Last month, Landlocked Scuba Club in North Liberty ventured south of St. Louis to become ‘Deep Earth Divers’ at the famous Bonne Terre Mines. The adventure started with traveling down 65 stairs and several ramps deep into the earth where we were immediately greeted by huge columns, what looks like a massive lake and a wooden dive platform. Topside, we saw different minerals and cool formations created when the miners were removing rock to locate iron ore.
Diving in the mines is one of the coolest (literally) experiences. The water was a chilly (but not uncomfortable) 58ºf. Diventures in North Liberty is lucky enough to be within driving distance to make this a dive destination any weekend of the year. Our particular group was split – half dove in 7mm wetsuits and hoods and the other half in dry suits. The water was crystal clear most of the time. During this particular visit, there was a little bit of silt from rain runoff but nothing terrible. They like to say Bonne Terre Mines is the “only place you can drink the water you’re diving in” (although we wouldn’t necessarily recommend it).
All dives were led by experienced mine divers. There are dozens of dive spots or “trails” to try. What’s awesome is that although Bonne Terre is a series of caves, open water divers can participate in several of the trails because they have immediate access to the surface (there’s a huge air pocket above much of the water’s surface). For those with proper training and experience, there are also technical and true cave diving options.
Bonne Terre is a bit in the middle of nowhere, so if you go, make sure to bring food for your surface intervals. In between dives, our LLSC crew ‘tailgated’ in the parking lot with a grill and made hotdogs and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Must-do’s for dinner? Catfish Kettle, where they serve family-style fried chicken, fish and shrimp along with all the home-cooked sides you can eat. There’s also a local BBQ joint, Dexter’s, that our crew enjoyed.
Where to stay? There are a few hotels right by Bonne Terre but we’ve found that Farmington, about 10 minutes away, has better lodging options as well as restaurant selections.
I have visited Bonne Terre Mines six times now and am always ready to go back if you need a dive buddy! Let me know!