Photo © Moonjazz
If you are considering a holiday in America and enjoy a bit of an adventure what could be better than going on a treasure hunt? There are several locations where you can actually dig for treasure of the most exciting kind – gemstones and gold! You won’t necessarily hit the jackpot but just giving it a go is great entertainment and making a find is unbelievably exciting. If I have whetted your appetite then here are some places you might like to visit.
Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfressboro, Arkansas
This is the only place in the world where the public can dig for diamonds and keep what they find. For the modest fee of $7 you can dig wherever you like on the 37 acre site which is situated on top of a volcanic crater. Millions of years ago volcanic activity raised diamonds to the surface where they still lay awaiting discovery by enthusiastic visitors. You will need a spade, bucket and screen but these can be rented or purchased at the site which is open every day. Some significant finds have been made in the park including the 40.23 “Uncle Sam Diamond”, the largest ever recovered in the United States. The most celebrated stone was the “Strawn-Wagner Diamond” a 3.03 carat gem that was later assessed as flawless and of perfect D colour by the American gem Society. A stone of this quality is a one in a billion find!
Gold Prospecting, Jamestown, California
Historic Jamestown is in the heart of Gold Country in California. Just a walk down the high street is a history lesson as many of the buildings date back to the time of the gold rush. Gold Prospecting Adventures are based in the high street and offer the chance to prospect at their claim just outside of the town. Full instruction is provided and as is all the required equipment. Prospecting is not cheap and you are unlikely to recover enough gold to cover the cost of your excursion but that is not the point. You learn all about how to prospect, you are guaranteed to find gold if you dig for two hours or more and you do it all yourself in the most beautiful setting. It is surprisingly hard work but one of the most amazing days you will ever experience.
Sapphire & Ruby Mining in Franklin, North Carolina
Franklin is the self-styled gemstone capital of America with several local mines offering the opportunity to discover sapphires and rubies. Most of the attractions actually mine the pay dirt themselves and then visitors pay a fee to screen the gravel and discover the stones. Mason’s Sapphire and Ruby Mine does allow tourists to dig themselves and even enter the shafts of the original mine. Many large stones that they like to call “Bell Ringers” have been found over the years. If someone retrieves a gem weighing in excess of 10 carats a bell is rung and the event recorded for posterity on their website!
Fire Opals in Nevada
The Virgin Valley in Northern Nevada has a fine reputation for producing beautiful fire opals. Tourists can dig for their own stones at the Bonanza Opel Mine in the high-desert landscape. The mine is open from late May to the end of September and the equipment you need to dig can be rented at the site. Visitors dig only the tailings not in the actual mineshaft but here you can find opals which have dried and are ready for cutting. You will need to take along sunscreen and plenty to drink in order to cope with the desert conditions… you won’t need your thermals, that’s for sure! The fees are currently $60 per person but you get a great day out for your money and the prospect of uncovering a valuable gem.
Digging for gems and gold provides a wonderful diversion for all the family with the added excitement of possibly discovering a real treasure. It is a real opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors and magnificent scenery whilst learning a thing or too along the way.
Sally Stacey is a seasoned traveller, rock collector and has been to some of the sites mentioned in this article, having panned for Gold in Jamestown only last Summer. Find out more about Sally on her Google+ page.