon bucket, a folding army style shovel, and a wet sifting pair of screens. Then you dig mud, place it in your bucket, haul it to one of the pavilions where there are huge water holding tables into which you immerse your double screened sifter, filled with the mud from your bucket, in small batches. You then wash the mud, using a side to side motion. The heavier minerals, fall from the mud, through the first screen, into the smaller screen. After you have washed a reasonable amount of mud, you begin to accumulate minerals, in the smaller screen. At this time, you put the larger screen aside, and concentrate on washing the minerals in the smaller one. You get a bit wet and if you are doing this on a cool day when there are occasional gusts of wind, you find yourself chilled after a relatively short time. Keep repeating, "It's all about the experience." 

My "sexy" diamond diggers
On our first expedition into the diamond digging fields, we spent about 90 minutes, and we never even emptied our bucket of mud. First, I got cold. I should've worn my rain poncho. I am so glad I wore my new rain boots! The mud in the fields was the "sucking" kind that sticks. Second, mining is hard work! They make it sound like it's not, but trust me, it is! Thirdly, Raymond's heart really wasn't in it; he was simply along to keep me company. After all, this place wasn't on his bucket list! We did find some cool rocks. No diamonds, though. My stash included, barite, calcite, jasper, hematite and "volcanic rock". One the day we were digging, the latest diamond found had been on March 19. We were there digging on March 23.

After that, the weather improved tremendously and the idea of digging again was put on hold, while we waited for the fields to dry out some. Instead, we hiked, looked at wild flowers, spent time playing games in the sunshine, cooked steaks on the grill and generally just chilled. It was great! The only drawbacks were that we were running out of clean clothes and I was getting very low on medications. Otherwise we might still be in Arkansas!

Our location in SW Arkansas
Our "yard"

Raymond & Greyla relaxing

The view from my camp chair :)

Along the trail

Mayapples along the trail

Digging fields

We extended our stay to seven days total, planning on one more diamond digging experience, doing the dry sifting, before we'd leave. The morning we headed out to the digging fields, it was sunny and warm, with a very slight breeze. My plan had been to go as soon as the fields were open, but because Ray wanted to watch Mike & Mike on ESPN, we delayed our dig till after 10. This dig trip we only rented a screen for dry sifting, and brought our own trowel and small garden fork. Once again, we learned that diamond digging is hard work. Like we needed that lesson to be re enforced! At least we could sit for the dry sifting. And since there was no water involved, we managed to stay dry and boots were not required. 

Digging fields
We sifted, which means, scraping up some dirt with your trowel or fork, placing it into the screen and rubbing it through the screen, hopefully leaving the heavier minerals behind in the screen. It was a lot less messy than the water sifting. After two hours of sifting, our fortune in rocks consisted mainly of jasper, with a little bit of calcite thrown in. There was some one who found a diamond on the same day that we dug, March 27, but they found it before we ever showed up in the fields. Remember: "It's all about the experience ." :D

It was fun, but not really Raymond's cup of beer. I think I would enjoy doing it again, but with someone who was really into it, like maybe a couple of my brothers? In any case, the park itself is worth the time, even if you don't find any diamonds. Arkansas is beautiful, especially when spring comes earlier than normal. And I am learning so much about the geology of this country. Until now, I never knew that there had been volcanic action in places like Arkansas.

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