I was giddy upon pulling up to the Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma. I really couldn’t believe it until I could see it with my own two eyes. A vast sea of white right smack dab in the middle of wheat fields, just under that big, blue Oklahoma sky. I had heard about the salt plains and digging for crystals in the area for ages, but had never made the venture to see them for myself. It was absolutely epic and completely unforgettable. It’s an excursion that should definitely be on every Oklahoma adventurer’s bucket list!
What Caused the Great Salt Plains in Oklahoma?
Great Salt Plains State Park encompasses a huge stretch of salt plains that are the remains of an ancient, shallow sea that once covered that area of Oklahoma. This in itself was a pretty cool fact to learn about!
About 1-2 feet below the surface is salty water, but not as salty as the ocean. Now, hourglass-shaped crystals wait to be discovered, just below the surface. There isn’t another single place in the world like it, with these unique selenite crystals. The hourglasses within the crystals form this way because of the mixture of the surrounding wet soil, clay, and sand.
This excursion was ideal for our two treasure-hunting crazed little ones.
Treasure + Mud = Ecstatic Kiddos
These hourglass selenite crystals are unique to this area and can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
After parking, be sure to check out the posts full of information at the entrance. Enjoy the momentary shade, because there is none out on the plains! We headed out early in the morning. It worked out well because it got a little too warm for us by afternoon. There is a large platform that allows you to stand from higher up to look out and view the plains.
Even though we had a slow start (it took a bit to start finding them), the kids were determined and we stayed a little over 2 hours. You can only take home so many crystals! And we left several behind.
Pick any spot that looks like a winner and dig a 2 feet x 2 feet hole until you reach water. Allow the water to seep in and carefully search the edges of the hole, feeling for the crystals. The water will continue to fill the hole. We had a lot of luck by searching holes that had been previously dug and left behind by others. We met a kind gentleman that lived nearby who had found several terrific specimens. He showed us his crystal finds and gave us several helpful tips. He even gave his biggest find of the day to the kids before leaving!
It’s important to note that you can take up to 10 pounds of crystals plus one large cluster for personal use on any one day. Also, it’s against the law to sell them.
(side note: Personally, clipping the kids’ nails beforehand was a lifesaver… they’re going to get dirty!)
How do I get to the Great Salt Plains?
Located at the Great Salt Plains Digging Area in Cherokee, OK 73728, the park is just northwest of the small town of Jet on Highway 64.
If traveling from OKC, take I-35N to Highway 412. You’ll travel east and around Enid until you reach Highway 64. You’ll turn north onto N2650 Rd, then back east on Garvin Rd until you reach the site. Google Maps worked well for us and took us straight to the “Great Salt Plains Selenite Digging Area.” We typed in those exact words.
It took us about 2 1/2 hours from south OKC with one bathroom stop.
Prepare to walk away as a hot, muddy mess! But the good kind. You’ll just want to be fully prepared which is why we’re including our advised packing list:
- There is zero shade, so hats with wide brims and sunglasses are needed.
- shovels (large and small) for digging (sturdy, not the plastic shovels that easily break)
- pails, buckets, or egg cartons for collection of crystals
- jugs of fresh water for rinsing hands (and more)
- old towels for cleaning up & for car ride home
- change of clothes for each person
- swimsuits for all
- sunscreen (the light-colored ground reflects the sun back up to you)
- rainboots or washable flip flops or sandals
- laundry bag for dirty clothes
- something to carry your gear (washable wagon or large bucket)
- ice chest with snacks & drinks & plenty of water
- beach chairs (if you plan to stay awhile)
- pop-up tent or canopy (for shade) or beach umbrella that sticks in the sand
- potty chair for littles / sanitizer (there are porta-potties located on-site)
What to Do With Your Crystals
So what do you do with all these cool crystals once you’ve found them? We collected them in buckets and then set them out on a towel to air dry in the sun. Once home, we rinsed with fresh water and let them air dry again. So, what next? Here are some of our ideas:
- set a couple out as a cool display in your home or kids’ rooms
- keep a collection for kids to play with (great for sorting activities and for game pieces)
- display them in glass jars or bottles (we have a sea glass collection in a jar on our mantle – this makes another fun addition!)
- great for hide & seek digging adventures in your backyard sandbox or table sandbox
Be sure to wash your vehicle well once back home. The salt that it picks up from the plains and from the wind is bad for its paint.
When Is the Great Salt Plains Open?
Digging season begins on April 1 and ends on October 15 each year and is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The area is protected for whooping cranes for the rest of the year. We went in early April to have access to a lot of untouched ground. The park rotates which lots are used for digging each year to avoid overuse of each lot. Don’t worry, the open areas are clearly marked.
Finale – Great Salt Plains Lake Swimming
If you’re making a day trip out of it (like we did) we highly recommend visiting the Great Salt Plains Lake afterward. Bring your suits and a cooler for a picnic lunch and drinks. The lake has a swimming area at Sandy Beach at P31 Rd, Jet, OK 73749 which was perfect for cooling off and cleaning up after all of that hot, hard work under the sun. We lounged in the cool water under the sun and then snacked on sandwiches and chips from our cooler.
You can visit the State Park office at 23280 S Spillway Dr. Jet, OK 73749.
A couple of local restaurants worth considering (but we haven’t personally tried them out) are The Shack or Lola’s Cafe Mexican Restaurant in Cherokee, OK. They both are only about 16 minutes away from the digging area. Enid is about an hour away if you’re looking for a large variety of food options. We ate from our packed cooler for this trip instead.
Looking for more adventure? Check out our Broken Bow excursion here!