World at a Glance: Digging for crystals in Jet

Digging crystals in Jet, Oklahama

World at a Glance is an infrequent series here on Sophie’s World, portraying curious, evocative, happy, sad, wondrous, unexpected little encounters. Today’s episode belongs in the curious category.

Where do you think this salt flat is? The famous Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia? The Chott-el-Djerid in Tunisia? Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah?

Nope, this is the less famous, but no less impressive, Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge in Jet, Oklahoma – within Great Salt Plains State Park.

Last time I was in Oklahoma, my American mum (my host mother from when I was an exchange student), was showing me around the western part of the state, when she announced we would stop and dig for crystals in a great salt lake.

Salt lake? That’s unexpected, as Oklahoma is far away from the sea. But that wasn’t always so. Millions of years ago, during the Permian Period, this area had mountain ranges and was covered by an ocean. (Standing on the flat, dry plains of Oklahoma today, both are a bit difficult to visualise). Over time, the mountains wore down and the sea water evaporated, leaving thick layers of salt. The salt helps form a rare and unusual type of selenite crystals, found nowhere else in the world.

Now, this is Oklahoma, so of course we drive onto the salt flats. We also wander along on the salt, sit on it, become nearly blind staring at it, and – dig for crystals.

Apart from salt and crystals, the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 300 species of birds, including the endangered whooping crane. This is classified as the largest saline flat in the central lowlands of North America and yet, it’s hardly famous. Why not? You tell me.

Next time you’re passing through Oklahoma, don’t just pass through. Bring your shovel – you can dig for crystals between 1 April and 15 October.



24 Responses to “World at a Glance: Digging for crystals in Jet”

  1. Andrew Graeme Gould 30 April 2013 1858 #

    How interesting, Sophie. I would never have thought that there’d be a salt lake there!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 0840 #

      You’re not alone in that 🙂

  2. Vera Marie Badertscher 30 April 2013 2139 #

    Good grief, I’m feeling so ignorant. If someone had told me there were salt flats in Oklahoma, I would have thought they were pulling my leg. But you’re not writing this on April 1, are you?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 0846 #

      Nope, no joke. I think maybe Oklahoma tourism office should extend their reach a bit. Even Americans don’t seem to know much about this state…

  3. Jenna 30 April 2013 2152 #

    I had no idea! How cool. Thanks for introducing us to this unusual place.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 0847 #

      It really was a cool place to visit, and so unexpected.

  4. jill 1 May 2013 1633 #

    How interesting!! How big are the crystals and what do they look like?

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 May 2013 2044 #

      Interesting question: I brought some home (that I seem to have misplaced, sadly), they were about 5 cm long and a few cm wide. However, there were plenty much bigger than that as well. They’re hourglass crystals, so called because there appears to an hour-glass pattern within the selenite – unique to this area.

  5. Andrea 2 May 2013 1428 #

    I never knew Oklahoma had a salt flat!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 2 May 2013 1451 #

      Seems you’re not the only one.

  6. Ana O 2 May 2013 2311 #

    Let me think… Oklahoma is not very high on the list of must-visit places in the US. Maybe the authorities should do more (or something!) to promote this place as a tourist destination. I live next door in Texas and people there do not consider Oklahoma an interesting place to visit. I never heard of this salt flats until this very moment. I think you’re more efficient than the Oklahomans!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 May 2013 2045 #

      Thanks. And I’m beginning to think you’re right, maybe time for the Oklahoma tourism bureau to get more creative. in their marketing.

  7. Leigh 3 May 2013 0018 #

    This is news to me. I wouldn’t have guessed Oklahoma if my life depended on it!!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 May 2013 2046 #


  8. kirsten 3 May 2013 0045 #

    Not going to lie, I had no idea that this state park even existed! That is what I love about travel blogs, learn something new every day! looks like it was a fun adventure!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 May 2013 2046 #

      It was fun – and unusual. 🙂

  9. Oklahoma salt flat? That’s quite interesting!

    I wonder if it floods and mirrors the sky just as beautifully as the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia… Do you know? I would love to see more photos of it!

    -Maria Alexandra

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 4 May 2013 2048 #

      Sadly, I don’t have many more photos, (I was there before digital photography).

  10. Cam @ Traveling Canucks 7 May 2013 0336 #

    Interesting… I had no idea!

  11. Wow, how interesting! Salt flats is the last thing I would associate OK with. I’m amazed that it is a build-up from million years ago. I’m surprised that something so amazing as this is not getting much press. I guess you right, the the OK tourism is not doing much to promote the site. Or maybe, they pretty much want to keep it to themselves:) Thanks for teaching me something today.

  12. I didn’t even know this was in my own country.

  13. Mette - Italian Notes 16 May 2013 0925 #

    Is it like washing gold in Legoland? Did you find any crystals? And did they come easy?

  14. Bettina Patton 10 October 2014 0354 #

    I’ll be going to the Oklahoma salt flats this weekend. I also never knew they existed and I was born in Oklahoma. I moved to Phoenix when I was 14 and visited Utah’s Salt Lake. Can’t wait to post pictures and tell you more.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 10 October 2014 0939 #

      Look forward to it 🙂

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