If you’re a rockhound who lives in or near Arkansas, and you’re always on the lookout for places to go to dig crystals, then chances are you’ve heard of the Crystal Vista crystal dig site.
There’s plenty of quartz crystals to be found here and it’s completely free. You just have to be willing to make the 20 minute uphill trek to the collection area. The good news is, your walk back down to your vehicle will all be downhill!
I’ve always just assumed this location had pretty much been completely picked over since it’s a fairly popular free crystal dig site that’s open to the public.
Even according the the Forest Service website, it warns would be visitors, “Because this site is no longer an active mine, it is well picked over and provides a limited collecting experience for most folks.”
But from what I’ve been seeing lately, this still looks like it could be a great place to both surface collect and dig for crystals for free, if that’s what you’re looking for.
About Crystal Vista Arkansas
Crystal Vista is the Ouachita National Forest’s first developed crystal collecting area, located on the Womble Ranger District in Mount Ida, Arkansas. It’s a stunning setting at the top of Gardner Mountain, with views of Lake Ouachita and Mount Ida to the north and picturesque mountain ranges to the south. This is the center of the quartz crystal generating area, located in the Crystal Mountain Sandstone Formation.
There is a parking space at the mountain’s foot and an excellent walk to the site. It will take around 20 minutes of moderate uphill climbing to get there. It’s a fun area to look for little crystal points and white quartz rock with the kids.
History of The Crystal Vista Dig Site
The Crystal Vista dig site is a 4 acre area that was once a commercial crystal mining operation. It’s said that during World War II, the quartz crystals in this area were mined to use in radios.
After the mine was closed, a local miner and the Forest Service worked together to turn the 4 acre property into a recreational site for rockhounds.
Just like in any mining operation, what’s left behind are tailing piles, or basically the leftover material that’s been removed from the actual mine and processed. Over time these piles begin to accumulate a lot of material. Material that contains quartz crystals.
Once the mine ceased operating, the tailing piles were left behind, and as you can imagine, they’ve all grown over and become a part of the landscape.
However, if you can locate where these tailing piles are, you’ll have a much better chance of finding crystals, especially if you’re willing to do a little digging.
Tips For Rockhounding At Crystal Vista
Surface collecting at Crystal Vista can be very productive, especially if your expectations aren’t to find large clusters. What you’re likely to find while surface collecting at this site are smaller sized quartz points, many of which are extremely clear and in great condition.
However, if you’re willing to put on your gloves and do a little work digging, you could potentially make some excellent finds.
The trick to keep in mind before you start digging is to know where to dig. So you want to try and find where the old tailing piles are located. There’s a couple different ways you can do this. One is to spend some time on Google and Youtube. There’s many videos of folks who share exactly where they’ve had good luck digging. The other option is to look for areas that show evidence of prior digging.
Dig With Care
Once you locate a good place to dig, take care when loosening material with your rock pick or shovel. Gently loosen the soil and allow it to fall. Then use your hands to crumble the soil to expose the buried crystals.
The last thing you want to do is hit a quartz cluster with your pick and severely damaging an otherwise great quality crystal.
How To Get To Crystal Vista
Heading south on highway 27 from Mt. Ida, take a left after 3.8 miles onto Owley Rd (County Road 2237). Go 4.1 miles to the Crystal Vista trailhead and parking area on the left (road is not paved at that point and is a Forest Service road). After parking on the trailhead, you will hike up the hill for about 20 minutes.
Brian, The Crystal Collector, recently put together an excellent video about this dig site. Not only did he share the crystals he found, but he also shared the exact GPS coordinates of where he was digging. Be sure to check out his video below!