Recently, my husband and I took our eight-year-old and ten-year-old to the Great Salt Plains to dig for selenite crystals. It was such a fun family trip – one that I know we will take again! I had been digging for crystals only once before, and that was about 20+ years ago, so I had to do a little research before I went to remind myself exactly what to do once we got there.
Everything You Need to Know About a Trip to The Great Salt Plains with Kids
What are Selenite Crystals?
Before we begin with the tips, just what are these crystals? The Great Salt Plains is believed to have once been covered in an ocean, hence all of the salt left behind. The hourglass selenite crystals form underground when the gypsum in the soil mixes with the salty groundwater. Pretty cool, huh?
Tips to Make Your Crystal Digging Trip a Success
- Dig in the morning. There is absolutely no shade in the crystal dig area. And especially during the summer months when that sun gets high in the sky and Oklahoma temperatures soar, you will be glad you got out to do your digging in the morning when temperatures are a little cooler.
- Bring your own shade. If you want to have some shade while you are out digging for crystals, bring along a large umbrella or even a pop-up canopy. You can set up your canopy directly over your dig site. Just don’t forget your stakes if you bring a canopy – our Oklahoma wind may whip the canopy up if it’s not staked down.
- Don’t forget your sunscreen, sunglasses, & a hat. Whether you are under a canopy or out in the sun, don’t forget to bring your sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. The surface of the dig area is covered in white salt, making it more reflective and thus, making it easier for you to burn. And remember, you can still burn on a cloudy day. So, lather up! Your skin will thank you.
- Bring a chair. Depending on how long you are out there, you might consider bringing along a camping chair to take a break in. When I was there, my children did most of the digging, and I really wished I had a chair to sit in to watch them instead of sitting on the ground.
- Wear clothes that can get dirty. Like, really dirty. There’s just no way to avoid it – you will get VERY dirty when you’re digging for crystals. Make sure you wear old clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy.
- Bring a shovel. Leave the kid’s plastic shovels at home and bring along metal shovels. A large gardening shovel would be great to have to get your hole started, and then smaller hand trowels are perfect for getting down on your hands and knees and digging once the hole is started. I picked up a couple before our trip for about $5 each at Walmart. There is both sand and clay to dig through, so you definitely want something metal and durable to do your digging.
- Bring water. We picked up several gallon jugs of water at Walmart before going and they worked perfect. You will want water for several reasons:
- To pour into the hole where you are digging. This can help wash the crystals out of the dirt.
- To wash all of the dirt off your hands, legs and feet before you get in the car to leave. Don’t forget a towel to dry off!
- To drink. Again, it can get hot out there, so don’t forget to hydrate.
- Bring a colander. This was helpful for washing away the dirt off the crystals. We only used it after we found the crystals as we were washing them off, but it could also help you with sifting through the dirt to find them in the first place.
- Bring some buckets. We brought beach buckets to put our crystals in, and we saw other people out there with 5-gallon buckets. Either one works! If you are taking kids on your dig, I would encourage you to let them each bring their own bucket. My kids loved digging away from each other and keeping their finds separate. One use for a bucket would be as a washing station to wash off crystals as you find them, allowing you to capture the water you pour over them and reuse it.
- Stop at the bathroom on the way in. Spoken like a true mom, huh? But seriously. There’s a bathroom near the entrance of the dig area. It’s better to stop when you first arrive than have to pack up mid-dig and drive back up to it for a bathroom stop. No really. Just trust me.
- Go towards the back of the digging area. As we pulled up to the dig area, a family who was leaving made this recommendation to us. We followed their suggestion and found so many crystals in that area, which was essentially untouched. The front of the digging site is where most people stop upon arrival and start digging. You may be tempted to start sifting through the holes people have already dug. We were. But take it from me – walk past all of those people to the area towards the back and the rewards will be plentiful.
- Bring snacks and/or a packed lunch. Digging can be hard work and depending on how long you’re there, you might get hungry. (Read: the kids will be starving. Or at least, mine were.) Jet, the town closest to the dig area, doesn’t have any restaurants – only a convenience store. Just make sure you take any trash that you have from opening packages or drinks.
- Take everything with you when you leave. Take the crystals and memories, leave behind nothing else.
Okay so you might still be wondering – how exactly do we find these crystals? It is recommended by the State Park that you dig a 2 ft x 2 ft hole in the ground, and then pour water into the hole to help wash out the crystals. If that sounds like a lot of work, hear me say that you didn’t have to dig a hole that big to actually find crystals.
Our trip to the Crystal Digging Area was after some heavy rainfall, so we were lucky that a lot of crystals had washed to the surface. It was almost like Easter egg hunting for the kids as they walked around picking them up! Even if you happen to go and there hasn’t been any rain, you could still dig a hole of any size and find crystals. Just remember, the bigger and deeper the hole, the chances of finding larger crystals increases.
Happy Digging! I hope this helps you in your quest for salt crystals. If you’re a seasoned digger and think there’s a tip I’ve forgotten, please tell me in the comments.
The Selenite Crystal Dig Area is open for digging April 1 to October 15, from sunrise to sunset.