SALT PLAINS WILDLIFE REFUGE, Okla. — Pink sunrise, white surface, white almost as far as the horizon on the first official day of crystal digging at the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge.
It was a cold Monday morning on the first day of April and our idea was to catch the very first digger through the gate and onto this surreal 10,000 acre site, a huge salt flat near Cherokee, Oklahoma. It’s home to wild birds and a unique crystal that grows just beneath the surface.
“The crystals are usually plentiful,” says Refuge Manager Shane Kasson, who opens a portion of this wilderness area every year for treasure hunters hoping to find the biggest crystals.
“There can be 50 to 100 people out here a day,” he says.
Did we mention it was kind of cold and that it was a Monday, the kind of day most normal people would stay in bed and wait for warmer temperatures to dig?
It took a while, but digging deep for the first digger to arrive did yield its own kind of gem.
His name is Roger Pearce.
“This is really a neat place,” he says. “It can change so easy.”
“I got lots of hours out here, thousands of hours,” he added.
Folks out here on the flats call him ‘Selenite Sam.’
“Seems like these crystals run in veins,” he ponders.
He is a retired grave-digger (no fooling), but folks on these flats know him as ‘Selenite Sam’.
He first came out here about six years ago and connected with this landscape like no other.
“I really enjoy this,” he says bending over a deep hole. “It’s so relaxing. You don’t have to be in no big hurry.”
A good crystal digger is a patient one.
‘Selenite Sam’ works a good hole for a little while then yields to this couple from Missouri.
He knows he’ll be back, and that this land has room for lots more holes.
The refuge offers gem hunters an area of the refuge from April 1 to October 15 each year for crystal digging.
For more information on the refuge or on selenite crystals, click here.