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Shark teeth in the Sulphur River? Yes! In fact, I’ve even found a Mosasaur tooth! Located near Ladonia, Texas, the North Sulfur River Fossil Area is a paleontologist’s dream. An ancient sea once covered east Texas and specifically in Ladonia, the conditions were perfect for fossil preservation. Additionally, the Caddo Indigenous population inhabited the area for centuries prior.  It’s a beacon for fossil hunters, both professional and amateur alike.

By Accident

Ironically, the fossils were discovered by accident. In the 1920’s, the North Sulphur River was significantly smaller and more shallow. It was a narrow and winding river that was prone to flooding. In an attempt to create more tillable farmland and improve water flow from storm runoff, a channel was dredged in the middle of the river. Originally only twenty feet wide, it accelerated the erosion problems in the river and it’s now over three hundred feet wide. However, that dredging failure is how the fossils were discovered. The fossils in the Ladonia Fossil Area on the North Sulphur River date back to the Cretaceous period and up to the Pliocene epoch. There are lots of marine bivalve fossils such as ammonites and baculites. There are even shark teeth and most excitingly, mosasaur teeth.

We have been several times and I would recommend saving your expedition for the cooler weather of the fall, winter, or spring. Summer is just too hot and dry to safely explore. Remember your “ten essentials” anytime you’re headed out for an adventure.

 

There are a few things to remember as you prep for your fossil hunting adventure at the North Sulphur River:

1) Check the river level before you go, a simple Internet search for the “North Sulfur River water level ” will take you to the Army Corps of Engineer’s website. The water level needs to be two feet or below to safely dig. The area is prone to flash flooding, so check the weather as well.

2) The ramp down to the riverbed can be slick and potentially muddy.

3) There is no shade on the riverbed and because of that it can get exceedingly hot and dangerous.  Take more water than you think you need, wear sun hats and sunglasses, and consider bringing an umbrella to give shade for younger children. We all use a Camelbak water bladder in our backpacks while we hike and dig. Leave extra water in your car for the drive home.

4) There are also no bathrooms, so be prepared to squat behind some trees. Please practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out any toilet paper if used.

5) Pack a lunch and lots of snacks. Snacks are a powerful bargaining chip for tired kiddos to gain you some extra time to fossil hunt.

6) Wear waterproof shoes with good grip, or an old pair of running shoes. The riverbed can be very slippery and simple rain boots are too slippery. Plan on getting wet.

7) You do not need any special tools, though a screwdriver may be helpful if you are wanting to dig out of the clay and mud on the walls of the riverbed. Bring along a container to protect your fossil finds.

8) A comfortable backpack to carry everything in, one you don’t mind getting dirty.

9) You’re in nature. There will be wildlife. We have only seen one  small, non-venomous snake, however in the hot summer months there may be snakes of all kinds as well as hogs. Be aware of your surroundings and consider bringing a hiking pole or stick. Or, in our case, an old nine iron. It works great for moving snakes or using to get up and down the steep embankments.

10) Have fun!!! There are few places in the world where you can legally collect fossils and we are lucky enough to be only two hours away from a prime paleontology hotspot!

Pro-Tip

The best time to go is just after a hard rain, once the waters recede. Please remember to be respectful of other fossil explorers and keep pets on leash when there are other people around, keep loud music to a minimum, and carry out all trash. Happy adventuring!

There is no fee to visit. For more information, look up the “Ladonia Fossil Park” on Facebook or check the Dallas Paleontological Society’s website HERE.

Ladonia, TX is about two hours west of Texarkana and a little over an hour northeast of Prosper, Texas.

Join us at our upcoming Halloween community events!

Many Farmers Bank & Trust employees will be celebrating Halloween on Monday, October 31, 2022 by dressing up in costume and handing out candy. Be sure to stop by your local branch and see us!

Have a safe and Happy Halloween– from all of us at Farmers Bank and Trust!

Bryant/Benton, AR

Farmers Bank & Trust is a sponsor of the Monster Madness 5k & Kids Fun Run benefiting Bryant Boys & Girls Clubsand will have a booth at the event on Saturday, October 29th from 5-8 p.m. For a list of all Saline County Harvest & Halloween events, click HERE.

New Boston, TX

Farmers Bank & Trust is sponsoring the Chili Cook-Off at the New Boston Chamber of Commerce Fall Festival on Saturday, October 29th from 4-7 p.m.

Magnolia, AR

Farmers Bank & Trust in Magnolia located at 200 E Main Street will be a Safe Stop from 6-8 p.m.

Lewisville, AR

Farmers Bank & Trust will have a booth set up to pass out candy and cotton candy.

Nashville, AR / Malvern, AR / Ashdown, AR / Texarkana, TX & AR

Pumpkin Decorating Contests are happening inside the branch. If you’re local to one of these communities, stop in and vote for your favorite! Here are a few:

Texarkana, TX

Farmers Bank & Trust located at 5600 Richmond Road in Texarkana is hosting a Fun Friday from 3-5 p.m. with trick-or-treating, candy, and family fun activities. For a full list of fall festival and Halloween activities, visit Texarkana Parent’s guide HERE.

Hope, AR

Trunk or Treat downtown Main Street on Saturday, October 29th.

Malvern, AR

Farmers Bank & Trust will have a table set up at the “Fall”apalooza and will be handing out candy from 6-8 p.m.

Camden, AR

Cullendale Assembly of God located at 3250 Cash Rd. in Camden is hosting a Trunk or Treat from 5-8 p.m. with bouncy houses, carnival games, face painting, candy and Farmers Bank & Trust is sponsoring a petting zoo.

Mt. Ida, AR

Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Trunk or Treat on Monday, October 31st from 5:30-7:30 p.m. and Farmers Bank & Trust will be handing out treat bags.

Glenwood, AR

Glenwood Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Trunk or Treat on Monday, October 31 from 5-6:30 p.m. and Farmers Bank & Trust will be handing out treat bags.

Prosper, TX

The Brass Tap, located at 790 N Preston Road #80, right behind our Farmers Bank & Trust Prosper location, will be having a Halloween Party on Saturday, October 29th. There will be a costume contest at 7 p.m., live band at 8 p.m., candy for kids and a scary movie on a big screen at 11 p.m.

 

Tips & Tricks to have a safe and happy Halloween!

  • Stay alert for oncoming cars when walking through neighborhoods.
  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Carry a flashlight or glow stick so you can see and be seen better by drivers.
  • If you’re driving, slow down in residential neighborhoods.
  • Eliminate distractions while driving.
  • Sort and check candy for expiration dates and any sign of tampering.

We hope you have a spooky fun Halloween!

Renderings of the Farmers Bank & Trust Workforce Center.
The Farmers Bank Foundation has committed $100,000 to the University of Arkansas at Hope-Texarkana (UAHT) to fund the construction and development of a new Workforce Center at the Texarkana, Arkansas, campus.

Farmers Bank & Trust Workforce Center

The building will be called the Farmers Bank & Trust Workforce Center and is set to open for the 2023 spring semester. The new 14,754-square-foot facility will serve as a modern employment training center for students in the southwest Arkansas region and house the Arkansas High School Collegiate Academy and the Secondary Career and Technical Education Center.
Renderings of the new Farmers Bank & Trust Workforce Center at the Texarkana, Arkansas, campus.
“We are excited to partner with the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana to provide a state-of-the-art facility for workplace education,” said ElizabethBurns Anderson, Executive Director of the Farmers Bank Foundation. “Preparing students with hands-on employment training is the future of education and benefits local communities for years to come. We are humbled and grateful to support the efforts of UAHT. This type of project is exactly why the Farmers Bank Foundation was established.”

10 Years

The contribution from Farmers Bank & Trust’s charitable nonprofit organization was approved in early September by the University of Arkansas System Board of Trustees, which oversees UAHT. The six-figure donation for the Workforce Center will be paid out over 10 years. The Bank announced the gift publicly Saturday evening, Oct.8, 2022, with a check presentation at the UAHT 10th Anniversary Celebration at the Texarkana, Arkansas, Convention Center.
The Bank announced the gift publicly Saturday evening, Oct. 8, 2022, with a check presentation at the UAHT 10th Anniversary Celebration at the Texarkana, Arkansas, Convention Center.
“We are grateful for Farmers Bank &Trust’s investment in our students and community through this generous gift,” said Dr. Christine Holt, UAHT Chancellor. “These funds will be used to provide our students with state-of-the-art education and job training, which will, in turn, help them invest back into our communities in the future. Partnerships like this will help improve our communities for decades.”

No Better Fit

“When I thought of the opportunity for naming the Texarkana Workforce Center and it being the first named building on our Texarkana campus, there was no better fit in my mind than our friends at Farmers Bank and Trust,” said Anna Powell, UAHT Executive Director of Institutional Advancement. “The Farmers Bank and Trust Organization is the real deal. They are a consistent long-term partner of The University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana, and I am honored to have their name on our building.”

Long -Lasting Impact

James Bramlett, Texarkana Market President at Farmers Bank & Trust added, “This is a fantastic opportunity for the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana and Farmers Bank & Trust to work with our partnership in education for the Texarkana region. This will help us to better prepare our workforce for the future and have a long-lasting positive impact for our region.”

Farmers Bank & Trust is going pink in October to support the many families and friends we have in our communities fighting cancer. Throughout our 32 locations in Arkansas, Texas, and Oklahoma, we are accepting donations for our employees who are currently receiving treatments and have immediate family members impacted by cancer.

Many of our branches are hosting their own giveaways and bake sales to raise money throughout the month of October.

MAGNOLIA, AR

Bake Sale – Friday, October 7th

HOPE, AR

Bake Sale – Friday, October 7th
Giveaway for two custom wreaths and a fall table centerpiece

HASKELL, AR

Assorted Gift Card Giveaway

PARIS, AR

Bake Sale – Friday, October 7th

IDABEL, OK

Fall Gift Baskets Giveaway
4 gift baskets total

DE QUEEN, AR

Backpack Kooler Chair Giveaway

MALVERN, AR/ROCKPORT, AR/MT. IDA, AR/GLENWOOD, AR

Pink Igloo Giveaway
One cooler given away at each location

NASHVILLE, AR

Bake Sale – Friday, October 7th

NEW BOSTON, TX

Bake Sale – Friday, October 14th

TEXARKANA, AR / TEXARKANA TX

Bake Sale – Friday, October 7th

CAMDEN, AR

Walmart Gift Card Giveaway

PRESCOTT, AR

Bake Sale – Friday, October 7th

PARIS, TX

RTIC Cooler Giveaway
Bake Sale – Friday, October 7th

 

All branch locations will be accepting donations. To find a location near you, visit HERE.

Listen to our Right at the Heart Podcast episode featuring Breast Cancer Survivor Kim McDaniel of New Boston, Texas HERE.

Farmers Bank & Trust CEO Chris Gosnell (left) is pictured with the Southern Arkansas University Trap Shooting Team. The group took first place at the third annual South Arkansas Outdoor Social trap shoot near Magnolia on Sept. 17.

Farmers Bank & Trust hosted its third annual South Arkansas Outdoor Social in Columbia County on Sept. 16-17. The two-day, three-event benefit served as a fundraiser for the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation.

Families participated in the free fishing derby on Friday, September 16.

The affair consisted of a free fishing derby at the Southern Arkansas University Engineering Pond on Friday, Sept. 16, then followed on Saturday, Sept. 17, with a competitive trap shoot at the Farmers Bank & Trust Trap Shooting Range at Southern Arkansas University’s facility along Columbia Road 13 nearMcNeil.

The winner of the event was the SAU Trap Team. The champions took home a $2,000 prize as well as numerous individual gifts, including custom coolers featuring Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation graphics. The benefit concluded Saturday night with a free Red Dirt Country concert at Southern Arkansas University’s Alumni Center. The show featured the Texas-based Drew Fish Band, as well as fellow Lone Star State act, Saints Eleven.

Saints Eleven performing at the South Arkansas Outdoor Social.

All proceeds from the two-day, multi-event benefit went to the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation. The nonprofit organization serves as a fundraising arm of the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. The auxiliary’s mission includes supporting conservation efforts throughout the state, as well as property acquisitions to help enhance fishing and hunting opportunities in Arkansas. The Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation also aids in enhancing youth interest in outdoor and recreational activities, education, and more.

In total, the two-day benefit saw dozens of volunteers from Farmers Bank & Trust, Southern Arkansas University, and the Arkansas Game & Fish Foundation participate to help make the South Arkansas Outdoor Social possible in 2022.

There are hidden gems and wonderful places to discover in every state, and state parks in Oklahoma are no exception. Beavers Bend State Park, near Hochatown, Oklahoma is an over 3,000 acre state park that boasts some of the most stunning landscapes in the eastern half of  the state. The Lower Mountain Fork River runs through the park and provides ample opportunities for floating, boating, as well as fishing and fly fishing. Nearby Broken Bow lake is a large and beautiful lake for even more boating and water recreation. The state park also operates a 40 room lodge, as well as rental cabins, RV sites, and tent sites. It’s a wonderful place for families to explore, with a miniature train to ride, seasonal horseback riding, miniature golf, boat rentals, a swim beach, and more. The Forest Heritage Museum has dioramas depicting the history of the area, painted by the Smokey Bear artist, Harry Rossoll. The museum has a wealth of history and information, as well as an art museum, which sometimes features wood cutting art from local artisans.

Beaver’s Bend Nature Center

One of our favorite stops is the Beaver’s Bend Nature Center, a charming building that houses hands-on learning opportunities. Here you can touch a variety of natural specimens like feathers, turtle shells, antlers, snake sheds, and more. There are often naturalist or ranger led programs that take place around a campfire by the river when the weather is right. Plus, check the schedule for arts and crafts programs and guided nature hikes.

Explore Hiking Trails

There are also multiple hiking trails at the park, ranging from less than a mile to ten miles. We’ve explored them all but our favorite trail is the strenuous and “expert” rated Skyline trail. The trail weaves through, up, down, and around the entire park, joining several trails together and offering incredible views of the river along the way. Do not underestimate this hike! Yes, our children have done it, but they are not novice hikers and have regularly hiked many 6 to 8 mile hikes before we took them on this trail. It is a beautiful hike that will push you and take you to some gorgeous views, up and down mountains, and beside a beautiful creek. One tip, the last mile and a half of hike is on paved road to get back to your vehicle.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for this hike:

  • Remove or hide all valuables from your car when you are leaving.
  • Pro tip: stash a change of clothes for everyone and a salty snack for the ride home, in the trunk. Plus extra water.
  • Use an app like AllTrails or Gaia to download an offline version of the map before you begin hiking. Cell service is spotty and having an offline map is helpful for navigation purposes.
  • In the AllTrails app, you can look up the Skyline Trail and begin navigating. It will show where you are on the trail and you can course correct if you veer off.
  • Carry plenty of water, using a water bladder like a Camelbak in your backpack to save on space and weight.
  • Remember the Ten Essentials.
  • Carry extra snacks to help encourage everyone to keep going. Sometimes we play a game where we take a bite of a good snack (like a GoMacro bar) every mile or every half mile.
  • Sing songs as you walk, tell a story as you walk, talking makes the miles pass by and it’s a great way to build into your relationships.
  • This trail is best hiked in the fall through the spring, avoid the summer month’s due to heat and insects.
  • Wear bug spray and tick repellent.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and the weather, bring raincoats if rain is suspected and be mindful of trails becoming dangerous in wet conditions.
  • There are several water crossings that may become difficult after a hard rain, in high water.
  • Start your hike early so you have plenty of time to hike in the daylight, the hike can easily take five to six hours depending on your pace.
  • Remember to take photos and enjoy your journey!

Keep in Mind

This trail is not suitable for young children and novice hikers. There are some very steep ascents and descents, as well as portions along cliffs and water crossings. If you’d like to hike at Beaver’s Bend State Park with younger children, I would recommend the Lookout Mountain Loop, the Tree Trail, the Spill Way Loop, Friends Loop, or Lakeview Lodge trail. For any hike you embark on, please remember to practice Leave No Trace principles, carry out what you carry in, do not shortcut switchbacks, and be respectful of the natural environment or any animals you may encounter.

Beaver’s Bend State Park is a treasure in southeast Oklahoma, that’s worth visiting all year round. Don’t’ forget to check the Forest Heritage Center Facebook page for program offerings and events!

There’s a unique history surrounding Little Rock, Arkansas that you may not know about. You may know that there’s an Air Force base there. You may also know that it was an important location during the Cold War, a difficult time in the US and World History. What you may not know is that at one time,  there were 18 ICBM (intercontinental nuclear missile) silos surrounding the Little Rock area. They were Titan II missile silos that housed nuclear weapons on a Gemini rocket, designed to be launched into space in under one minute. Crews of four men would work 24-hour shifts, followed by 24 hours off. They would meet at the Air Force base in the morning and drive to the missile launch control silo to begin their work day. They were given codes on paper, to be confirmed by the crew in place for a changeover, and the paper was burned. By 1986 these sites were all decommissioned and destroyed.  However, thanks to the ingenuity and tenacity of one person with a unique determination, one of those missile sites have been renovated into a luxury rental that you can stay in!

The exterior of Titan Ranch.

Titan Ranch

Titan Ranch, located just northeast of Conway, Arkansas, is one of these nuclear missile bases. It has been painstakingly restored by GT Hill. The entire process of the opening, cleaning, renovation and updating is documented on his largely followed Titan Ranch YouTube channel, and I highly recommend checking it out. The process was eye-opening, and a great history lesson. It was time-consuming and costly, but thanks to GT’s determination to recover and preserve some history, you can experience it firsthand by touring or staying the night at Titan Ranch.

Underground Missile Silo

Nichole is pictured with her kids in the entryway of their suite at Titan Ranch.

Titan Ranch is located in Vilonia, Arkansas, just northeast of Conway. Driving up to the ranch, you would never guess that you’re headed to an underground missile silo. Our stay at Titan Ranch began with driving down the gravel road, leading between cow pastures, the reason for the name “ranch.”  Cows looked back at us, munching away, while we wondered if we were headed to the right place. We met with Nick, one of the current hosts, who led us down the steps into the bunker. From there, we watched a video all about the missile base, the history, and the long and difficult renovation. It’s a lot of heavy information in a short time, but worth absorbing every minute of it. Lucky for us, Nick was very knowledgeable and answered all of our questions. We were joined by GT himself, who gave us an incredible tour, along with stories about the restoration effort and a few “SNAFU” moments during the massive project. Take the time to ask questions and hear the stories. It’s worth it, I promise.

Missile Launch Control Center

The rental space is inside what was once the crew quarters and missile launch control center. The silo which housed the Gemini missile is sealed off and still remains destroyed. Walking across the gangplank feels something like a sci-fi movie, and my children’s insistence on bringing Star Wars costumes was rather apropos. Entering the next space,  where the computers and control units would have been, you can still see the places on the floor where the desks with the key slots sat when it was an active site.  It’s a bit of a chilling experience. The control room space sits on level two of an internal, solid steel “birdcage” structure. The steel structure needed to be able to move within the concrete silo and dome, in order to remain operational regardless of what was occurring outside. GT has renovated the second level to be a multipurpose space, complete with projectors, a sound system, party lights, multiple whiteboards, and tables and chairs if needed. For us, there were two, queen size beds set up for my children. My son was absolutely thrilled to learn how to use the tablet to control the lights in the room.

Level two of Titan Ranch.

Originally, the launch control center had standard steps to reach multiple levels. While renovating, GT decided to put in a spiral staircase to save space and it adds to the industrial ambiance. Moving down from level two is the kitchen and entertainment space on level one. Titan Ranch missile control center comes with a full kitchen, stocked with drinks refrigerator, and a massive projector equipped with multiple movie streaming options along with some saved movies. There were tons of movie options for children and my kids had a blast watching Paddington on the huge white walls of the silo. For a one-night stay, I would recommend bringing all of your own food. There are not many food options close by, and besides, who else can say they cooked themselves dinner in a missile silo launch control center? GT has also set the space up to be able to host DJs and dance parties, for any kind of event.

Master Suite

The master suite is on the very top floor of the “birdcage” and is housed in what used to be crew quarters. The space has been turned into a luxury master bedroom, complete with an open concept walk-in shower, soaking tub, and enclosed toilet room. The large master bed appears to be floating above the floor, thanks to a creatively designed cantilever.  One of the strangest things about the master suite is the domed concrete ceiling. If you stand in the middle of the room and talk, the sounds seem strangely muffled but also echo at the same time. You have to try it to see what I mean.

The Master Suite.

That night, the only clue we had that it was way past bedtime was our fatigue. There are no windows in the space and no inclination that the sun had retreated and the moon was up. I tucked my children into the beds on the second floor, while my son picked a color for the light to stay while they fell asleep. I retreated upstairs to enjoy the incredible shower in the master suite and stayed up entirely too late reading a book in bed. Amazingly, we all slept wonderfully. The next morning, my kids enjoyed the donuts I’d brought for them and another movie on the projector. I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the master suite thanks to the in-room coffee bar and read a few more chapters. All too soon, it was time to check out. But not before my kids donned their Star Wars Mandalorian costumes for a little photo shoot. GT and Nick met us again to check out and we got to see a sneak peek into the other side of the complex. Titan Ranch has a little gift shop with some fun coffee mugs and t-shirts and I bought my kids’ t-shirts.

Level one of Titan Ranch.

Bucket List Worthy

While I wouldn’t recommend this for small children, it’s certainly a bucket list-worthy experience for adults and older children. There are only a few places in the United States where you can tour a former nuclear missile silo, but only one with luxury accommodations where you can also host a party, and it’s only a few hours away.  Unsettling as that history may be, it’s worth it just to say you did it.

Nichole’s kids are pictured at the top of the stairs in the master suite.
Left to Right: Brenda Holley, Sgt. Liz Colvin, K-9 Officer Bret, Talesha Tatum, Monty Harrington, Chris Gosnell, Chief Todd Dew, Sgt. John Talley, Sgt. Ted Rocole, and Mayor Parnell Vann

Farmers Bank & Trust recently agreed to donate $10,000 to the Magnolia Police Department over five years, to a total of $50,000. The donation will specifically be used to fund training for the local department.  

“We thank the Magnolia police department for protecting our community; their diligent service does not go unnoticed,” Gosnell said. “As part of our giving mission to help local first responders, we are committed to helping them advance their training program to make Magnolia safer and stronger.”

The Magnolia police chief set the expectation of 101 hours of training per officer over the next year. Funds will also be used to purchase supplies and equipment for the exercises. Most training will occur at the MPD Robert G. Gorum Training Facility. Examples of training include active shooter, de-escalation, less lethal equipment, firearms, domestic response, routine reports, traffic stops, and contact with the public.

L to R: FBI Little Rock Citizens Academy Alumni Association Board Member Wes Booker, classmate and Senior Writer for Gov. Asa Hutchinson Jay Grelen, Grelen’s wife, Candace Rankin

Congratulations Candace!

Farmers Bank & Trust Community Specialist & Assistant Board Secretary Candace Rankin graduated from the prestigious FBI Citizens Academy program on June 7, 2022.

The FBI Citizens Academy gives business, religious, civic, and community leaders an inside look at the FBI. Candidates are nominated and then selected to participate by the special agent in charge of the local FBI field office.

“I have always had respect for law enforcement, but this experience really opened my eyes to a lot of things I was unaware of. The level of respect I have for them now is even greater,” Rankin said.

“The FBI Citizens Academy is an excellent curriculum to connect the FBI to our local leaders and difference-makers in Arkansas,” Farmers Bank Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Anderson said. “Candace has been instrumental in the Bank’s relationship with the FBI, by connecting them to the communities we serve.”

In her role, Rankin organizes various Bank and community events including the annual FBI Community Awareness Program luncheons where law enforcement from all departments across the state get together with community leaders for a presentation and brief training.

“Farmers Bank & Trust’s former Chairman & CEO Bob Burns went through this program many years ago and our CEO Chris Gosnell has gone through it as well,” Rankin said. “I’m honored the Bank nominated me for this opportunity and that I was able to attend.”

Once a week for eight weeks Rankin drove from Magnolia, Arkansas to Little Rock for class. Topics covered during the academy include cybersecurity, active shooter training, negotiation, domestic and counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction, stop the bleed training, and more.

“I believe everyone who works in customer care should learn this information. It’s potentially life-saving,” Rankin said.

For more information about the FBI Citizens Academy, visit HERE.

Candace with classmate Alicia Evans of Arkansas Department of Labor

Rockhounding is the hobby collecting of rocks, fossils, and geologic specimens from a natural environment. Arkansas has an environment that led to it being one of the best places in the world to rockhound for quartz crystals! In fact, it ties with Brazil for the quality of the quartz specimens.

The Ouachita mountain range in central Arkansas is home to some of the best quartz veins in the entire state and there are plentiful mines, both commercial and public. The commercial mines regularly produce museum-quality specimens for both private collectors and museums around the world. But, the beautiful quartz crystals can also be dug out by the general public at several of the mines. One of those places is free to explore, and located just outside of Mt. Ida, Arkansas!

Crystal Vista is an abandoned commercial mine that is now open to anyone to explore and hunt for quartz crystals. The four-acre, crystal digging area sits atop Mount Gardner and there is a .8-mile trail that leads to the top. The trail to the top is very steep, because, remember, you’re hiking up to the top of a mountain! Once you’re at the top of the trail, take a moment to enjoy the incredible scenery before you focus on the ground. The crystals can be found through two methods: surface hunting, and digging into the mountain. Both methods can produce great results, especially after fresh rain!

Here are a few tips to enjoy your crystal digging experience at Crystal Vista in Mt. Ida!

What to bring:

  • Sturdy hiking shoes for the hike up and down the mountain, sandals are not recommended due to the rocky terrain.
  • Clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty, long sleeves and pants recommended for sun protection but also to protect from thorns, sharp rocks, insect bites, etc.
  • A hat and sunglasses, plus sunscreen and bug spray.
  • A five-gallon bucket to hold tools on the way up and tools plus crystals on the way down.
  • A small, clear bag or container to hold your smaller crystals and keep them safe.
  • Hand gardening tools, such as a trowel and small, hand rake.
  • A long, flat head screwdriver, and rubber mallet if desired.
  • Lots of water, plus extra water to leave in the car for afterward.
  • A picnic lunch plus snacks.

Things to keep in mind:

  • There is spotty or no phone service in this area. Bring a satellite communicator if absolutely necessary (I personally recommend the Zoleo satellite communicator).
  • Beware that it can get VERY hot in the summertime, so plan accordingly.
  • The weather can change quickly in the spring, and storms can pop up fast so be sure to check the weather forecast before you go.
  • You are exploring a wild area, and there may be wildlife in all forms including the possibility of snakes. Be aware of your surroundings and look before you pick up or move any rocks or logs.
  • Please practice Leave No Trace principles and pack out what you pack in.
  • There are no bathrooms, bring your own toilet paper and please pack it out.