Woodall’s North East Outdoors “Crystal Grove” Stopping Point
Crystal Grove Diamond Mine &
St. Johnsville, N.Y.
BY BRENT PETERSON
The appeal of Crystal Grove is pretty much like you would expect of a small, upstate New York campground. They pull their fair share of travelers off the highway heading over to Boston and parts of the Northeast. Baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown keeps things interesting, as well the loads of Revolutionary War sights sprinkled throughout the Mohawk Valley. The campground’s prime location at the base of the Adirondacks doesn’t hurt business either, with outdoor-types running the gamut of hiking, biking, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting and fishing.
Oh, and did we mention the diamond mining?
It seems this part of New York state is the only place in the world to find mature Herkimer diamonds, a fact not lost on mine and campground owner, Cecily Myers, or the hordes of campers and “rock hounds” who flock to the region to dig and sift away an afternoon. According to Myers, the hobby is addictive.
“I think it’s mining fever,” says Myers, who bought the property with her husband Evan three years ago. “People think, ‘I know the big score is just in the next pocket.'”
Of course, one needn’t know that the term “pocket” simply means a cavity within the rock where the Herkimers are often found. According to Myers, those new to the pastime quickly learn these techniques. Little in the way of instruction is necessary to begin, she says.
“The rock itself has cracks and holes, so you want to work on that,” said Myers. “Find an entry point, because inside the rock is what’s known as a ‘vug,’ a big cavity where the crystals grow in. You want to break into something like that.”
Myers admits, however, that it’s the children who always seem to have the best luck.
“The kids go crazy out there; the little kids especially love rocks,” she says, who offers visitors three different places to search for the Herkimers on the 50-acre property. “And for some reason, little kids seem to find them easily because they’re low to the ground and have good eyes or something.”
Or, she says, maybe it’s because they seldom tire of smacking rocks with the three-pound sledgehammers available for rent or digging in the dirt– another kid-worthy skill.
Sift kits complete with a screen box, trowel and rake are also available for rent, although the more sophisticated diggers often bring their own equipment. Myers says that while the Herkimers are plentiful and not especially valuable (the “diamonds,” in this case, are actually quartz crystals, but who’s counting?), there have still been memorable finds. The camp store even polishes and crafts the crystals into jewelry as a fitting souvenir; finished pieces are also available for purchase.
“I think the kids really like the fact that they can get jewelry made and take it back to school and say, “Look what I found,'” says Myers. The mine is open daily (during the season). The cost for adults is $6 and $4 for kids. Children under the age of four are admitted free of charge.
Originally published in WOODALL’S Northeast OUTDOORS magazine, August 2002, used by kind permission. A tiny correction a small pocket is a “vug”.