While I like to scuba dive, I don’t typically get a chance to go diving unless I’m on vacation somewhere tropical.
When my friend Leon asked me if I wanted to go scuba diving outside of St. Louis in January, you can imagine my confusion. Once he explained that there was the world’s largest freshwater dive resort in Bonne Terre, Missouri I understood more. Even though the water at Bonne Terre Mine is cold, it is diveable year round which is something pretty unique, especially in the chilly Midwest.
Preparing for the Dive
Since I don’t have any of my own gear I had to rent everything. The rental fee is $90 a day for the basics – wetsuits (1 full wetsuit and a shorty wetsuit on top), hood, buoyancy vest, regulator and weights. Since I didn’t have a mask, fin or boots I was hit with an extra $35 charge. While this is annoying, I didn’t really have another option.
The fee to dive is $70 per dive with a minimum of 2 dives. We signed up for a total of 2 dives as we were going to dive then head back up to Chicago the same day.
After we geared up we were told we were going to go into the water to do a quick skill check then would continue on our dive.
I had never dove in such cold water before and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I entered the water and was immediately shocked to the point that it was hard to even breathe. For a minute I almost went back to the dock, skipping the dives. I told myself that like a cold pool, it’s always the worst at the beginning and it will get better. Slowly but surely I caught my breath and was getting more comfortable with the temperature.
Once everyone was in, we did a quick skill check – flooding then clearing our masks, removing and re-inserting our regulators and sharing air with our buddy. I think the reason they do this is so the guides can see who are the more experienced divers and whom needs to be looked after. It had been almost 2 years since my dive so I definitely stood out as an amateur. Because of this I had the guide next to me for both of the dives which was perfectly fine with me.
I had never been cave diving which is the closest thing that I could find to describe diving in Bonne Terre Mine. While I am not a claustrophobic person, it freaked me out a little bit to be surrounded on all sides during parts of the dive. I would watch the air bubbles go up to the top and go directly to the ceiling of the cave as there was no air pocket. It made me think, should something go wrong it would be really bad.
Even though the water was very cold at the upfront, the fact that there were no thermoclines in the water was really nice. There are few things worse than diving and seeing the wavy water indicating that you are approaching a colder pocket of water. The water visibility was at 100′ which is great. The reason that it is so clear is that it is all filtered through the stone without any silt at the bottom or algae as there is no sun. The mine is lit up with lots of lights which made it feel like an outdoor dive, not a dark mine.
If you’re a diver and interested in diving year round, I would absolutely make a trip to Bonne Terre mine. While it wasn’t the most interesting dive I have been on, it is certainly unique to say that you dove at the world’s largest freshwater dive resort.
Bonne Terre Mine is located about 1 hour south of St. Louis which makes it a great location for a long weekend as you can see both St. Louis and go diving.