Children learn from a park ranger at Crater of Diamonds State Park
Children learn from a park ranger at Crater of Diamonds State Park

Diamond Mining in Arkansas

The Mine & The Park

It's finder's keepers at the Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. The only public diamond mine in the world, Crater of Diamonds offers you a one-of-a-kind adventure — the opportunity to hunt for real diamonds and to keep any mineral you find.

You'll search over a 37-acre plowed field — the eroded surface of an ancient, diamond-bearing volcanic pipe. Begin your diamond hunting adventure at the Visitor Center, which features geological exhibits and an audio/visual program that explains the area's geology and offers tips on recognizing diamonds in the rough.

Since diamonds were first discovered on the site in 1906, over 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed.

The Park offers 47 Class AAA campsites, picnic areas, a seasonal restaurant, laundry, gift shop, hiking trails, interpretive programs and Diamond Springs Water Park for the thousands of people who travel to the park each year.

When John Huddleston plucked two diamonds from the greenish-colored dirt of his farm, a hysteria known as "diamond fever" ensued. Although the excitement has since waned, interest in Arkansas' diamond mine remains high. About 120,000 people come to Huddleston's old farm site, now the Crater of Diamonds State Park, each year to search for these precious gems.

The crater is the only diamond mine in the world where the public can pay a fee to dig and keep any gems they find.

Mother and son dig for Diamonds at Crater of Diamonds

The Legend of "Diamond John"

Howard Millar, a former operator of a tourist operation at the Crater of Diamonds and an expert on the crater's history, wrote in his book, "It Was Finders-Keepers at America's Only Diamond Mine," that two geologists had studied the crater site several years before Huddleston found diamonds here. However, they didn't find any diamonds.

In 1906, Huddleston bought a farm on the site that the geologists had studied and in August of that year, he found two diamonds.

According to Millar, Huddleston discovered the first diamonds in Arkansas while he was spreading rock salt on his hog farm. He saw some shiny specks in the dirt that he thought might be gold.

But instead of gold, he found two stones.

Huddleston declined an offer from a local bank cashier, who said he would pay Huddleston 50 cents for the stones. Eventually, the stones were sent to a gem expert in New York City and it was determined that they were indeed genuine diamonds. 

Word soon got out about the diamonds and "Diamond John" Huddleston became famous and put Murfreesboro on the map.

Thousands of people flocked to the little town, sparking a boomtown atmosphere. In one year, over 10,000 people were turned away from the Conway Hotel in Murfreesboro. Soon after his find, Huddleston sold his farm for $36,000 and this portion of the crater was closed to the public.

Crater of Diamonds is Born

"Crater of Diamonds" is Born

M. M. Mauney owned another portion of the diamond mine, and he originated the idea of letting visitors pay to hunt for diamonds. On Sunday afternoons, diamond prospectors and their families would pay 50 cents to search for diamonds on Mauney's land.

Several companies also attempted to commercially mine for diamonds near Murfreesboro in the years after the discovery, but for many reasons, including lawsuits, fines, and bankruptcy, they were all unsuccessful. In 1952, Howard Millar opened a tourist operation on Mauney's former portion of the diamond-bearing crater.

He dubbed the site, the "Crater of Diamonds."

Millar promoted the site aggressively and received lots of national publicity. A museum, gift shop and restaurant were built and Millar, who was a geologist, gave lectures about the properties and characteristics of diamonds and also identified the visitors' finds. He received a 25 percent royalty on the value of any stone over 5 carats.

During those years, thousands of diamonds were found. The most famous find was made in 1956 by Mrs. A. L. Parker of Dallas. Millar wrote that Parker found the diamond after heavy rains had fallen on the freshly plowed field. The historic find was a 15.33 carat white diamond.

It fueled "diamond fever" here again as the crater was "almost overrun with diamond hunters," Millar wrote.

In 1969, the crater was sold to General Earth Minerals, a mining company in Dallas, and in 1972 the state of Arkansas purchased it. The site was developed into a 911-acre park nestled in a mixed pine and hardwood forest along the banks of the Little Missouri River. There is a Visitor's Center, gift shop, Diamond Discovery Center, picnic area, restaurant, walking trails and 47 campsites with water and electricity.

Great Finds from the Famous Crater

Although thousands of people have dug and sifted through the volcanic "lamproite" soil, there are still plenty of diamonds waiting to be discovered. Since the park opened in 1972, more than 30,000 diamonds have been found. This is still a place where diamonds are found regularly — park officials say about two are found by park visitors each day.

Most of them are about the size of a match head or smaller, and people usually keep them for souvenirs.

Not all of the finds have been small. The largest documented diamond find is the 40.23-carat "Uncle Sam" diamond, which was discovered in 1924. The largest diamond retrieved since the Crater of Diamonds became a state park was the 16.37-carat "Amarillo Starlight," discovered in 1975.

Other notable finds include the "Star of Arkansas," which was 15.33 carats and the 8.82-carat "Star of Shreveport." The 4.25-carat "Kahn Canary" diamond was found here in 1977 and was mounted on a ring worn by Hillary Clinton during the presidential inaugural balls as well as two gubernatorial inaugurations.

The 3.03-carat "Strawn-Wagner Diamond," found in 1990 was cut to a 1.09-carat gem graded D-flawless 0/0/0 (the highest grade a diamond can achieve) by the American Gem Society.

Geologists believe these diamonds were formed millions of years ago with tremendously high pressure and temperature and shot to the earth's surface during a violent volcanic eruption. The portion of the crater that is known to be diamond bearing is about 37 acres and is the eroded surface of an ancient volcanic pipe. Test drilling at the crater has shown that the reserve is shaped like a martini glass.

It is believed to be the eighth largest diamond reserve in the world, in surface area.

Make plans to check out the only park in the world where diamonds are found and kept by visitors like you!