Arkansas is a terrific state for rockhounding. The state – nicknamed the ‘Natural State,’ – includes the best place in the United States to look for diamonds. At Crater of Diamonds State Park, rockhounders may find diamonds as well as amethyst, jasper, garnet, quartz, and agate. In addition, Arkansas is home to Mount Ida, which is nicknamed the ‘Quartz Crystal Capital of the World.’ More bauxite and vanadium ore has been mined in Arkansas than in all other states combined. Arkansas also is an important source for novaculite. The state, with its karst topography, has numerous caves. In addition, Arkansas has Ice Age fossils (mammoth, saber-tooth cat) and over a dozen meteorites have been discovered in the state.
State Rocks, Gemstones, Minerals, Fossils, & Dinosaurs
Rockhounding Tip: Knowing state rocks, gemstones, minerals, fossils, and dinosaurs often can be very useful information for rockhounders. Ordinarily, states with significant mineral deposits, valuable gemstones, fossils, or unusual or significant rock occurrences will designate an official state mineral, rock/stone, gemstone, fossil, or dinosaur to promote interest in the state’s natural resources, history, tourism, etc. Accordingly, such state symbols often are a valuable clue as to potential worthwhile rockhounding opportunities.
State Rock: Bauxite (1967)
The Arkansas General Assembly designated bauxite as the state’s official state rock in 1967. Bauxite is a light brown or reddish-brown rock composed primarily of aluminum hydroxide, with smaller quantities of silica, iron oxide, and titania. Its form varies from massive (of uniform consistency) to pisolitic (composite containing many spherical concretions). Bauxite forms by the weathering of nepheline syenite under tropical conditions (a process called laterization) and is a type of lithified soil that is relatively low in silica and high in aluminum. Arkansas made bauxite its official state rock in recognition of the ore’s importance in Arkansas and the nation. Bauxite deposits in Arkansas (especially Saline and Pulaski Counties) are far greater than in any other U.S. location. Bauxite was found in Arkansas, without being properly identified, in 1842. At the time, the rock was practically unknown, having been discovered only 21 years earlier. At the turn of the century, when industrial processing of bauxite was being developed, Arkansas’ state geologist, John C. Branner, identified the rock, and within a decade, production had begun in what would become the town of Bauxite. A subsidiary of the Aluminum Company of America (later the aluminum giant Alcoa) began mining and processing the ore in 1899, and by World War I, in 1918, Arkansas produced 560,000 tons – about one half the world’s supply. During World War II, Arkansas supplied 98 percent of U.S. aluminum, a critical contribution to the war effort during a time when Nazi submarines made importation of aluminum too hazardous. Arkansas quarried 6,000,000 long tons in 1943 alone, and state officials placed a 20-ton boulder with a commemorative plaque in the state capital.
State Gemstone: Diamond (1967)
Arkansas designated diamond as its official state gemstone in 1967. Diamond is a transparent crystal of tetrahedrally bonded carbon atoms that forms the diamond lattice. Diamond is typically colorless, yellowish to yellow, or gray. Defects, irradiation, and impurities such as boron or nitrogen color the gem shades of brown, black, blue, translucent white, or pink, or rarely, green, red, orange, or shades of purple. Diamond is among the hardest natural substances known, and four times harder than the next harder natural substance. It was long thought to be the hardest substance found in nature, but early in 2009, scientists discovered two rare substances harder than diamond. Arkansas is the most significant diamond-producing state in the United States (diamonds also can be found in Colorado and a few have been reported in other states, likely the result of prior glacial activity). Diamonds were first discovered in Arkansas in 1906. Since that time, over 100,000 diamonds have been recovered from the site now known as Crater of Diamonds State Park. The average size recovered is about .21 carat. Colors of the diamonds range from white to yellow and brown and the natural crystals are usually rounded. The largest diamond found in Arkansas is The Uncle Sam, found in 1924. This diamond weighed 40.24 carats . The Crater of Diamonds State Park, located in Murfreesboro, Arkansas, is the only place in the nation where you can dig for diamonds and keep what you find. This park is located over a kimberlite pipe that contains diamonds, garnets, and other gem crystals.
State Mineral: Quartz (1967)
Arkansas designated the quartz crystal the its official state mineral in 1967. Sometimes called "Arkansas diamonds," quartz is mined in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. Rock quartz, such as that found in Arkansas, is colorless. The quartz found in the area surrounding Hot Springs, Arkansas is considered among the best quartz in the United States because of its exceptional clarity. Quartz is the most common mineral found on the Earth’s surface, and the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust after feldspar. Quartz composes an estimated twelve percent of the continental crust; it makes up less of the oceanic crust. Made of silicon and oxygen, quartz occurs in basically all mineral environments. Quartz is hard, durable, weather-resistant, and relatively common. Quartz crystals formed as hot waters percolated through fractured rock in the Ouachita Mountains some 245 million years ago. Chemically pure sources of quartz are in much demand by industry as a source of the raw chemical feedstock for the manufacture of quartz wafers, silicon metal, glass, fused quartz, and optical fiber. Arkansas has the most significant economically valuable deposits of high-quality quartz in the United States.
State-specific rockhounding books (including the books listed here as well as other books), regional rockhounding site guides, and other helpful rockhounding resources are identified - by category - in the Books & Gear section of Gator Girl Rocks with a link to the Gator Girl Rocks Amazon Store where you may easily browse selected resources and securely place an order. Your order will benefit Charity Rocks!
The Arkansas Geological Survey also has a small exhibit of Arkansas rocks, minerals, gemstones, and fossils.
A very useful website for recreational rockhounders.
The State of Arkansas, like Missouri, has numerous caves. In northern Arkansas, there are over 2,000 documented caves.
- David & Sarah Dodson, Rockhounding Arkansas (1975).
- Arthur E. Smith Jr., Collecting Arkansas Minerals:A Reference & Guide (1996).
- Darcy & Mike Howard, Collecting Quartz:The Guide to Arkansas Quartz (2000).
- June Culp Zeitner, Southwest Mineral & Gem Trails (1972).
- Allan W. Eckert, Earth Treasures Vol. 4A - Southwestern Quadrant (1987; reprint in 2000).
- James Martin Monaco & Jeannette Hathway Monaco, Fee Mining & Mineral Adventures in the Eastern U.S. (2d ed. 2010).
- Kathy J. Rygle & Stephen F. Pedersen, Southeast Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide (4th ed. 2008).
Museums of Interest to Rockhounders
Crater of Diamonds State Park – Murfreesboro, Arkansas
The Diamond Discovery Center’s exhibits focus on the history and geology of Crater of Diamonds State Park. The exhibits include diamond displays.
Arkansas State University Museum
Arkansas State University – State University, Arkansas
The museum, located on the Jonesboro campus, exhibits local rocks, minerals, gemstones, and fossils.
Turner Neal Museum of Natural History
University of Arkansas at Monticello – Monticello, Arkansas
The museum’s exhibits include rocks, minerals, and fossils.
Geology Learning Center
Arkansas Geological Commission – Little Rock, Arkansas
The Arkansas Geological Commission has a small exhibit of local rocks, minerals, and fossils in the lobby.
A museum in the small town of Bauxite, where the rock is still produced on a small scale, celebrates Arkansas’ legendary bauxite mining industry. The museum exhibits artifacts, photographs, and drawings related to the town’s mines and the communities that grew up around them in the 1920s through the 1950s.
Arkansas Museum of Discovery
Little Rock, Arkansas
The museum’s exhibits include local rocks, minerals, and fossils.
Mid-America Science Museum
Hot Springs, Arkansas
The museum’s exhibits include a mastodon skeleton and fossils as well as a ‘Dinosaur Discovery Site’ and an ‘Underground Arkansas Cave.’
Matilda & Karl Pfeiffer Museum
The small museum’s exhibits include local and other mineral specimens and geodes.
Arkansas Museum of Natural Resources
The museum, which focuses on the 1920s oil boom in south Arkansas, exhibits Arkansas' changing oil technology and brine industry. The museum includes an equipment display in the adjacent Oil Field Park.
Places to Visit - Interesting Sites To See
Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hot Springs National Park protects an area of thermal springs in the Ouachita Mountains of central Arkansas. The springs predominantly are composed of hot water from thousands of feet underground mixed with some shallow cold ground water. There are about forty thermal springs in the Park that are presumed to be flowing. Rock types in the area include shale units that generally impede ground-water movement, while fractured chert, novaculite, and sandstone units generally support ground-water movement. Dissolved minerals in the water precipitate to form the white to tan travertine or ‘tufa rock’ seen near the openings of the hot springs. The Park headquarters and visitor center has exhibits featuring the geology of the springs and the local area.
Blanchard Springs Caverns
Ozark National Forest – Stone County, Arkansas
Blanchard Springs Caverns is a cave system located about fifteen miles northwest of Mountain View, Arkansas. The limestone from which the caves and the formations developed was laid down in an ancient sea more than 350 million years ago. The cave is classified as a ‘living’ cave. Living caves are ones in which slow metamorphosis due to minerals deposited by seeping and dripping water is still in process. Cave formations include stalactites, stalagmites, columns, and flowstones.
Hot Spring County, Arkansas
Magnet Cove is a former well known mineral and rockhounding site located in the Ouachita Mountains south of Hot Springs, Arkansas. The famed Magnet Cove intrusive igneous complex was known for its unusual abundance of minerals at small area and has been collected from for at least two centuries. Mineral occurrences included magnetite (usually in the form of lodestone) as well as a variety of other minerals.
Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Science
University of Arkansas - Fayetteville Arkansas
The center displays a piece of the Paragould Meteorite, a stony meteorite chondrite weighing over 800 pounds that fell in Greene County, Arkansas in 1930.
Rockhounding Sites for Children & Families
Crater of Diamonds State Park – Murfreesboro, Arkansas
Fee access state park. At this state park, rockhounds can search for diamonds in a 37 acre field and keep any they find. Over 100,000 diamonds have been found here. The site is an eroded volcanic pipe. In addition to diamonds, rockhounds can find amethyst, agate, jasper, quartz, calcite, and barite.
Ouachita National Forest
The Ouachita National Forest – federal public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service – covers approximately 1,800,000 acres in central Arkansas and southeastern Oklahoma. Forest headquarters are located in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Subject to federal restrictions, the U.S. Forest Service permits recreational rockhounding to collect quartz crystals on two collecting Sites. Crystal Vista is a four (4) acre site on the Womble Ranger District that previously was a commercial quartz crystal mine. The site is located on Gardner Mountain, which is southeast of Mount Ida, Arkansas. Crystal Mountain is a site on the Jessieville-Winona Ranger District, midway between Jessieville and Perryville, Arkansas.
Mount Ida, Arkansas
Commercial (fee access) businesses. The Mount Ida area in southwest Arkansas is rich with quartz crystals. There are several commercial (fee access) businesses that permit rockhounders to collect quartz crystals.
Ouachita National Forest
Arkansas also is famous for wavellite specimens. At Mauldin Mountain (the former Montgomery County Quarry) near Mount Ida, Arkansas, wavellite occurs within vugs in the local chert and novaculite. Wavellite also has been collected on the Ouachita National Forest near Avant, Arkansas.