Sure, you’ve probably visited a state park or a wildlife refuge somewhere along your travels. You may have even set your eyes on the endless white expanse of a natural salt flat. But even so, have you ever dug through layers of salt and mud to unearth your very own souvenir crystals?
Through Oct. 15, that’s exactly what you can do at the Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma.
April 1 marked the official start of digging season at this national wildlife refuge, where the earth is filled with selenite crystals unlike any others you’ll find in the world. What makes these long and otherwise clear crystals unique is the dark hourglass pattern that runs through the center of the selenite, a result of the crystal soaking up the clay, soil and sand of the salt flats.
Visitors are given free rein to dig for up to 10 pounds of crystals during the season in the designated digging areas. Other areas of the salt flats are protected habitats for whooping cranes, so it’s important for visitors to keep their digging to the designated areas.
Finding your own selenium crystals is as simple as digging a hole two feet across and two feet deep, where you’ll come across wet sand from the underground water bed. After letting a few inches of water seep into your hole, you swish the water around to break away the surrounding sand until you uncover a crystal bed. The crystals are very fragile but with a little patience, you’ll soon have your very own crystal souvenirs from the Great Salt Plains.
Aside from crystal digging, you can take a hike along the refuge’s nature trails for a better look at the salt plains and the birds that call it home. At nearby Great Salt Plains State Park, you can also enjoy water sports in the lake, horseback riding, hiking and fishing.
Have you made your way to Oklahoma’s Great Salt Plains? Let us know in the comments!
(All images: Rebekah Workman/Oklahoma Tourism)