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SEP-OCT 2016

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64 S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 6 Currently, the Heritage Center is displaying a basket exhibit that includes the world's tallest Cherokee basket, standing more than 10 feet, as well as a basket that survived the Trail of Tears. "We're happy to do other add-ons other than baskets for groups," Tehee said. "Some are just more time-consuming and more expensive." Other relatively easy take-home projects are corn-husk dolls and pottery, and more involved projects include feather capes, beadwork and center-seamed moccasins. Group organizers can make specific requests in advance. Murfreesboro, Arkansas The "finders keepers" policy at Crater of Diamonds State Park makes the $4 entrance fee a worthwhile gamble. "This is the only place in the world where people can search in an original volcanic source and keep anything they can find," said park interpreter Waymon Cox. The Murfreesboro park stretches for more than 900 acres along the Little Missouri River, but groups spend their time searching through a 37-acre field nicknamed the Pig Pen for its muddy terrain after heavy rain and regular plowing. More than 75,000 diamonds have been unearthed since the first diamonds were discovered there in 1906. An average of one to two diamonds are still unearthed each day. In addition to white, brown and yellow diamonds, visitors find amethyst, garnet, jasper, agate, quartz and other rocks and minerals. Before hunting, groups can either watch an instructional video or learn min- ing techniques from park staffers. Mining tools are also available for rent. "Mining is not like fishing at a lake," Cox said. "You don't just show up and know how to do it." But it doesn't take long to get the hang of it. Park staffers are trained to identify and register stones, but they won't put prices on them. Last year's most sensational find was an 8.52-carat diamond named Esperanza by the Colorado woman who unearthed it. Gemologists determined Esperanza to be the most perfect diamond ever discovered in the United States, and it's expected to sell for $500,000 at auction later this year. Gems like Esperanza and Uncle Sam (the 40.23- carat diamond discovered at Crater of Diamonds in 1924, which is still the largest diamond ever discov- ered in the United States) are rare finds, yet groups still venture out in all sorts of weather to try their luck. "We're open year-round," Cox said. "Only snow slows us down." Courtesy Crater of Diamonds State Park An average of one or two diamonds are still unearthed each day at Crater of Diamonds State Park.

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