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Digging for Selenite Crystals at Oklahoma’s Great Salt Plains

We love finding adventure not far from home! My husband’s son was visiting for the summer and we decided we needed to take a little adventure with him and our youngest daughter.  We decided to go to the Great Salt Plains for a fund geological digging adventure.  The Great Salt Plains dig area is about an hour and a half drive for us, perfect for a day trip.  It was June 2015 which can mean temperatures up into the 100s, so we started off early that morning.

 What are Selenite Crystals?

A little bit about Selenite Crystals and the dig area. The 11,000-square-mile Great Salt Plains are as white as salt, thanks to the saline deposits left over from an ancient sea that once drenched the area. Still flowing beneath the surface is a saline aquifer that replenishes the layer of salt when the underground water rises. Dig for hourglass selenite crystals here because they are found nowhere else in the world. It is the only place in the world where hourglass-shaped selenite crystals are found. Millions of years ago the area was covered by a large inland sea. The sea was eventually cut off and the water evaporated away, leaving behind thick layers of salt that were then covered by dirt and erosion from surrounding mountain ranges. As groundwater rose to the surface through the salt-saturated sand, it took salt along with it and deposited them on the surface as a thin crust. It was the concentrated saline solution combined with gypsum that promoted the growth of selenite, a crystalline form of gypsum. These crystals are found buried only a few feet below the surface.

Before you go.

Before we headed out, we had to take a few things with us to prepare for a warm day of digging.  We packed sunblock, bottled water, snacks, shovel, bucket and some towels to clean up with.  We also brought a change of clothes and wore old clothes to dig. Digging can get pretty messy and dirty!  You can also bring water, a sifter, and maybe smaller shovels to help find and clean the crystals.  We did not do this, but it is a good idea after the fact.  We’ve been digging before with our two older kids.

What to expect

This year they moved the dig area.  Dig areas are rotated every couple of years.  Wow!  Could we tell the difference!  We found so many crystals easily.  It is recommended to dig a hole two feet wide and about two feet deep.  After that, we dug without hands through the piles that we dug out, and in the hole.  We just used our fingers to sift through the dirt.  It is very easy to dig and sift through without extra tools (water, small shovels, and a sifter), but it sure would not hurt to bring those things.  The day was windy, and even though we started out in the morning, it got hot pretty quick.  Our youngest had a good time, but she had more fun wandering off from us.  We found so many great crystals!  After

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After digging for a couple of hours, we decided to visit the lake area and State Park.  You could easily make this a weekend trip and camp out at the park campground or rent a cabin.  There are a few hiking trails and a nice playground for the kids.  We let our youngest play on the playground, then we went for a very short hike.  It was afternoon and was very hot and humid out by then.  We will be back!  If you are going in the summer I recommend going in the morning before it gets hot.

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