The Herkimer Diamond Mines/KOA Resorts, about an hour from Syracuse, are a fun, family-friendly adventure. Herkimer, New York, is the only place in the world where the aptly named “Herkimer Diamonds” can be found.
Though I’ve spent my whole life in Central New York, I had no idea what differentiated a “Herkimer Diamond” from the type of diamond you can find at a jeweler. According to the Herkimer Diamond Mines Website (herkimerdiamond.com), “Herkimer Diamonds are beautiful, double-terminated quartz crystals found in Herkimer, New York. Incredibly, these phenomenal gemstones are close to five hundred million years old. The crystals are magnificent works of nature, found in the rock, having a diamond-like geometrical shape. Thus, the name recognition of ‘Herkimer Diamonds.’”
The mines, which are open from April 15 through November 1 are an opportunity to find your own Herkimer Diamonds, with the promise that anything you find is yours to keep. Who doesn’t love the idea of a real-life treasure hunt?
So, in early June, my wife and two sons, ages 4 and 1, got in the car and drove out for a day of treasure hunting. Admission is free for children four and under ($14 per person ages 13 and up, $12.00 ages 5-12), and comes with an all-day wristband, the use of a rock hammer, and bags to store your treasures. Goggles are recommended, but not required, and are available for an additional fee.
As we walked out to the mine, which looks like a big, open quarry, it became apparent to me that it was not just families looking for something to do. There were shade tents and pickaxes and serious miners out there. My four-year old and I quickly got to work breaking up rocks with our rock hammers in search of diamonds. While we did find some flakes and a couple of “matrix stones,” where the diamonds were embedded in the stones, we certainly didn’t strike it rich.
Undeterred, we returned to the front-desk to purchase a bag for “sluice mining.” Sluice mining are bags filled with dirt and stones that you sift through in the mine’s “sluice machine” to filter out the debris and keep the gems.
We purchased a “motherlode” bag, but the mines offer several different types, and got to sifting. This was a great opportunity to guarantee that we would not go home empty-handed. When we got home, we put all of our stones in a vase and my son keeps the vase in his room.
In addition to the two mining types, the grounds also offered a “built and wear” artisan center, a gift shop, a café, and a museum, complete with informational video.
All in all, it was a great day to spend together with family and make memories that will last a lifetime.
If You Go
Herkimer Diamond Mines
Where: 4601 State Route 28, Herkimer.
When: Registration and mining: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily; Artisan Center: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily; Retail Store: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily (April 15 – November 1).
More information: (315) 891-3099. herkimerdiamond.com.