Salt Plains NWR Birding and Crystal
Festival is the last weekend of April. Join us in a crystal
digging contest! View the events
page for more information on times and dates.
digging is permitted from April 1 through October 15, sunrise
to sunset. The digging area is closed from October 16th
through March 31st, as the entire refuge is designated critical
whooping crane habitat. No exceptions will be made to these
collecting, no special permit is required. Collectors are
permitted to remove up to 10 pounds of crystals plus one
large cluster for their personal use in any one day. Crystals
taken from the refuge cannot be sold, under penalty of law.
Once in the digging area, please drive your
car only on the prescribed lanes of travel. Shorebirds nest
on the flats and their nests are camouflaged to the soil.
Additionally, the ground is much softer than expected off
Be sure to thoroughly wash your car after
leaving the flats.
to the white salt surface, it is easy to get sunburned.
Sunglasses, sunscreen and protective clothing are recommended.
Drinking water is not available at the dig site -- bring
water and a change of clothes, digging is a messy venture.
is it done?
Use a shovel to dig a hole about 2 feet deep and 2 feet
across until you reach wet sand. You may feel the shovel
break through the crystals as it goes down. This cannot
be helped as there is no way of predicting exactly where
a bed of crystals is located.
Allow 2 or 3 inches of water to seep in from the bottom.
Use your hand or a container to splash water gently against
the sides of the hole. The agitated water will wash the
soil away from the crystals.
When you find a crystal formation, continue splashing to
wash it free of the supporting sand and clay.
At this stage of the process, the newly exposed crystals
are wet and fragile. Use great care in removing them.
removing crystals from sand, place them where sun and wind
will dry them. Egg cartons or other containers may be used
for transporting the crystals.