Bonne Terre Scuba Diving Trip (Part II)

After an adventurous drive down, and a well needed rest, we awoke the next morning and got a good look at the inn we were staying at in Bonne Terre.  All in all, it was a very neat place.

Bonne Terre Depot Bed & Breakfast

Bonne Terre Depot Bed & Breakfast

The Bonne Terre Depot features a Bed & Breakfast and has 4 guest rooms and 2 detached train car suites and the nostalgic Whistle Stop Saloon. The national historic depot was constructed in 1909 by St. Joseph Lead as the hallmark of the MR & BT railroad. The depot was completely restored by Doug & Cathy Goergens in 1989. Offering full banquet facilities for over 200 guests located on the main floor.

One unfortunate aspects of our stay, however, was that the “Breakfast” portion of the Bed & Breakfast only consisted of $.75 cinnamon rolls (basically the kind you can find in any vending machine) and a couple of juices.   Also, the saloon they speak of was closed.   You can tell there isn’t much in this town other than the Bonne Terre Mine.  The effects of lack of industry really showed.

The rooms were actually quite nice and had a lot of character to them.  They really did take a lot of effort to maintain the old charm of the place.  They were even complete with TV’s that were obviously built in the 1960′s!  That really didn’t matter though as we weren’t planning on hanging out in our rooms all day.  What they lacked in amenities, they made up for in character and friendly service.

The scuba diving quite simply was amazing.  We scheduled 4 dives over 2 days (3 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday).  But, before I get into that, here’s a little background on Bonne Terre Mine:

Bonne Terre Mine is listed as one of America’s top 10 greatest adventures by National Geographic.   The French were the first to mine lead in the area in the mid-1700′s.   In 1962, the mine was closed.  The workers dropped their tools where they were and simply walked out in frustration at losing their source of income.  When the mines closed, the pumps that kept the water out, stopped.   By the 1970′s the mines filled up with billions of gallons of cold, clear water.

In the mid 1970′s scuba divers began diving the mines (this was before the current owners Doug and Cathy Georgens acquired the mine in 1979 and opened it for diving in 1981).  Also, since this is before certification organizations such as PADI became popular, 4 inexperienced divers lost their lives.   This highlights the importance of adequate training and appropriate guides.

In 1981, the Georgens brought  Jacques Cousteau and his team of divers to the mine when the Calypso made an expedition up the nearby Mississippi River.  Since then, it has continued to grow into a popular tourist attraction for mining history buffs and an uncommon destination for experienced scuba divers looking for a unique underwater experience.

The dive was definately unique.  Being that the mine is underground, the water conditions remain constant with over 100 feet of visibility.  While it is cool, and holds steady in the mid 50′s year round, I was perfectly comfortable in a 7mm wetsuit.

Some of the stuff still down there

Some of the stuff still down there

Sites on our dive trips included (but wasn’t limited to) oar carts, scaffolding staircases, massive underground pillars, and of course the famed elevator shaft.  Also, being that it was in a mine, it wasn’t what many would expect.  The mine itself is illuminated with over 500,000 watts of lighting, and since the average depth was about 30-50 feet we could see everything without dive lights.

There were only a couple of negatives to the whole dive experience.  One was the fact that while it was well lit for our eyes, none of the photos we took turned out.  There just wasn’t enough light.  Brighter flashes were needed.   I pulled the photos on this page from their website.  The other negative was the stairs.  As mentioned, this is underground.  And in order to get there we had to descend a series of stairs.  Going down wasn’t the hard part, but rather going back up between each dive (I guess I need to get into better shape!).  Since they had multiple tours going on, we weren’t allowed to stay down below between surface intervals.   Luckily we were able to keep our gear down below, so at least we didn’t have to lug that stuff up and down.  Even still, going up and down those stairs wearing a wet wet-suit was still exhausting.

The famed elevator shaft.

The famed elevator shaft.

All in all, I highly recommend this as a place to go.   It was an extremely unique and thrilling adventure.  We’re actually already planning on going again.

A view of inside the mine

A view of inside the mineThe famed elevator shaftSome of the "Stuff" still laying around

6 thoughts on “Bonne Terre Scuba Diving Trip (Part II)”

  1. this info below is not correct;
    Prior to Goegens acquisition of mine, 4 divers lost their lives. This occured in 1974 before current ownership.
    Doug and Cathy Goergens acquired mine in 1979 and opened it for diving in 1981. Goergens brought Cousteau to the mine in early 1980′s..
    please correct this.

    In the latter part of the 1970’s scuba divers began diving the mines. Many died in the process. In the 1980’s, the mine was visited by Jacques Cousteau and his team of divers when the Calypso made an expedition up the nearby Mississippi River. Shortly after, it was purchased by a private firm, and it is now a tourist attraction for mining history buffs and an uncommon destination for experienced scuba divers looking for a unique underwater experience.

  2. Hi Brian,
    I ran across your blog link from your scuba board post, while researching Bonne Terre mine. My wife & I are thinking about a trip to the mine. First we have to learn how to use the dry suits we just purchased. We are also in the Detroit metro area, which dive shop do you use? We use Sea the World Scuba, I only ask because you look familiar, have you ever dove Portage?

    1. Dave,
      Thanks for the inquiry. I belong to Adventure Scuba in Novi (http://www.miadventurescuba.com/). They are actually planning another trip soon to Bonne Terre March 19th-21st. Just an FYI, you don’t necessarily need a dry suit for this dive. I dove this in a 7mm wetsuit and was perfectly fine. Another had a 5mm and he was comfortable as well. I just started diving this year and have not dove Portage. So far, I’ve been to Tobermory, St. Kitts, and Bonne Terre. If you want to know more about our trip in March, just let me know (brian@yesitispossible.com)! The plan is to drive down Friday, do 4 dives, and then drive back Sunday.

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