Lakeview Farms

Crater Of Diamonds State Park

excerpts from a St. Louis Post Dispatch Article August 18, 2002 in Travel

Location Map

Directions From Little Rock

take Interstate 30 southwest. Take Exit 73 at Arkadelphia and go west on Highway 2 6 into Murfreesboro, where signs will lead to the Crater of Diamonds State Park, situated two miles southeast of Murfreesboro on Arkansas Highway 301.

Crater of Diamonds, which sits on the eroded top of a volcanic pipe, is the eighth largest diamond deposit in the world. It is one of only two active diamond mines in the United States and is the only site where the public is allowed to search for gems. For more information on Crater of Diamonds State Park click on http://www.craterofdiamondsstatepark.com/digging-for-diamonds/

Finders are keepers at Crater of Diamonds, where adults pay a $6.50 entrance fee and kids 6 to 12 pay $3.50 (these are 2007 prices). The 37 acre dirt field is plowed regularly to improve the chances of finding diamonds. In the 1990s, the state entered a partnership with a Houston company that is doing some exploratory drilling on the site. The company has persisted in its effort to find diamonds despite a 1997 study that concluded the crater was not commercially viable. Hog farmer John Huddleston found the first diamonds in the 80 acre deposit in 1906. Huddleston took the stones to a Murfreesboro banker, who in turn sent them to a jeweler. The jeweler certified the gems as a three carat white diamond and a 1.5 carat yellow diamond. Huddleston sold his property for $36,000 shortly after the discovery. A diamond rush developed when word of the find got out. From 1907 to the late 1930s, several commercial operations tried and failed. In 1949, an entrepreneur leased the land and began running it as a tourist operation known as Crater of Diamonds. In 1966, the tourist operation and a commercial mining section of the site were bought by a Dallas company, which sold the land to the state for $750,000 in 1972.

Park Superintendent Michael Hall, who has worked at Crater of Diamonds in various jobs for 18 years, says this park has a unique mission."It's different from other parks where there are signs saying 'Don't Pick the Flowers.' At this park you are managing a resource that people are taking away," he says. He has witnessed just about every diamond searching method imaginable: from searches based on a psychic's visions of a hidden diamond to elaborate diamond finding contraptions with hand cranks and magnifying glasses. One fellow had a Thermos jug with two wire probes sticking out of it   some sort of electromagnetic reader. Another man, who was in his 80s, found a six carat diamond surface hunting with a magnifying glass attached to the bottom of a cane. In 1990, Murfreesboro resident Shirley Strawn found a 3.03 carat flawless diamond. She had the stone cut by a New York jeweler to 1.09 carats and mounted on a band.  She sold the ring to the state in 1999 for $34,700. The ring is now on display in the park's visitor’s center. Strawn named the gem the Strawn Wagner Diamond to honor her great, great grandfather Lee Wagner, who worked at the diamond mine decades earlier. She unearthed the stone after going to the park every day for more than a year. The largest diamond found at the crater was a 40.23 carat stone known as the Uncle Sam. It was uncovered in 1927.

At Bill Clinton's 1985 gubernatorial inaugural, Hillary Clinton wore the 4.25 carat Kahn Canary diamond, a yellow ­diamond found at the park in 1977. Although most park visitors leave without finding a diamond, Archer says he's learned in his 25 years of searching that there are plenty of diamonds to be found. Park records show that 543 diamonds were found in 2001 by 46,260 people. "I know there's enough out here for everybody, and I enjoy the people," Mayes says from his perch beneath the umbrella. But friendship has limits when it comes to diamond hunt --I never partner with any­one, he says. "I've seen friend­ships break up when people agree to sell diamonds they find and split the money."