Mining for Memories at the Bonne Terre Mine
Updated: May 24
By Stephanie Kim, Editor-in-Chief
Looking for a unique adventure that is sure to keep you cool this summer? An adventure that won’t make your wallet cry but will leave your senses satisfied?
Well, I have you covered for some fun to avoid the sun! Just a little over an hour south of UMSL’s campus lies an underground adventure that is sure to impress. The world’s largest freshwater dive resort and keeper of many unusual artifacts–Bonne Terre Mine! With over 100 feet of visibility into the water and twenty-four dive trails, it is a treat everyone should explore this summer.
You can “Dive to the Center of the Earth” and discover what the national historical site has to offer by doing both a walking and boat tour of the mine. Scuba diving is also offered once one is qualified to scuba dive (you can get qualified there), with diving depths averaging between forty and sixty feet. The walking and boat tour lasts about an hour, while scuba diving is an all-day event. Tickets can be purchased there or reservations can be made online prior to visiting.
After an eerie walk down some semi-slippery steps, the group enters into a world of enormous pillars, submerged carts, and relics from when the mine was operating. It’s a world you have never seen before. A tour guide walks the group through different parts of the mine while discussing various facts about each area. You can spot various minerals along the walls, as well as see holes that lead both above ground and into the water.
Once you strap on a life jacket–you’re ready for the next adventure. The boat tour takes place on the crystal-clear water of Billion Gallon Lake (see the first photo), where you are shown some spectacular views–just watch out for falling water droplets overhead!
The crystal-clear water is actually drinkable due to the minerals. Though it is safe to drink–it is most likely frowned upon for visitors to consume.
Sitting at a cool 62 degrees year-round, the mine is lit up with multi-colored lights and various lantern-inspired lights throughout to guide the paths. The Billion Gallon Lake is lit up with over 500,000 watts of lighting. The water sits at about 58 degrees Fahrenheit and outside temperatures never affect the temperature of the water or air inside the mine.
There is plenty to explore in and at the mine! Above ground, there is a gift shop one can venture into to buy tour tickets, real minerals, a map of the mine, postcards, various trinkets, and much more. You can also see into the mine from the gift shop through a live recording that is played.
Tours are offered every hour of operation, as well as school group tours are offered. Currently, they are operating under their winter hours until May 13th. These hours are Fridays 9 am to 3:30 pm and Saturdays/Sundays 9 am to 4:30 pm. Summer hours are 9 am to 4:30 pm every day, starting May 17th and ending in October.
So keep cool and do some exploring this summer! Take a break from the worries of the above-ground world by enjoying what’s underground.
We tend to forget just how much beauty our earth holds and a trip to the Bonne Terre Mine is sure to remind anyone of that forgotten beauty.
To visit or learn more, go to: https://www.bonneterremine.com/about