After we struck out on our search for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park, a local couple told us about a place to the North called Mt. Ida, where you could mine for crystals. They said they were just lying on the ground and you were guaranteed to find some. So, we adjusted our plans and decided to make a stop in Mt. Ida for some crystal mining before heading to Lake Dardanelle State Park for a few days.
As we were entering Mt. Ida, I saw a sign for Wegner Crystal Mines and decided to try our luck there. Wegner Crystal Mines is a bit rustic, but they have a large shop area with many different types of gemstones and crystals of all sizes. So, even if you aren’t up for mining yourself, you can stop in to shop. There are several mining adventures here, but we chose a less expensive option of going to the Trailings Area to hunt for crystals. Basically, this is an area back in a field where 100’s of truckloads of red clay dirt have been dumped that contain the remnants of the mine’s finds. You won’t find gigantic crystals here, but the crystals are plentiful and beautiful.
Bring some basic tools like a hammer, shovel or screwdriver to help dig out the crystals in the ground, and be sure to carry water with you. There is no water access in the field and it can be quite warm. There are two picnic tables here so you can enjoy lunch if you like.
After finding our share of crystals, we headed out to Lake Dardanelle State Park. This is not a huge park, but it is quite beautiful and set right on the lake. There is a great visitor’s center with many displays including a bee colony, fish and turtle tanks. For $10 you can rent out an adventure pack and keep several of the items for yourself. These packs provide a full day of activities to help your kids have fun and learn their time in the park. The visitor’s center also offers items for sale and fishing poles that you can loan out for free.
The campground is set right along the lake as well, with one loop located across the street from it. The furthest loop is quite a hike from the bath house, so be aware of this when booking. Loop C is where we stayed, and although the sites are close together, I think it is the best loop option for booking. The bath house consists of individual rooms that can be marked as occupied and contain a shower, toilet and sink. Much nicer than many we have been to. Each campsite has water, electric, a fire pit and picnic table.
The park provides ample areas for fishing, a built in marina complete with bait shop, a swimming area with no lifeguard and a playground. This truly is a park where you can come and stay with no outside activities required. There are daily ranger programs, including some free boat tours on certain nights of the week.
We had a great time at Lake Dardanelle State Park, but we did run into some trouble last night, our final night there. We had had heavy rain off and on the two days we were there and had not had a problem with the tent, but I forgot to put the rain fly on securely last night and we woke up at 4 AM this morning with a small leak and large puddle on the roof. Since there was a temporary break in the rain, we decided to pack up in the dark and head out to our next stop.
I tell you this to let you know that when planning an extended camping trip or even just a road trip, you have to be prepared for the unexpected issues that invariably crop up. We made the most of it and had a great day, which I will talk about in another post, but it could have easily ruined our whole day if we let it.