The central part of Arkansas is loaded with quartz. The most popular areas for collecting are around Mount Ida in Montgomery county and Hot Springs. There are numerous mines open for tourists to collect their own crystals for a fee. More remote collecting sites can be found in the Ouachita Mountains.
The Ron Coleman mine is located a few miles north of Hot Springs. This mine is known for is large fine quality quartz clusters. Here tourists are allowed to collect from mine tailings. Cloudy crystals and fragments are easy to find, but the lucky prospector might find an intact cluster of large clear crystals. The tailings generally consist of soft soil with some boulders. Standard garden implements are the only items needed to prospect here.
An mining pit at Ron Coleman's
An excavator frequently stirs up the soil to expose fresh material
Sometimes the crystals are just lying on the surface
Not to be confused with the Ron Coleman mine, the Coleman's Miller Mountain mine is operated for tourists in the same manner as the Ron Coleman mine, but costs less. This mine is located on the south side of Arkansas highway 298.
This doubly terminated crystal was found just sitting on top of a fresh
pile of soil at Coleman's Miller Mountain Mine.
Mt. Ida is a town located deep in the Ouachita Mountains and calls itself “The Quartz Capital of the World.” This might be a bit of a stretch, but is certainly the quartz capital of North America. It is host to the annual World Championship Crystal Dig. Numerous rock shops and crystal mines are open to tourists. There is a lot of variation in the crystal habits between specimens found at different mines, so it makes sense to visit more than one mine.
Located northeast of Mt. Ida along highway 27, the Sweet Surrender mine is hidden on the top of a hill in the forest. Here visitors are allowed to dig in mine tailings. Loose crystals may be found, but crystal cluster may also be found is host rock boulders and require some work to get them free. The fee to dig is good for the whole day and there is no limit to the weight of material that can be hauled off.
The active pit at the Sweet Surrender Mine
Tourists are allowed to dig through the extensive tailings pile
Wegener’s Crystal Warehouse is located south of Mt. Ida off of highway 27. The office and rock shop here are loaded with specimens in the yard and in the shop. Many of the specimens are found locally, but as the name suggests, this is a warehouse and has many specimens from around the world for sale.
The yard at Wegener's is full of rocks
Wegener’s has a phantom quartz mine of their own, although there are some limitations for public digging. Luckily they also have a surface mine where visitors can visit for two hours at a time. Here crystals are both found on the surface and in exposed veins. Standard garden tools are sometimes not enough to get at the crystals in the veins; a hammer and chisel are useful for this.
Many small crystals can be found on the surface
The Mt. Ida area offers plenty of crystal digging opportunities for everyone from beginners to experts. Wegener’s for example offers short-term digs for those with limited attention span and Sweet Surrender offers all-day experiences with more work required. Digging is also allowed in the Ouachita National Forest, so independent minded collectors can have a do-it-yourself escapade.