It's Almost Crystal Digging Season at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma

The dig area is closed the rest of the year to protect migrating shorebirds.

Salt flats with signs and posts.
Photo: John Elk/Getty Images

Get your buckets and shovels ready!

Starting Friday April 1, visitors to Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Oklahoma can dig for crystals in the refuge's 13,000-acre salt flat.

"Crystal digging is a great, free activity for people of all ages to walk on the salt flats, collect unique hourglass crystals and see wildlife," Melissa Robell, visitor services specialist at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge, said in a statement to KOCO 5 News. "The dig area is closed the rest of the year to protect endangered Whooping Cranes migrating through."

The Great Salt Plains in Alfalfa County was formed millions of years ago by repeated flooding of the shallow sea that once covered Oklahoma. The crystals form when gypsum in the soil mixes with the salty ground water. It is the only place in the world where you can find hourglass-shaped selenite crystals—the state crystal of Oklahoma.

According to National Geographic, the dig sites created by human treasure hunters "provide essential room and board" for hundreds of thousands of migrating shorebirds—like snowy plovers and interior least terns—that stop at Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge. The birds build nests on top of the dirt mounds and eat the brine flies that thrive in the water-filled holes before continuing their journey.

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The Selenite Crystal Digging Area is open for crystal digging April 1 through October 15 from sunrise to sunset. During this time and in specific areas, anyone can dig for free selenite crystals on the salt flats. Visitors are allowed to collect up to 10 pounds and large clusters for their personal use.

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