Saturday, June 27, 2009

Crystal Digging

My mother was wondering if we had done anything this week since I hadn't blogged!! I just giggled! We have been up to lots. . . food driving, swim lessons, wheat harvest, and a lot of work. . but today we joined up with our rock hunting buddies and took a drive to the Salt Plains by Jet, Oklahoma to dig crystals that can be found no where else in the world. (That is kind of exciting in and of itself!) We picked a warmish day to go, but we found that there were plenty of people as crazy as we were--out digging too. When we drove up, we were sure that we were on another planet. It honestly looked like there was snow covering everything. The thought made us at least 30 degrees cooler. . . till we got out! The salt is also very reflective, so it is incredibly bright! And easy to sunburn--we slathered ourselves up before we started!
The Salt Plains are a flat expanse of mud, completely devoid of vegetation, located in north central Oklahoma. (We thought it looked a little like the scenery from Ice Road Truckers--you know the show on discovery channel) The name, Salt Plains, is derived from the thin layer of salt that covers the flats. This salt was used by Native American tribes and early pioneers who first settled the area. The plains are 7 miles in length and approximately 3 miles wide and lie within the boundaries of the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.

The crystals are a type called selenite--we found some of this on our hunt a few weeks ago--those minerals looked a lot like plate glass--very flat and clear. It was interesting to note the different formation and appearance of both selenite types! These crystals take on the characteristics of their environment; the finer the soil, the more clear the crystals. Iron oxide in the soil gives the crystals their chocolate brown color. Because these crystals form in wet soil, sand and clay particles are included within the crystal. These particles often form an "hourglass" shape, found only in this area. Other foreign objects in the soil, such as sticks, rocks, bones, and even cockleburs, are sometimes included as the crystal forms.

The procedure goes a little bit like this.

First you dig a hole. The sites I looked at said 2 feet by 2 feet, but we found that smaller ones worked fine. And we even used leftover holes that had been used by prior diggers.

Next you splash some water down the sides of the hole. We filled the bottom of the hole with a couple of inches of water then kept sloshing it around in the hole, agitating the sand off the crystals. We took 4 5-gallon jugs of water, and I had a couple gallon milk jugs that we emptied them into to make handling them easier.

The crystals are easy to break when they are wet, so we had to be careful. We found lots of flatter crystals and even some crystal clusters, that were shaped like an X or had several crystals going different directions. When you find them, you can clean them with a little water to see the sand inclusions in them. We didn't have enough water to clean them off, so we did it when we got home. It was fun to check them out.

The site has been closed for the last year or so because some boy scouts found leftover mustard gas there from WW2. It reopened in April. I don't know if the crystals were so easy to find because not many people had been there for a while, or if they are always that easy to find. The crystals can get up to 7 inches long and some formations can weigh up to 35 pounds. They let you dig 10 pounds of crystals per person. We were a long way off from the 90 pounds we could have dug today! We did dig for about 2 hours before we couldn't stand the heat anymore!

The babies slept in their car seats for a little while before coming out to play.

We went through another 5 gallon jug of ice water and who knows how many gatorades and capri sun drinks! When we finished digging, we toured around and went to the lake not far from the salt plains. We were just going to let them dip their feet in to cool off a minute!!

We snacked on chips and salsa while we watched them swim. Wow, was it hot and muggy at the lake!! We were glad to get back on the road. They also have a big natural habitat for multiple species of birds. We took the car tour through there. We sighted a big, beautiful pure white bird, which I tried to photography twice and couldn't get him to sit still. I plan to see if they have any official birding tours or watches in the fall or spring when migration happens. I would love to try that out! (By myself, or with any adult that I might be able to entice to come. . . NO KIDS!)

The crystal on the left has the classic hour glass inclusion of sand and debris in it. The one on the right is a small crystal cluster. Pretty cool??
The kids enjoyed cleaning them off and checking them out. This was Tristan's work for the day--Grant had a pile of about the same amount. . .Devin? Not so many--Oh well--All in a good day's work! So anyway, it was a fun day. Everyone is in bed now, and I am headed there myself quickly! The chairs will get painted tomorrow, J helped Dev paint his chair this morning. Can't wait to post pictures of those! Hope you all are having a great weekend!


  1. Looks like you had a blast! I bet it was really hot though! It looks as though the babies enjoyed it also.

  2. You all always find the coolest placed to go!! Those look pretty awesome!! I love that picture of looks like he's on a beach someplace!