Lonely Planet Writer

Did you know you could hunt for diamonds in Arkansas?

There aren’t many places where “finders, keepers” applies to gemstones, but Arkansas’s Crater of Diamonds State Park is one of them – and anyone willing to get their hands dirty has a chance of going home with a treasure or two. 

Diamond search area
The property became a park in 1972, but people have been discovering diamonds here since 1906, when a farmer found the first on record; since then, 75,000 have been unearthed. Image courtesy Crater of Diamonds State Park

Two hours southwest of Little Rock, on Arkansas Highway 301 in Murfreesboro, park visitors comb through a 37.5-acre field –actually the surface of a diamond-bearing volcanic crater – that’s ploughed regularly, loosening soil and facilitating the natural erosion process. The diamonds sparkle in the sun when they’re exposed, making them easier to see than you might expect. It’s one of the only public sites in the world where you can hunt for the gems at their original source, and the park staff facilitates such discoveries. Guests can bring their finds in to be identified and registered for free. 

Diamond with certificate
Park employees at the Diamond Discovery Center identify and certify visitors' finds. Image courtesy Crater of Diamonds State Park

Though the property became a state park in 1972, a farmer first hit pay dirt here in 1906, and since then, more than 75,000 specimens have been unearthed, including the largest diamond ever discovered in the North America: a 40.23-carat behemoth called the Uncle Sam, found in 1924.

Diamond search area
Visitors to the park can look for diamonds on the eroded surface of a volcanic crater. Image courtesy Crater of Diamonds State Park

More recently, a schoolteacher visiting from Nebraska spotted a 2.12-carat brown diamond the size of a jellybean in July, the biggest on record so far this year. (White, brown, and yellow diamonds are the park’s most common discoveries; amethyst can also be found around the diamond search area, mostly in the southwest corner.)

Brown diamond
A schoolteacher from Nebraska found a 2.12-carat brown diamond in July, this year's largest discovery to date. Image courtesy Crater of Diamonds State Park

In order to pan for diamonds, you need the proper equipment, and the park sells or rents digging tools to would-be prospectors for a nominal fee; you can also bring your own, but battery-powered and motor-operated mining gear isn’t permitted. Park entry runs $10 for adults and $6 for children ages 6-12; kids under 6 get in free. 

For more information, visit arkansasstateparks.com.