Digging For Crystals at Great Salt Plains State Park
As a relatively new work-at-home-mom, I am incredibly thankful for veteran stay-at-home-moms and others that work from home. Several weeks ago, my neighbor and I shared some breakfast and lovely conversation on my back porch and enjoyed our last few hours of quiet time while our kids were all at school. I asked for her input on Summer activities and inquired about how she usually fills the days and weeks with her girls during the vacation.
We talked about summer camps and pool options and brainstormed about road trips and other adventurous ideas. She mentioned there was one thing she wanted to be sure to do, that she had done years ago when her girls were younger and began to tell me about the Great Salt Plains in Jet, Oklahoma.
The Great Salt Plains State Park is comprised of a huge expanse of salt plains that are remnants of an ancient ocean that once covered this part of Oklahoma. An ocean in Oklahoma! Can you imagine? Along with hiking, camping and other outdoor activities, you can actually dig up Selenite Crystals that no other place in the world has. I was completely intrigued at this unique park and told her on the spot we needed to plan an adventure!
Since I have a period of four weeks on-call for a doula client most of June, it became clear that if we were going to head out there we needed to pack up and get the caravan going last week, so on Tuesday we decided last minute that Wednesday would have to be the day! My sweet neighbor, Amy is such a good sport to oblige my crazy schedule, and even agreed to leave at 7am the next day and make a massive day trip happen so I could get back in town by 6pm for a prospective client meeting, yikes!
As fate would have it, we conveniently forgot about all those people with 8-5 jobs who'd be on the highway at 7:45 in the morning at got stuck on the BA for a while, then we got terribly turned around in the wonderful (note the sarcasm) construction on the IDL. THEN we got sufficiently confused trying to get onto 244 and eventually 412. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to keep from getting on 412 when I mean to get on I-44 and I-44 when I mean to get on 412. *Sigh*
Here's a bit of advice for you: Don't mess with Mapquest trying to get to Jet, Oklahoma from Tulsa. Just look at a map (thank goodness for smart phones with map applications) and do what you need to do to get onto Highway 51 which turns into 64, then 412 from your place and start heading west! Stay on 412 all the way through Enid, until you see 132. Go north on 132, then turn left (west) when you come to 64 again. You'll see an exit on your right for the main entrance to the Great Salt Plains State Park, but if you're going straight to the digging area DON'T turn there. It's a long and windy 8 miles around the lake to the park office which is on the COMPLETE opposite side of the park from the Selenite Crystal Digging area. Instead, when you're back on 64 after 132, continue west, past the turn for the Park Office until you see a sign for the Selenite Crystal Digging area. Trust me. It will save you a solid 30-40 minutes. This is crucial if you've already killed nearly 2 hours of your day getting out of the house late, getting stuck in traffic and getting lost in construction and confusing highways!
Once we FINALLY made it to the salt plains, it was a fantastic site. It really looks like an ocean, and almost feels like a strange dreamland. It's easy to forget you're even still in Oklahoma!
When you first enter the salt plains of the digging area, there is a building with a restroom, a parking area, and a shelter with information about the history of the Great Salt Plains and Selenite Crystals.
With no more time to waste, we got to digging. Make sure you bring buckets, shovels and clothes you don't mind getting very dirty, salty and sandy. Also bring plenty of sunscreen and wear it! There is absolutely no shade out there, and the reflection from the salt and sand can cause severe sunburns!
We dug for about twenty minutes before finding anything and were beginning to get discouraged. We were the only ones out there for a while, and Amy was starting to wonder if the seemingly desolate landscape had been picked free of treasures. But soon, we began to find what we were searching for as we sifted through the earth!
With that encouragement, we continued to dig and search.
About a foot or so beneath the surface there is water, about half as salty as ocean water. It's amazing how clear it is in areas where it's been sitting and settling for a while. You can see the ridge like salt deposits on the side of this little pool.
As you get accustomed to sifting and feeling for the angular and smooth shape of the crystals, it's easy to mistake the huge salt deposits for them. Not too long ago, people indigenous to this area actually harvested salt from these areas to use for their food!
We didn't have our older kids for this outing, as they were at their mom's house, but the littles had SO much fun exploring this incredibly unique landscape!
Here's my prize find of the day, a perfectly formed "hourglass" crystal. This type is completely unique to our area of the world. Because of the particular way sand, salt and water combine, the sediment collects in the center of the crystal to form this hourglass shape. So cool!
Just before we were about ready to pack up and call it a day, we began finding HANDFULS of crystals. The girls were really proud of their stashes. We began talking about all the cool things we could do with them. I think I may have my boys help me make some mosaic creations or stepping stones for the garden.
We were hungry and decided it was time to pull out our picnic and eat. We had a hard time figuring out where the swimming area was, and were really in a time crunch, so we abandoned the idea of swimming and just found a picnic table near the camping area. There were some water pumps where we could rinse off and the kids all stripped down to their swimsuits to take full advantage of the refreshing water!
Though we couldn't swim, the kids were still able to explore the rocky beach.
It was such a cool adventure, but I do wish we'd had more time. If you're traveling from Tulsa, it's a good three hour drive and really is a bit much for a day trip unless you plan on staying into the evening and letting the kids fall asleep on the way home. The good news is there are very affordable cabins on site available for rent, as well as RV and tent camping. It would be much better to stay overnight and continue to explore the entire state park.
See you around town, and beyond!