This is the fifth post about our family's visit to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. I suggest starting with the first, second, third, and fourth posts. Because I blog about educational travel, some of the places we visited gave me free admission tickets, discounts, media rates, or other benefits. Other locations we toured are free for everyone, and we paid full price for the rest. That has no bearing on my reviews. Everything I'm sharing is something that I recommend without hesitation. If you see any gaps in my narrative, it is because I didn't love a particular attraction, hotel, or restaurant enough to recommend it to you, regardless of how much I paid or didn't pay.
Murfreesboro, Arkansas to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
After an excellent breakfast at the Embassy Suites in Hot Springs, we loaded up the car and drove 58 miles southwest to Murfreesboro. This small town (population 1465) is home to Crater of Diamonds State Park.
The area's unique geology means that diamonds can be found loose in the dirt of an eroded volcanic crater. Park officials plow a 37-acre search field monthly. Park visitors have found (and kept) over 35,000 diamonds since Crater of Diamonds became a state park in 1972.
We started in the small Visitor Center. Here, we learned about the geology and history of Crater of Diamonds, saw examples of diamonds that were found here, and learned the ways in which diamonds are an image of Arkansas.
Most importantly, we learned what a diamond in the rough looks like. Not this. This:
Diamonds are naturally shiny, rounded with no sharp corners, and neither completely clear nor opaque. Armed with knowledge, it was time to head out to the search field! That's it behind us.
Looking for a lucky spot, not too close to the entrance and not too close to anyone else.
There are three recommended search methods. A surface search requires no equipment, which is what we did.
Shiny, rounded, and neither clear nor opaque.
We spent about 40 minutes hunting and used no equipment, but many of our fellow searchers were a lot more serious about hunting than we were. Virtually everyone else brought or rented wagons, shovels, sifters, and other equipment and were there all day (or even multiple days). Many brought blankets, shade structures, and coolers. Many had basically packed for a day at the beach, but without water or swimsuits. (Crater of Diamonds actually does have a water park, but it's only open during the summer.)
There are pavilions where you can sift, screen, and wash dirt, but we did none of those.
This shovel is interesting. It marks the spot where Marvin Culver found a large (4.21 carat), egg-shaped, canary-yellow diamond in 2006. He chose to name it the Okie Dokie Diamond after his home state of Oklahoma.
I'm sorry to report that the deRosiers did not find anything worthy of naming after our home state. But we did enjoy our time looking.
Crater of Diamonds State Park also has some hiking trails. We'd already spent more time there than I'd originally budgeted, but I really wanted to see a bit more of the park before we left. My ever-cooperative family agreed to skip lunch in order to spend a little extra time at Craters of Diamonds. The Wildlife Observation Blind Trail is a super short trail that gave us a taste of the natural environment the park has to offer.
We didn't see any animals besides birds, but the area was beautiful.
We said a reluctant goodbye to Crater of Diamonds just after noon and headed west toward Oklahoma. Our next destination, the Seminole Nation Museum, is 234 miles from Murfreesboro in Wewoka, OK. It closes at 5:00, which meant that if we drove directly there with no stops or slowdowns, we'd have 45 minutes to look around.
The Seminole Nation is one of 39 Native American tribes in Oklahoma. There are approximately 18,800 members of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.
The museum has many interesting exhibits about the history and culture of the Seminole people.
I was drawn to the painted pottery and beadwork. As always.
This exhibit about the Seminole Code Talkers was particularly interesting:
I was also fascinated by this map of the proposed state of Sequoyah, established from the Indian Territory in eastern present-day Oklahoma. In 1905, with the end of tribal governments nearing, five tribes in Indian Territory (Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole) got together to form a state under Native American governance. Things looked promising, as voters in the territory overwhelmingly approved Sequoyah's constitution and statehood petition. However, it became clear that Congress was unlikely to admit Sequoyah. President Theodore Roosevelt proposed a compromise to join Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory to form a single state. Oklahoma became the 46th state on November 15, 1907.
Just before the museum closed, we headed outside to poke around a bit. The Seminole Nation Museum founded the annual Wewoka Sorghum Festival, which sounds awesome.
This marker remembers the Seminole Trail of Tears, when they were forcibly relocated from Florida to Oklahoma.
We still had another 69 miles to drive to get to Oklahoma City, where we would be staying for four nights. We were really hungry, having eaten nothing since breakfast, but decided to press on and eat at the place I'd selected in OKC rather than stopping at some random Denny's or Sonic (founded in nearby Shawnee, OK). Both are fine, but we have them in California. Eating there would violate one of our travel goals, which is to not eat at places we have at home.
We finally reached the highly-recommended Empire Slice House. We ordered soup and salad and meatballs and garlic knots and pizza and it was all outstanding.
We checked into the Sheraton OKC Downtown, got settled in, and went to sleep early. We had a full day planned, starting early in the morning. I'll tell you about it tomorrow.
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