Crater of Diamonds State Park Celebrates 40 Years

 

North
America’s largest diamond and more than 75,000 other diamonds have been found
in a field southeast of Murfreesboro since farmer John Huddleston discovered
the first gems in the field in 1906. Since 1972, the site has been preserved as
Crater of Diamonds State Park.

 

This year marks the 40th
anniversary of the park.

 

Park Superintendent Justin Dorsey
says special programs will be held on March 15th, the anniversary date of the
park’s creation. “We’ll be doing programs on the history of the park and how
it has changed over the past 40 years,” he said. “Because the anniversary falls
on a Thursday, we’ll continue the special programming over the weekend and
through the next week, which is Spring Break.”

 

Many are surprised to learn there
is a place in Arkansas where one can go and dig for diamonds. The park, the
world’s only diamond-producing site open to the public, is located above an
eroded volcanic pipe. For a small fee, visitors can dig for diamonds and other
gemstones and keep what they find.

 

The search area at the park is a
37 1/2 acre plowed field on the eroded surface of the eighth largest
diamond-bearing deposit in the world (in surface area). More than 500 diamonds
were found at the park last year.

 

“It was a record year for large
diamonds,” said Dorsey. “We registered 30 diamonds over one carat.” He
added that two of them, the 8.66 ct Illusion Diamond (3rd) and the 6.67 ct
Teamwork Diamond (9th), are among the ten top diamond finds at the park in the
past 40 years. “I hope to see this trend continue into 2012,” he said. “We
are also nearing the milestone 30,000th diamond mark (as of January 20, the
mark was at 29,933). I expect it to be found this year.”

 

What sets Crater diamonds apart
are color (the vast majority of diamonds found here are white, brown and
yellow), luster (many look like small pieces of metal) and shape (if not broken
they are usually very smooth and well rounded). The largest diamond discovered
by visitors since the site became an Arkansas state park was the 16.37-carat
Amarillo Starlight found in 1975.

 

It is stories like these that park
interpreters enjoy sharing. “Every day we meet people who have just learned
about our park,” said Waymon Cox, who has worked as a park interpreter at
Crater of Diamonds for four years. “They don’t realize the state park has been
here for 40 years now, and they haven’t heard of the many fascinating
discoveries folks just like them have made over the years. It’s always a lot of
fun to share some of the park’s best stories with someone new.”

 

March also marks the start of a
new program series at the park called Visit with an Expert Miner. The program
(scheduled for March 14, 24, June 2, and October 6) offers visitors a chance to
meet the park’s regular diamond prospectors.

 

The idea started after a similar
scenario was filmed as part of a reality show demo this past summer. “People
really enjoyed the opportunity to hear from some of the ‘regulars’ that search
here almost every day,” said Dorsey. “They have a chance to interact and ask
questions that only they can answer. The miners are equally excited to share
their story with hopeful visitors.”

 

More than 106,000 visitors came
through the park last year. “My favorite aspect of this job is the visitors,”
said Cox. “Every time I do a demonstration, I ask where people are visiting
from. It’s fascinating to hear all the different states people name off. I also
love pointing out the social aspect of this park. While searching for diamonds,
visitors will often talk to each other and make connections with people from
all over the country. Not only might someone from Michigan be working right
next to someone from California, but as they talk they often find they either
know the same person or once lived in the same area. It’s a visitor experience
not often found at other parks.”

 

Dorsey said he is honored to be a
part of the park staff that will be celebrating this landmark year. “Over the
past 40 years we have had a number of special people work here, and the current
staff and I continue that legacy,” he said. “We realize this park will be here
for visitors to enjoy for many more years after we are all gone. And as we
celebrate how far we’ve come, we remember that we are charged with ensuring
future generations the same experience.”

 

Crater of Diamonds State Park is
located two miles southeast of downtown Murfreesboro. For more information
contact Justin Dorsey, park superintendent, Crater of Diamonds State Park, at
870-285-3113, or email him at justin.dorsey@arkansas.gov. Crater of Diamonds State Park
is located at 209 State Park Road in Murfreesboro.  Check out news of more anniversaries around Arkansas at www.arkansas.com/anniversaries/.
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