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Bonne Terre Mines

Updated on February 21, 2011

Tour Guide on the Boat

The best vacation of my life...

My mother was famous for off-the-wall last minute road trips. When I was 18, she packed myself, my brother, my cousin and herself into a tiny chevy and took off to Missouri. With my brother driving, mother scolding, and cousin sprawled across me in the backseat, the trip was memorable... if not fun. However, it was on this trip that we came across a place called Bonne Terre Mines. 

I assumed that this was going to be like the other five commericalized caves and mining systems we had seen on our trip. I was so wrong.


At first glance, it looked like a gift shop surrounded by barns and sheds. Once again, wrong. After spending about 20 minutes in the gift shop, we were taken down a set of stairs concealed in a building. Thus, our journey began.

Stairs Down to the Mine

What we saw next was nothing short of spectacular. Mine shafts, caverns, holes in the ceiling, holes 15 feet off the floor, and tunnels above, below and surrounding you. The intensity is one that is hard to describe. You get a sense of vertigo at times, walking across creeky boards and seeing 15 foot drops to caverns below is hardly dull.


I wasn't exactly listening at the beginning of the tour, so I had no idea what to expect. I wish I would have listened because I could have been prepared for what was next.

The walk-through

We walked for a long time, stopping here and there to look at small areas, or big caverns below and above us. Then, all the sudden, we came to a stop. Below us, was the biggest, most beautiful lake I had ever seen. Sitting on that lake was a single pontoon boat. Terrified, I realized more than likely I was going to be on that boat. 


It takes me a while to get onto a boat in the first place, not to mention one hundreds of feet below the earth. We were told that the pontoon had to be hoisted beneath the earth. We also got to meet the pet bass they have there. Nothing else lives in the lake except for shrimp. 


Oh my is it ever breathtaking. There is no true way to convey the beauty that you see in person when you visit Bonne Terre. You can see far beneath the water, to all the underwater caverns. There is even the option of being able to scuba dive if you so chose. I suggest bringing a camera that works well in low light, because you are going to want to capture pictures of your experience.

This was, by far, the best vacation of my life. Almost everything else from that vacation has faded from memory, but Bonne Terre never will. I urge you, if you are in or around the St. Louis area, to take some time off and experience the worlds largest underground lake for yourself.

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