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Mining for Herkimer Diamonds with Kids

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Looking for an outdoor adventure to take the kids on? A visit to Herkimer New York to mine in above ground surface mines for beautiful double-terminated quartz crystals known as the Herkimer Diamonds is a perfect adventure. Stay at the local KOA campground and then visit the Herkimer diamond mines for an unforgettable family trip.

herkimer diamond mines with kids

Mining for Herkimer Diamonds with Kids

A few years ago my cousin told me about Herkimer New York. The mines in the area where there are above surface mines that you can mine and hunt for phenomenal gemstones known as the Herkimer Diamond.

I brought the idea up to the kids and they were all on board. We made our plans a few months in advance and then started the countdown to head to the mines. Everyone was looking forward to mining for the Herkimer diamond quartz crystals.

child mining for gemstones at the herkimer diamond mines

Our Trip to Herkimer Diamond Mines

We started our trip by arriving on night one. We went to dinner at the Waterfront Grille which is on the Erie Canal with amazing views and amazing food.

The next morning we headed to the Herkimer KOA to meet my cousin. Then we then headed over to the Herkimer Diamond Mine across the street from the KOA. We spent the day mining for the unique crystals and found a bunch but had a ton of fun.

We did dinner of burgers and hot dogs at my cousin’s cabin. Each cabin has a set up to grill outside along with cooking inside at the campground which I think is perfect for families. We had s’mores for dessert, which are a must when you are camping.

The next morning we checked in for our stay in the Solar 2 cabin at the Campground. After checking in we headed back to the mines. Along with mining, we found out that you can collect dirt. So this time we filled up buckets with dirt to bring back to the cabin so the kids could sift thru the dirt to find later.

We got dinner delivered from the Miners’ table and ate in our cabin. The kids hung out around the campground. There were tons of other kids too so they were all playing together on the playground.

The next morning we woke up, and had breakfast at the cabin. We then headed back to the mines area so the kids could visit the Herkimer diamond mines gift shop before leaving. They all wanted to turn one of the gemstones they found into a piece of jewelry. After making their jewelry we loaded up into the car and headed home.

What is Herkimer New York known for?

The town of Herkimer in New York state is famous for its Herkimer diamonds. They are not actually diamonds but rather double-terminated quartz crystals that are found in the area.

The Herkimer diamond mines are a popular destination for rockhounds, mineral collectors, and tourists who want to experience the thrill of mining their own crystals. Visitors can pay a fee to access the mines and use tools to dig for crystals themselves.

Is Herkimer good for visiting with kids?

Yes! The campground has lots for the kids to do but the main attraction is mining for the Herkimer diamond. The kids will have a ton of fun mining for the diamonds. Mine also enjoyed hanging out at the campground and playing on the playground. The cabins also have fire pits that make it perfect for having smore’s at night after you have had a full day of fun at the mines.

It was the perfect trip to enjoy family time and the great outdoors and I highly recommend taking a visit to Herkimer with your family.

herkimer diamond in a piece of rock at the herkimer diamond mines

What are Herkimer Diamonds?

Herkimer diamonds are clear gemstones that are found in the mines and rock walls in Herkimer New York. These gemstones are estimated to be around 5 million years old, with their formation dating back to the late Cambrian period. During this time, the lower Adirondack plain and foothills of the mountain range were gradually covered by layers of clean beach sand and carbonates. 

Over the course of 25 million years, these limey deposits were buried under thousands of feet of sedimentary deposits and compressed to create layers of limestone rock. Herkimer diamonds can be found within a specific layer of this rock, known as dolomite.

Rock filled with gemstones at herkimer diamond mines

Where are Herkimer Diamonds found?

They are found free-floating in pockets of clay and are already shining and cut like diamonds. You will find the gemstones in the rock walls and the ground of the mines.

When you are in Herkimer you will want to mine the Herkimer Diamonds at the Herkimer Diamonds mine that is across the street from the KOA Campground.

What are the operating days and hours of the mine?

  • Mining Registration is open 7 Days a Week from 9am – 3pm.
  • The Herkimer Diamond Mining Area is open 7 Days a Week from 9am – 5pm.
  • Trading Post Gift Shop is open 7 Days a Week 9am – 6pm.

How much does it cost to Prospect for Herkimer Quartzs?

Hammer rentals and admission are included with your admission cost.

  • Ages 13 and up: $18.00 per person
  • Ages 5-12: $14.00 per person
  • Ages 4 and Under: Free

What do you need to bring with you for mining Herkimer Diamonds?

  • Bucket
  • Shovel
  • Pick
  • Hammer
  • Sifter

How do you find Herkimer Diamonds?

Minig for the Herkimer Diamond Quartz Crystals is technically called prospecting. There are a few different ways that you can find these gemstones. You can use a sledge hammer or a rock hammer and chip away at the rock wall and large pieces of rocks that are in the mines to find them and mine them out of the rock like rock miners do. You can also walk around the open area of the mine and find them just in the dirt. My older kids enjoyed mining for them while my younger kids enjoyed sifting dirt to find them.

Are the Herkimer Diamonds real Diamonds?

No Herkimer diamonds are not real diamonds. They are gemstones that formed in the dolomite limestone rock that have a 2-point geometrical shape. Herkimer diamonds have a hardness of 7.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which is lower than their more expensive diamond counterparts which have a hardness of 10. They might not be real diamonds but they are super pretty and the are perfect for making a piece of jewelry when you find them.

Tips for Mining Herkimer Diamonds with Kids

  • Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking in rough rocky areas, you are best to wear sneakers or work boots. It is important that you also do not wear any open toed shoes.
  • Bring a first aid kit. While we did not have any injuries there is the chance of injury since the kids are mining rock with a hammer and a pick and they can accidentally hurt themselves.
  • Wear sunscreen. There is no shade in the mine area, the whole area is an open area where the sun does beat down and on a hot day the sun will be strong.
  • Drink water. Make sure the kids and adults alike are drinking water while mining. Being in the heat and the sun you will need to make sure everyone is hydrated.
a child holding a herkimer diamond that was mined at the herkimer diamond mines

Do I need to plan ahead?

I highly suggest booking your cabin a bit far in advance. I booked about 2 months out they only had a cabin for one of the nights that we were going to be there. So I had to book a hotel for the first 2 nights that we would be there. I wish we had stayed at the campground the whole time and the next time we visit we will be.

How many days should you plan for a visit?

I think 2 full days in the mines is the perfect amount of time. You can split your time between the mines and the campground and have some relaxing time as well.

Where to Stay when visiting Herkimer New York for Diamond mining

When we visited we stayed at the Herkimer Diamond Mines KOA Resort in the Solar 2 cabin. It was the perfect place for me and my 4 kids to stay. It had a full kitchen which made cooking easier and we could walk across the street to the diamond mine. There are also hotels in the area that you can stay at, we stayed at the Red Roof Inn the one night and my kids all agreed they enjoyed the cabin a lot more than the hotel.

We loved staying in our cabin, so I am sharing with you pictures of the Solar 2 Cabin at Herkimer KOA Campground.

outside photo of solar 2 cabin at Herkimer KOA
kitchen in solar 2 cabin at Herkimer KOA
loft area in in solar 2 cabin at Herkimer KOA
overhead photo of living room and dining room in the in solar 2 cabin at Herkimer KOA

What are the options when staying at the Herkimer KOA Campground?

  1. RV Sites: There are more than 300 RV sites available, with options for full hookup, water/electric, and tent sites.
  2. Cabins: There are several different types of cabins available, including one-room, two-room, and deluxe cabins with amenities like kitchens, bathrooms, and outdoor decks.
  3. Tent camping. You can bring your own tent and set up camp and camp in a tent.

What is there to do with Kids at the Herkimer KOA Campground?

  • Splash Alley. Fishing, Tubing, and Kayaking in the West Canada creek is permitted at your own risk. Per New York state laws anyone over 16 will need a fishing license to be able to fish.
  • Swimming. The pool will be open daily from Memorial Day thru Labor Day.
  • Playground. The playground features swings, slides, and other equipment for kids to climb and play on.

Mining Herkimer diamonds with kids at the Herkimer KOA Campground is a unique and exciting experience that the whole family can enjoy. The campground offers a variety of activities that are fun for the kids. Kids will learn about geology while mining for their own gemstones, and then take home their treasures as a souvenir of their adventure. With these activities there is no shortage of fun things to do at the Herkimer KOA Campground. Mining Herkimer diamonds with kids is a great way to create lasting memories and foster a love of nature and science in children.

Things to do in New York State with Kids

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