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Bonne Terre Missouri


Mindy Phillips Lawrence

Jacque Cousteau came in 1984. The Nick2Night Road Crew was there in 2004. The History Channel’s “Weird U.S.” visited in 2005. Where? To the Bonne Terre Mines in Bonne Terre, Missouri.

A national historic site, the Bonne Terre Mine contains the world’s largest fresh water diving attraction. The Billion Gallon Lake is illuminated with over 500,000 watts of lights, allowing divers to have 100 foot visibility. Twenty-four dive trails are available which wind through mammoth archways, around huge pillars and over abandoned artifacts from the St. Joseph Lead Mines, which formed in 1864 and closed in 1972. Chances for excellent underwater photo shots are everywhere.

Bonne Terre is located about an hour southwest of St. Louis, Missouri in the old lead belt area.

If you don’t want to dive, a one-hour walking tour is available along the “old mule trail” where miners used their picks and shovels in the 1800s. This tour takes you by the huge pillar rooms, the “Grand Canyon”, Billion Gallon Lake, Trout Pond, Underground Flower Gardens, beautiful Calcite Falls, and ancient abandoned mining tools and rail systems.

If walking through a mine isn’t your thing, there’s a boat tour which takes you across the crystal clear waters of the Billion Gallon Lake and the largest part of the mine.

Summer hours (May through September) are weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Winter hours (October through April) are Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Current rates are $12.50 for the walking tour for adults and $6 for children under eleven. Boats tours for all ages are $17.50. Boat tours are on weekends only unless by special arrangement.

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