BY RICK WRIGHT –
Board Camp Crystal Mine (10 miles from Mena on Highway 8 East and Polk County Road 62) is owned and operated by Orville and Cheryl Murphy.
The Crystal Mine was discovered in 2008 and certified by the federal and state governments to be opened to the public in 2012. The surface is literally scattered with quartz crystals.
The public dig site at Crystal Mine is open daily from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. for crystal digging and is easily accessible to all person of all ages and abilities. You can drive right up to the public dig site on a good dirt road, in motor homes, school busses or just about any other type of vehicle. The mine accommodates most mobility devices like wheelchairs, and hover-rounds.
The mine is open to dig by reservation only. Call 479-243-0771 to make your reservations.
At Board Camp Crystal Mine, you keep what you find. Upon arrival at the mine, diggers check in at the Crystal Shop and go through a brief orientation, pay the fees, which is $10.00 each for age 16 and older, children under 15 dig for free, plus rent a $10.00 gathering bucket. You must rent a minimum of one for the mine’s yellow 20-quart gathering buckets in which to gather crystals. You will transfer your crystals into your own containers to take home after your dig session. Then drive right up to the site to dig with your tour guide, who will show you where to dig. The mine is a surface mine, not a cave or pit. It is a natural native mine. You can dig down as far as 36 inches, but many crystals are lying on the surface.
“We offer a real rock-hounding experience for our customers,” said Cheryl. “It’s to the point that people can not really go out into the forests anymore, because it’s private property or state parks and so forth, places they don’t want you digging around. It’s illegal to dig in those places.”
“We found the crystals when Orville was clearing the property,” said Cheryl. “We invited Mike Howard who was the state geologist at the time to come out and look in about 2007. It was Mike Howard who suggested we open a public dig site. We never dreamed we could do that, but through his guidance we found out we had to be registered with the federal government, the mine safety and health administration. So Orville and I are licensed federal miners, even though we are only doing rock-hounding.”
“It’s expensive to get your license,” said Orville. “I took all the courses and became an instructor for U.S. Department Labor.”
“Orville has trained other people on how to get their federal mining license,” said Cheryl.
“Not only are we required to be licensed as a federal mine, we are also required to be licensed by the State of Arkansas’ Mining Division through the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality. We have to renew that license every five years and we just went through our fifth year renewal, as this is already our fifth year,” said Cheryl. “So, we’re not doing major excavation, we’re not digging pits under the ground. We want to keep the landscape natural as possible. Our public dig site is out in the forest, so it’s shady. When Orville discovered the crystals he cleared some areas and put paths in, but it’s still the forest and it’s a really pleasant place to be as far as shade from the hot summer sun.”
“Here you can find crystal that no one has ever touched or seen in all of eternity,” said Orville. “You keep what you find.”
The Crystal Shop has beautiful crystals on display that were found within 12 inches of the surface.
“We’re just doing mining by hand,” said Cheryl. “Which basically is rock-hounding.”
“We are still finding people in the Mena area that don’t know we exist,” said Cheryl.
“We’ve had people here from Australia, Germany, Canada, Japan and they had the time of their life,” said Orville. “Those people find us on arkansas.com. Most people who are tourists are looking to come to Arkansas to see what Arkansas has to offer. And, of course, one of the major things that Arkansas has to offer as the Natural State is the crystals in the area. All the other traditional mines are in the Mount Ida area, which is 40 miles from here. We actually belong to the Mount Ida Chamber of Commerce as well as the Mena/Polk County Chamber of Commerce, because we wanted to make connections there and be part of their traditional crystal community.”
“The crystal veins that are here in the Ouachita Mountains go from Hot Springs to Talihina,” said Orville. “Polk County is in the heart of the crystal vein.”
“We give classes and have a lot of schools that come out to the mine,” said Orville. “Jones academy, a private native American school comes over here.”
“We had Holly Harshman’s fourth grade come to the mine,” said Cheryl. “We’ve had one of the Acorn classes come out and a couple of the local private schools come out. We would love it if more classes would like to come on a field trip.”
“We don’t charge children,” said Orville. “Our very first customer was the Make a Wish Foundation. The 12-year-old boy had cancer and he wanted to mine like his grandpa did. We gave him a certificate. Every child that comes out to dig who is 15 years old and younger gets an honorary miners certificate.”
Board Camp Crystal Mine is a hidden treasure right here in Polk County. Call 479-243-0771 to make your reservation to dig these crystal treasures.