APRIL 3RD AND 4TH, 2017 – DIAMONDS AND RIVER SNORKELING
Total miles traveled on Dive and Drive USA in ten days: 2,145 miles
Christine and I decided to make full use of our hotel stay after the tornadoes passed. Since we had WiFi at the hotel, I took the chance to really plan our next step. While Christine made FULL use of the breakfast buffet, I looked at diving in Oklahoma. We had done enough research to find out that there was diving at Broken Bow Lake, Oklahoma. That was right on the boarder of Texas, Arkansas, and just inside Oklahoma. It was perfect for half a day drive and dive the next morning. I made phone call after phone call looking for a way to get underwater in Broken Bow Lake. The local marina said they didn’t have tanks but the local Propane store did, the Propane store said the tanks were actually at a dive shop, the dive shop was long closed, the chamber of commerce directed us back to the dive shop. Final result: Broken Bow Lake has no one who rents or fills tanks! We had to rent tanks from a LONG ways away and bring them in, then return them. Not an option.
I changed locations and called a popular dive site in northern Arkansas. Bull Shoals is known as the “Caribbean of the Midwest” and we wanted to see why. I called the dive shop only to find out days of rain had made the dive conditions pretty awful! We were told it may not be worth the detour for another few days as conditions cleared up! Another dive opportunity missed!
The new plan was camp for a night in Arkansas and then figure things out. We were due to visit my parents in Nebraska by April 5th so we only had one extra day. So I found something fun to do out of the water, we would make our fortune by mining diamonds!
Crater of Diamonds State Park in South East Arkansas is the world’s only open-to-the-public diamond mine. For only $10 a person, you can spend all day sifting, digging, or surface-searching for gems! Almost every day a diamond is found in this park by the public! We were off to make our millions for the day!
Crater of Diamonds is not as unique to look at as it sounds. I envisioned a massive crater with diamonds poking out everywhere! Kind of like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. It looked more like a farmer’s plowed field, in fact, it looked exactly like a farmer’s plowed field. It was 37 acres of black, tilled dirt with the possibility of our millions laying just below the surface. We bought a tiny tiny garden shovel for $1.50 and went to work. Turns out one little shovel in 37 acres is way more daunting than you may think. Also, we don’t really know what a raw diamond looks like. Christine and I split up, she took the shovel, I adopted the technique of breaking up every dirt clod I found.
We searched for about 4 hours in every place that looked promising. We dug here, broke clods there, played in a mud puddle every now and then (honestly we just played in the dirt like children) and in the end we found… nothing! Our millions alluded us! We were still just common folk after all. On our way out we found a sign that described what a raw diamond looked like. That would have been helpful 4 hours ago!
A BEAUTIFUL CAMP SITE IN DAISY STATE PARK, ARKANSAS
20 minutes down the road was Daisy State Park and our home for the night. As we pulled in we realized it was mostly empty! No other tents and only one or two RV off in the RV only section. We had the site to ourselves! AND our site was ON THE WATER!!!
We set up our tent on the edge of a beautiful lake with a perfect view of the sunset! This was too good to not to enjoy our stay. I quickly looked on my phone to make sure the weather was going to hold and booked a second night! Tomorrow was supposed to be more beautiful than today, no chance of storms! We made big plans of relaxing on the water and doing nothing tomorrow. That was not the reality!
Early the next morning we used the camp WiFi to do a little work and found that we were in the middle of several diving and snorkel destinations! Our plans to relax disappeared as we excitedly looked for dive shops! With a dozen phone calls we found that the lake we had our tent on, Lake Greeson in Daisy State Park, was popular with divers! Unfortunately, they all brought their own gear because there was no local dive shop. We would just have to snorkel it then! But first, Cossatot River was just down the road and known for crystal clear snorkeling! Off we went!
We pulled into the Cossatot Park and talked to the local ranger. She told us rains had the rapids going upstream but right at the park should be safe and a little slower. She wished us luck and called us crazy and sent us down the hill to the river. It was beautiful! The water was mostly clear and had a little bridge to get to an eddy on the opposite side. We geared up and slid in the water.
The water was cold and fast but our 7 millimeter wet suits kept us toasty warm. The water was too shallow to use our fins very effectively so we clawed our way upstream and then floated down. The water was mostly clear, but a little cloudy from the rain. It had little fish everywhere that alternated between running away from us to investigating us. It was a blast to just play in the water and float around!
After about an hour we got out, dried off and headed back to try snorkeling our lake in Daisy State Park. At first the lake was pretty clear but as we got deeper, the visibility decreased. We saw some little fish hiding under logs and rocks. When we got into water too deep to touch we tried freediving. There wasn’t much to see with the low visibility but it felt good to be underwater again! All within feet of our tent site.
As we warmed up around the camp fire that night we noticed lighting far of in the distance. One flash, another flash, then just black sky. As we watched it got brighter, closer, and more frequent. The weather report was a lie, we were about to get hit with another nasty thunderstorm!