View Full Version : Bonne Terre Mine review - dives 1-4

Byte Me
03-09-2009, 15:55
Went down to Bonne Terre last weekend for a couple days of early season diving with a buddy and couple DMs who used to work at our LDS who have branched out on their own and arranged the trip. Jess and I drove together and left Milwaukee around 1:00 PM on Friday and drove down. Other than the construction around Rockford, people who don't understand "Keep Right Except to Pass" and scenery that wouldn't even make Indiana SE of Chicago jealous it was a smooth drive. That is, until we got to our Mapquest suggested exit... We were staying at the Super 8 right off Hwy 67 in Bonne Terre but Mapquest had us getting off one exit earlier taking us through a few miles of nowhere, trailers, 4x4's which looked like they'd be happiest crushing cars and more horse apples on the road than other cars. We ended up - somehow - south of Bonne Terre, found a drive through liquor store :smilie39: and pulled up to ask directions. Fortunately we were only a couple miles away and actually passed the mine on the way to the Hotel. We checked in, unpacked and went to dinner in Farmington at The Spoke I think it was called. Brewpub with good food but below average beer IMO. Headed back to get stuff ready for the next day which started at 8:30.

The two we were with are both DMs and instructors who have many dives under their belts and have been here a bunch of times - it was quite helpful having someone the staff knew and who could answer our questions / get us pointed in the right direction. We filled out some paperwork, gave the BT staff picture IDs and cert cards and then upgraded our tanks to 92 / 100 cu/ft for $8 per dive - IMO, worth it. We brought our own weights so we avoided the $10 fee to rent them. They had the two of us and the other folks added to our group sit down and watch a safety video - very exciting - and then our guide (Sherry - who was GREAT!) gave us a description of the mine, some of the trails, what we could expect to see and do. This turned in to a briefing for our first dive. We were then told to gear up and meet by the Mule Entrance to the mine. EVERYTHING is escorted once you pass that door, I'm sure for insurance purposes - someone; either your guide or one of the safety crew assigned to your team leads you in and out of the mine. Up top there are bathrooms, a surface interval lounge in case the weather is bad and a locker / shower area. Don't know if the showers worked or not.

The first trip down you bring EVERYTHING you'll dive with for the two days, weights, cameras, exposure suit, etc. There are 67 steps and long ramps to walk down total drop probably about 100ft. ending at a "dock" where they tank fill area and benches are. We grabbed our tanks and got everything set up. Once that was done someone from the staff did a gear check before we donned our BC's, gloves and hoods. Jess and I recently bought Whites Fusion dry suits but they haven't arrived yet so she dove a 7mm full suit and I dove my 7mm gold core farmer john. We arrived at 8:30 and hit the water at 10:40. There was a good bit of waiting for everyone to get there, suited and queued up by the Mule Entrance so it was a little putzy.

First dive was pretty benign, once everyone was in the water they did a buoyancy check to make sure you'd sink, then we surface swam over above a "shelf" in about 25ft and dropped down. The safety staff (2-4 people depending on group size who trail the group) or guide checked that you could fill and clear your mask and buddy breath. Once that was done we headed off on the first route. There was some fun stuff to see - this dive was a bit more like and underwater museum with ore carts, shovels, picks, etc. There were a couple points where we did an air check, if you were low you got split off from the group and either surfaced or took a more direct route back to the dock. Total dive time was 47 min, 57 degree water and I came up with 610 PSI after a 3 minute safety stop, 58ft max depth. Started with 2760 in a 92cu/ft tank. Cool dive, didn't really know what to expect and it was a good primer. The only complaint, lots of people, lots of legs, too many with poor buoyancy!! however, on this dive no real issues with silting, just every time the guide stopped to point something out it was a cluster getting over there to see it. Jess and I hung in back and kind of did everything last to avoid getting our masks kicked off. On this first dive they didn't want people taking cameras or dive lights.

After a lunch break surface interval (bring food or head off to Hardee's, Subway or other) of just over two hours (seems long but by the time you get out of the water, drop your tanks at the fill spot, get your BC, hood, gloves off, wait for everyone and get out of the mine, take off your suit that eats up some time) we got our suits back on and queued up like Mules again to head down. Same drill as last time, pick up tank, gear check, dive description from the guide, into the water for a brief surface swim to the start point. This trail overlapped the first a bit but there was a couple fun swim throughs and some more relics to see. Swam through a couple short overhead environments which spilled our air out so it looked like an upside down waterfall - kind of a cool effect. The surface lights they have provide pretty much all the light (other than hand held dive lights) under there and give a very surreal glow to the place. Our guide kept the pace up well so we didn't get too bunched up except at the "keyhole" swim through. There was the standard air check and separation at two prescribed places again. This dive was better than the first - more stuff to see, a bit less congested and the swim throughs. Water was always 57 degrees, this dive was 48 minutes, 61ft max depth, came up with 838 psi left in a 100cuft tank.

Same doffing and leading out of the mine as the first dive, back up to the surface for the SI before our 3rd dive. This SI was 1:23 in total. Seemed quicker because we didn't take our suits off, just came up to hit the bathroom and get some fresh air. The rest of our group were done for the day so this last dive, trail 4, was just Jess, myself and our guide Sherry. We followed her down grabbed our tanks, gear check and into the water. We started where trial 2 ended and went down along the stairs that we followed up but turned a different direction at the bottom. What a great dive this was - made the whole trip. We got into the elevator shaft, got to a room where there are some broken, oxidizing slurry pipes which give off a white "smoke" that just floats through the water, a couple more swim through and relics, played with a plastic torpedo for a couple minutes. This one was so much fun, very relaxed, there was a short swim back to the dock at the end which we used as our safety stop. Total time 54 minutes, max depth 52 feet, 2900 psi to start, came up with 725 left of a 100cu/ft tank. Got out of the water at 4:40PM, took our suits and anything else we wanted to dry out in the room and headed up.

Hooked up with the other two guys who had been doing their own thing and went to the Warehouse in Farmington for dinner. Good BBQ, LOTS of food. Yikes. Ate so much pork I got the meat sweats trying to digest it all!!

Sunday AM started at 8AM with Jess and I hopeful we'd do trial 3 just like we did trial 4 - two of us and a guide. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. We had a total of 11 in our group and a new guide today. Two of the group were younger and while about 1/2 were experienced the other half were not. Trail 3 overlapped trial 4 a bit, had a cool vertical swim through, another short overhead "room" to swim through which ended with us then over that room so we could see our exhaled air slowly seeping through the rock - very surreal looking! This would have been another fantastic dive, just like trial 4, but with such a big group (typical group size is 6-8 but this is their busy season so groups can get as large as 12) we didn't get into some of the rooms we were supposed to go into and even in very big areas it was putzy to get everyone looking at what the guide was trying to show us and poor buoyancy / standing on the bottom, etc. got things a little silted up and cut vis down from 100 to about 25 - 30. I don't understand how people can be so unaware of others around them in situations like this, one diver didn't see Jess at all, swam directly into her pushing her into a wall and never even turned around to see what they hit, I had my mask nearly kicked off a couple times and a handful of other near miss "hit and runs". Again we did the air check at two spots on the dive and fortunately lost the major offenders but by then we were past the really fun stuff. Max depth 52 ft, 50 minutes, 2862psi start, 682 finish. The guide came and talked to us afterwords and without saying the words kind of apologized for the size of the group and pace of the dive. We still had a good time on this one because we were able to just hang back and relax, using the time to work on buoyancy control ourselves and look around at other things.

One thing to keep in mind, for return trips make sure you get your log book stamped. That way you can pick up where you left off, for example, next time we could do trials 5-8. Since most of their customers are BT newbs like us they have to do 1-4 first so the later trails are less crowded. From what I understand they also get deeper and have more fun stuff to see.

All in all it was a great trip. The staff was wonderful - all volunteers! This works out well because they know the mine and are passionate about diving. I'm looking forward to our next trip and giving the dry suit a go down there. Heck, we may even do our drysuit class down there this summer when it's apparently VERY dead!

If any of my pictures turn out I'll post them as soon as I get around to doing my workflow on them.

WOW this got long - sorry! Hope it helps...someone willing to read it all!

03-09-2009, 18:52
Great report!

I've been to the mine 3 times & it just seems to get better each trip.

Landlocked Amphibian
03-09-2009, 21:46
Thanks for the post. Bonne Terre is one of the places on my places to dive before I die list. Although I love reading about others experiences there, it just makes me want to dive there even more.

03-10-2009, 23:43
Thanks for the post, I'm hoping to go there this summer. Nice to here it less crowded.

03-11-2009, 19:19
Great trip report ... thanks!

03-12-2009, 09:00
Great report! Thanks for all the info. My son and I are going to BT on April 4th and your trip report has a lot of useful insights and info in it.

03-12-2009, 09:40
What was the entry/tour fee?

Byte Me
03-12-2009, 10:01
Was a package deal through the two guys we went with, included all four dives and two nights lodging at the Super 8 for $400 - which seems pricey to me but I don't know what cut that Mobile Divers (the two guys) took if any. The larger tanks were $8 each. You can book right through them at 2dives.com

When we go again I'll book directly with BT and do the hotel on my own. The Super 8 was close, clean and while nothing special it did the trick. It is a Super 8 after all...

03-22-2009, 21:34
Will they let you wear doubles if you dive them? It would screw up my whole weighting to go back to a single tank.

05-25-2009, 19:52
thanks for the report! I hope to get out there this year sometime.

05-30-2009, 07:00
Great report, went to 2dives.com to have a look. Thanks.

06-02-2009, 22:42
I've wondered about BT; I was under the impression (I think from their website) that the dives were typically 30-45 mins in duration. Hearing from you that you were in there almost an hour makes the entry fee seem not as bad. Guess if we have a couple hundred to blow we might try to make it down there. Seems like it might be good to go there in the winter, since the water is constant and about the only place that you wouldn't completely freeze at in the middle of January!!

Thanks for the info!

06-02-2009, 23:09
Will they let you wear doubles if you dive them? It would screw up my whole weighting to go back to a single tank.

I know that they won't let you bring your own tanks, but I'm not sure if you could use 2 of theirs. Might be worth asking.

06-02-2009, 23:14
All in all it was a great trip. The staff was wonderful - all volunteers!

Volunteers?? At $65 per 10 divers = $650 per dive. I would sure hope the guids are being paid something.

Byte Me
06-02-2009, 23:28
Will they let you wear doubles if you dive them? It would screw up my whole weighting to go back to a single tank.

I know that they won't let you bring your own tanks, but I'm not sure if you could use 2 of theirs. Might be worth asking.

I would call and ask about bringing your own, especially if you have doubles. I will say that a couple of the guys we went with brought their own pony's - not sure about their main tanks but I do know they go there quite a bit and that may help the "bring your own" situation. I think the main issue is they really don't want the liability of someone schlepping their own tanks down the stairs to the dive platform. It's a long haul with just your gear and weights. I can't imagine someone doing that walk down and up with doubles yet as well.

Byte Me
06-02-2009, 23:30
All in all it was a great trip. The staff was wonderful - all volunteers!

Volunteers?? At $65 per 10 divers = $650 per dive. I would sure hope the guids are being paid something.

I hear you...just reporting what I heard from more than one of them. They volunteer and in return get to dive free.

fire diver
06-03-2009, 09:32
I've heard that personal dive lights are not allowed there, anyone know if this is true?

06-03-2009, 09:36
I've heard that personal dive lights are not allowed there, anyone know if this is true?

That's what was on their website.

06-03-2009, 09:58
I've heard that personal dive lights are not allowed there, anyone know if this is true?

That's what was on their website.

Bonne Terre Mine (http://www.2dive.com/btm.htm)

Byte Me
06-03-2009, 11:04
I seem to remember taking my Dorcy light and oxycheq light sock down on dives 2, 3 and 4. On the first dive they say no cameras or lights so they can have you focus on diving and going through their "routine". The guys we were with used their canister lights on the dives they were on as well.