Mining for diamonds and so much more…in Arkansas
With over 1,300 miles in our rear view mirror, we left Nashville and headed west towards our next destination – North Little Rock, Arkansas and its surrounding small towns.
On our way we stopped in the town of Hurricane Mills (population is 943), an unincorporated community in Humphreys County, Tennessee. The community is centered on Loretta Lynn’s Ranch (http://www.lorettalynnranch.net/main/), which features a small number of businesses and a post office. Each year, the ranch hosts several concerts and motocross races including the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, which it’s hosted since 1982.
Crossing over the mighty Mississippi River, we were surrounded by farmland in every direction…not a gas station or roadside McDonalds in sight. Rural America at it’s finest. We did, though, see a cloud of smoke in the horizon and wondered what it was. As we got closer it appeared to be a controlled burn on farmland to our south. Anybody have marshmallows and a stick?
After a good night’s sleep, we headed out to the first stop on our Arkansas itinerary: Murfreesboro, AR (population 1,764). It was 132 miles to this small town, which has a surprising number of lakes, parks and other sights to see – including the 1,000 year old Ka-Do-Ha-Indian Village and Museum. This preserved archeological site provides a glimpse into the culture and life of these Indian “Mound Builders”.
Diamonds Old West Hotel and Cabins are set on 40 acres nestled in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. They take you back to the look and feel of an old west frontier town – all the buildings you would expect to see (http://www.diamondscabins.com/). Gunsmoke’s Miss Kitty would be honored!
Next we headed to Murfreesboro’s most famous attraction, the Crater of Diamonds State Park where over 75,000 diamonds have been found since 1906. The crater, which was formed by a massive volcano, is the only diamond-producing area in the world open to the public.
Rorie, aka “Diamond Lil”, and her trusty mining partner Bart were on the hunt for big gems like the huge “Lucky Diamond” valued at $500,000 found just last month in less than an hour by Dan Frederick and his daughter Lauren.
After getting a quick lesson on mining, and renting everything we needed to find that million dollar diamond in the rough, off we went to search for diamonds and other precious stones in a 37 acre field of gravel and dirt. Prospecting is back breaking work but notice who’s doing the shoveling! Bart was responsible for sifting, rinsing and spotting the dirt-covered hidden jewels.
Diamond Lil hard at work
Tools of the trade
Field of dreams
How’d we do? Well we were absolutely positive we struck it rich with our finds only to be told by the experts that what we thought were a milky white diamond, black diamond and chunks of amethyst were in fact white quartz, lava rock and jasper! Disappointing results but we had a blast. I guess we’ll just stick with dreams of winning the lottery…it’s a lot less work.
The fruits of our labor. Not the rare gems and jewels we thought but still quite a haul!
As we left the crater, we stopped in Murfreesboro’s small business district to poke around the shops.
Hawkins General Store is like stepping back in time to when drug stores displayed their wares on open wooden shelves and the soda fountain was “the” place to hang out. It has been lovingly restored with the original wood floors and shelving, and patterned tin ceiling.
Stroll the General Store and discover the unique, useful and old time merchandise including toys, candy, sewing supplies, jarred jams, jellies and sauces and even their own line of pickles. This store has almost everything “if you can help them find it”. When you’re done, hop up on a stool at the soda fountain and indulge in an old fashioned ice cream sundae or thick malt shake. Great way to recover from a hard day at the mine!
Owners DeWayne and Francy also own the beautiful jewelry store in the same little plaza.
After a long day we headed back to our “hacienda” north of Little Rock. But before retiring for the day, we had to go see The Old Mill at Pugh Memorial Park.
The park – just outside of Little Rock – is a gorgeous oasis in the middle of a residential lakefront community.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this authentic reproduction of an 1880’s water-powered grist mill was featured in the opening scenes of the movie Gone With the Wind and is thought to be the only surviving structure from the movie.
Although the mill, nestled in the trees is beautiful, the branch-entwined bridges that connect the mill to the rest of the park are really works of art. They appear to be carved entirely of wood but in fact were sculpted by Señor Dionico Rodriguez out of concrete, iron or stone. A really magical place.
The scenic lake at Pugh Park.
View from inside the mill
Bart was on the search for trolls.
Tomorrow we leave for Oklahoma. But we have a few more awesome places to visit in Arkansas. Stay tuned!