Needing ideas for inexpensive family fun? Take a road trip to the Great Salt Plains State Park! This Oklahoma State Park has a unique (and free!) activity – digging for selenite crystals! This post contains affiliate links (which means if you purchase from one of these links, your cost is the same, but I may receive a commission), however I only recommend things that I love! Please check out my disclosure policy for more details.
When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Indiana Jones. Like Indiana Jones, I wanted to be an archeologist. I wanted to go on adventures – to explore, dig, and discover rare treasures! Fortunately, I grew up just a few miles away from my Grandparents, who had a large farm. This gave me a place to explore – I spent many weekends roaming the pasture with my siblings and cousins, searching along creek beds hoping to find arrowheads. (In case you are wondering, I never found an arrowhead, but I did find some pretty cool plant fossils!)
My own children have yet to watch an Indiana Jones movie, but they love to dig and get dirty! (Even my daughter enjoys getting dirty, as long as she is prepared for it! 😂) So when my husband and I heard about digging for crystals at the Great Salt Plains, we knew this would be a fun activity for the kids… And as I was digging through the mud with my bare hands, memories from my childhood came flooding back. I’m not sure who had more fun! We unearthed more in the few hours we spent at the state park than in the years I spent digging at my Grandparents’ house!
The Treasure of the Great Salt Plains
The Great Salt Plains are located in northwest Oklahoma, in a small area that is saturated with salt (from once being covered in sea water). The selenite (gypsum) crystals that form here are unique. Because they form in wet soil, sand and clay particles are included in the crystal, and form an hourglass shape within it. This is the only place in the world that these crystals are found!
The salt flats where the crystals form are part of the Great Salt Plains State Park, which is located near the tiny town of Jet, Oklahoma. In addition to the salt flats, the park includes a saltwater lake (where you can swim, boat, and fish), nature trails for hiking, cabins, and campsites. The salt flats are located on the southwest side of the lake. Directions to and more information about the crystal dig area can be found on the Salt Plains page of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website.
What to Expect
Digging for crystals is a fun and FREE family activity! However, the dig area is not open year round, and there are several things you need to consider when planning your trip…
Important items to note:
- There is no entry fee!
- The dig area is open from April 1st to October 15th, sunrise to sunset.
- Digging is only allowed in areas designated by an orange “Dig Area” sign. (The allowed digging area is rotated to allow time for crystals to replenish, and to protect nesting birds.)
- The current dig area is about a mile from the entrance, and the road leading to it is unpaved. (It had recently rained prior to our trip, so the road was very soft. We were a little worried about our van getting stuck in the mud, but made it with no problem!) There is no parking lot – cars line up to park along the road next to the dig area.
- You are allowed to leave with up to 10 pounds of crystals plus one large cluster per day.
- **There is one bathroom located at the entrance to the dig site, however there is no plumbing.**
What to bring:
- Shade! (Bring your own shade, as there are no trees or structures to provide shade for you. We borrowed a canopy to take with us, and it was wonderful! This canopy is very similar to the one we borrowed. It was very easy to put up and take down. I think we need to get one for tailgate season!)
- Sunglasses and Sunscreen
- Shovel and garden spades
- Water (For digging, washing, and drinking. There is no running water at the site.)
- Buckets (for crystals)
- Trashbags (for dirty clothes and shovels)
- Extra set of clothes (You will get dirty!)
- Wipes (Though we are out of diapers ( 🙌 ), we keep wipes in the car for dirty hands!)
- Snacks & drinks
- Beach towels (for sitting on the salty sand). These beach towels from Kohl’s are my favorite! They are huge, soft, and currently clearance priced!
Digging for Crystals
When we first arrived, we picked a dig location that was near the road. We had brought a large canopy with us, and didn’t want to lug it very far… which happened to be a bad choice. I don’t know if we were just unlucky, or if that area (because it was so near the road) had been picked over. We followed the directions (found here) on how to dig for crystals, but after digging a two feet wide, two feet deep hole, we found nothing. This did not discourage the kids – they had moved on to one of the many mud puddles and were busy making mud pies!
Before long, our neighbors a few holes over (who we discovered were from Pampa, Texas) called out asking if we were having any luck. They had arrived not long before we did, and in a short amount of time, had gathered a coffee can full of crystals! They were packing up to leave and suggested that we take over the hole that they had dug. Their hole was shallow, only about 6 inches deep, and completely filled with water. We used our hands to sift through the mud along the sides and bottom of the hole, and were coming up with handfuls of crystals!
Once we began finding crystals, the real fun began. The kids would exclaim (loudly) every few seconds, “I found a crystal!” and “I found another crystal!” Then our middle child decided to see if he could leap over the puddle that we were searching. Though he did it successfully, he soon ended up in the puddle anyway. And then our littlest monkey decided to join him. And though our daughter did not end up in the puddle, she was still covered with mud from the youngest shaking off like a dog right next to her. 😆
We spent about three hours at the dig site (including set up, clean up, and a snack break), and found dozens of crystals, most measuring one to three inches long. We packed up as the sun was going down, and ended our visit with a beautiful Oklahoma sunset.
If you are looking for inexpensive family activities, I highly recommend this place! It’s about a 2-1/2 hour drive from Tulsa, so those in this area could easily make a day trip out of it. However, if you are looking to stay for a weekend, there are cabins and campsites available at the park. And for those who would rather stay in a hotel, Enid is about 45 minutes southeast of the dig site.
We spent all of our time in the crystal dig area, so did not get to explore the park. I think another trip is in order! Who wants to come with us??
(More information about the Great Salt Plains State Park can be found at the Oklahoma Tourism website, TravelOK.com.)