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“This one is actually a little complicated”

Bonne Terre Mine Tours - West End Diving
Certificate of Excellence
Houston
Level Contributor
26 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 41 helpful votes
“This one is actually a little complicated”
Reviewed 24 February 2012

Frankly I enjoyed the diving and I am glad that I went. But, I am not likely to go back again. If I had to advise you, I would say it is definitely worth going on a few dives here but I wouldn't buy a season ticket. I'll give more info below.

Let's do the good bit first.

The mine itself was actually pretty incredible. When you first come in, you see a rock cut cavern lit up with some beautiful blue-green water below it. The water is mineral water so it is ridiculously clear. Because it’s mineral water you can actually drink it. I found myself drinking it from time to time if I got dry mouth on a dive. There is all sorts of stuff to look at on the way down to the dock. If you have time, you may want to shell out the extra cash to do the mine walking/boating tour.

The dock at the bottom is in pretty good shape all things considered. I am sure it is a herculean effort to keep everything down there in good working order. The tanks and weights are down at the bottom which makes it a lot easier. Even if I lived locally I would still rent weights and tanks rather than have to lug them down and then back up.

The dive master and safeties were really great and their commitment to professionalism and the safety of their tour groups can't be stressed enough. They take you through the various "trails" in the mine starting with what is basically a checkout dive on trail 1. You will have to do this trail before you can do any others. They will go make sure you are proficient enough for the dive ahead. Each dive involves a briefing and then 2 stops to check your air. At each stop, if you are low, you will be sent off with one of the safeties to head back towards the dock. If you pass both, you get more bottom time and end up back in the same location. If you freak out, one girl in the group ahead of mine did, you can surface and there is a kayaker who will take your weights and help you back to the dock.

Water temperature is pretty chilly. I dove a 7mm, farmer john suit and I was a little cold. The temperature on the dock is about 60-65Degrees. A few people dove 5mm wetsuits but I think they were pretty cold. Bring a hood and thick gloves. You can rent most of this from the shop but they appear to have a limited selection and the gear isn’t the best. If you have a dry-suit, that is the way to go. There isn’t really that much of an down in the mine that is dry. So, leave towels, shirts log books and everything else up top.

The trails themselves are spectacular. The lighting and the clear water make for some absolutely incredible images as you go through. The rock pillars that support the roof are so beautiful and you can’t help having an almost religious frame of mind as you go through. I did trails 1, 2, 3 and 6A and I really thought that 1 and three were the best.

Now, on to the bad.

The dives are expen$ive! I paid in the neighborhood of $70 a trail. The gear was fairly pricy for a rental as well. A lot of people that rented gear ended up with really old, beat up stuff. At least two people had wetsuits with holes in them and one guy rented a wetsuit that was much too large for him because that was all they had left. I had to rent a hood and gloves for two days and I could have probably bought each of them for only slightly more than the ones I got.

The real problem with this is it is pay up front and then it is 0% refundable. It really gets sticky when you realize that you HAVE to make dive 1 before you can do any other diving. I am not arguing this policy as, from a safety standpoint; I think it is a good policy. But, if I had missed my flight from Houston the night before and not been able to get to the mine for the 9:30AM briefing, I would have been out nearly $500 for the weekend and not been able to do anything about it. Some people mentioned that friends of theirs got “credits” good for one year after you missed. But, if you’re coming from a long way away it doesn’t do you much good.

The topside facilities are another gripe. The Surface Interval Lounge is basically an abandoned building that they put a nice heater in and some plastic picnic tables. You aren’t allowed to sit in the restaurant style booths so you tend to get fairly crowded around the tables. There is also no hot food to be had at all. There are snacks and drinks in the gift store but, if they are off on the tour, you are SOL. For the money you pay for the dive you would think they would include a hot lunch. No such luck, not even an offer to buy lunch for an additional charge. I ended up buying a bunch of stuff down at the convenience store. The girl behind the counter and the rest of the customers completely un-fazed by a man in a wetsuit buying some water and granola bars. If you go, you should treat it like a boat dive where the boat doesn’t provide anything aside from tanks and weights. You typically get an hour between dives which is barely enough time to get something at one of the nearby restaurants to go.

The Locker room is not really a locker room it is a really small changing room with a toilet and a couple of showers. The showers are coin operated, something I have never seen in my entire life. And it really sucks at the end of the day that you can’t even wash the old wetsuit stink off without shelling out extra dough. You can get a small locker out front but you need your own lock and no-one in our group brought theirs.
All in all, everything topside except for the ridiculously overpriced gift shop needs to be completely gutted and re-done.

By the way, you can bring a light on the later dives but I understand that their no-light policy has un-even enforcement. So bring it along and they should let you take it. There are several areas where you will be glad you had it.

In conclusion,

The real impression I get from this place is ‘tourist trap’. Everything here is designed to separate you from as much of your money as possible. There is absolutely no consideration to making the experience anything more than what they absolutely have to give you for the large amount of money you are required to shell out in advance.

That said, I am very glad that I did it these dives and I certainly enjoyed the diving. I would tell you to go as well, given the opportunity. But, keep in mind, my company paid for my airfare and my hotel stays. If not for that, I wouldn’t have gone. I doubt I will ever be back and I certainly wouldn’t plan a trip back. But, if I was in the neighborhood, I might see if I could do trail 4 or trail 7.

Visited February 2012
Helpful?
19 Thank Eric H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Wright City, Missouri
Level Contributor
19 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Wonderful, hidden gem”
Reviewed 17 January 2012

This is a wonderful little known place. The tour leader was very knowledgeable and friendly, she even walked slow enough for me to stay up. {I am disabled} Even my 6 and 10 yr. old grandchildren enjoyed the tour. Well worth the money! A+++++ Service!

Helpful?
Thank Claudia R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Lombard
Level Contributor
91 reviews
22 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
“Adventure Scuba Diving”
Reviewed 31 December 2011

This is definitely a unique experience and enjoyable. The water is crystal clear, but a bit cold so be sure to dress warm. I wore a 7mm hood, gloves, and a 7mm farmer jane/7mm long sleeve shorty and I was just fine. The trails are interesting to swim through and the guides are concerned about your safety. Yes, there is a bit of a walk from the ground level down to the platform, but if you plan for it ahead of time, you'll be just fine. The staff was very nice and I always felt safe with them.

On site they have restrooms, a warm up lounge for divers (in between dives), a locker room, and a tourist store. The dive shop is also on site.

Definitely worth diving at least once!

Visited December 2011
Helpful?
1 Thank LombardJess1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Cedarburg, WI USA
Level Contributor
59 reviews
7 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 93 helpful votes
“Nice diving all year round”
Reviewed 31 December 2011

150 feet below the town of Bonne Terre (and three other townships) lies of what remains of the world's largest lead mine. Many dive 'trails' that must be dove in order as the level of skill required increases. During our trip we dove trails 1-4. The water is a constant 60 degrees and clear as gin. Very professional guides tended to your every need. The only downside is having to hump your gear to/from the surface. If you're not in shape, good luck! I believe a dumb waiter of sorts would be a welcomed addition. We'd go back.

Visited November 2011
Helpful?
1 Thank Polkaholic
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Kansas City, Missouri
Level Contributor
6 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“One of a kind experience that builds with each dive. NOT for the non-adventerous!!”
Reviewed 7 November 2011

What an experience! This mine dive is not for the "fair-weather diver." While the mine iteself is around 63F year round, the water is around 58F. Be prepared, it is as simple as that. After reading other reviews on here about the mine and having just gotten back from a weekend there, I can understand some of the other folks frustration.

I made reservations with Donna about a month in advance to do 4 dives over Saturday and Sunday for a birthday gift for my other half. Donna was very helpful over the phone in getting things set up. I don't think Donna is a diver, so she won't have the answer to everything, but will find out for you if you really need to know. We went ahead and rented equipment from them (BC, reg. set, computer,wetsuit,weights,tanks), since we didn't have any of our own at the time of reservation. We decided to stay at the 1909 Depot (which is a couple of blocks from the mine enterance). We got everything set up for a Friday night-Sunday afternoon stay.All items must be pre-paid (lodging, dives, equipment rental). Donna emailed the confirmation paperwork with the details and rules. DO NOT forget to send this back to her within 24 hours!!! They generally book a lot of divers, and you don't want to lose your spot.

Donna asks that you call when you are about an hour from arrival, so she can meet you at the shop and get you your key. Don't forget about the deposits... There is a $10 key deposit and $50/person room deposit that they will run if you are staying at their property. Not a big deal, it's in the reservation paperwork. It is easy to miss the enterance if you aren't paying attention- I didn't see any attraction signs on 47HWY on our way into town. Once you arrive, there are several buildings, it looks like a tiny mining town inside the fence. You want to head to the shop that is in front of you when you pull in. If there isn't anyone in the shop, there is a sign on the door that generally tells you where they are- sometimes they are doing a tour, cleaning another building or equipment. Be patient and take a look around at the different equipment that is up top.

Once we got our key, we headed over to the Depot. We ended up staying in the caboose, which was interesting. Be warned here. It is comfortable, but sparse. The bed was coomfortable, the heat was on for us and worked great. There is an old antena TV that gets about 4 channels and a styrafoam cooler tucked into the closet. Bring your own shampoo, soap, conditioner, hairdryer, ect. There is no staff, vending or ice machine at the Depot. We were there on an unusual slow weekend, so there weren't many people staying there and it was a little creapy at first. The continental breakfast included a small coffee pot with a container of ground coffee, a couple of small packaged muffins, honeybuns, 2 OJ and 2 apple juice.

You head back over to the mine at 7:30 Saturday morning to rent your equipment, fill out paperwork, watch the safety (era 80's SSI) video and get the breifing for the first dive. If you are renting equipment from the mine, you will need to leave them a credit card deposit (2 people, full gear rental $1900). They take an imprint of your card, but don't run it and tear it up when you return everything. MAKE SURE your wetsuit fits!!! they rent a 7ml overall with a 6.5 ml shorts/long sleeve top and I think a 3- 5 ml hood.It is tight, cumbersome and not very easy to get into. I recommend wearing a dive skin under so it's easier to get on and off. They do not rent gloves. We were quite happy in our 4 ml gloves that we brought with us. The BC they rent is a Mares Spirit. The rental reg set is Mares with a Sherwood one button computer. If you get cold easily, I highly recommend bringing a drysuit. They do not rent them at the mine, but all of the dive staff dives dry.

Once you get all your gear in order, you head over to the locker room to get ready. Bring your own wetsuit hangars! They will fit over the bar with a little force. If you want a secure place to put personals (keys, divelog, wallet, purse, ect.) bring a padlock for the cube locker. After you are done getting changed, head over to the mule enterance to meet your group and head down into the mine.

There are 65 steps and some sloped paths to get down to the dock (you're going down 125 ft). It doesn't sound like a lot, but getting back up is some work (it seems like there are 200 steps). I would highly recommend paying for their tank and weight rental, as they keep those on the dock. If you are diving several times, you can leave your equipment on the dock until your last dive. Get your weights situated and weights on the belt (ask for help getting them on correctly). I have seen several comments that they overweight. They reccomend 10% + 6-8 lbs. Unless you are used to cold water diving, you will want the extra weight as your breathing will be short and rapid at first. Once geared up, you jump in for a weight test. After that, you head over to a shallow area to do a mask clear and buddy breathe. Everyone must do this the first time they dive there. Once that is complete, you're off for your first tour. Trails must be done in order (1-24) and they get more interesting as you go. The dive staff is very safety oriented and keeps a close eye on everyone in the water. It is very easy to get disoriented and have problems with buoancy at first (there aren't any real reference points once underwater). Keep an eye on the leader and try to match his depth. They stop several times on each dive to check everyone's air supply as you are going into some short overhead environments and you must have 1000 psi to go into any of them. There are plenty of safety divers hanging out behind the group making sure everyone stays out of trouble. We were pretty lucky in having a small group of 7 divers on Saturday and just the two of us on Sunday for our first experience here. If there are a lot of people in your group, it was suggested to stay off to the side to avoid getting run over and your mask dislodged (we were talking with a guy that had been there several times already).

In between dives, get out of your wetsuit! It is very tempting to leave it on, because it's such a pain to get in and out of, but you will regret it on your second dive (you won't get your core temp back up and will get very cold very quickly on your second dive). Bring some fleece to get warmed up in and snacks to munch on in the lounge.

Each dive gets a little more interesting. You go over ledges that then drop off to 130', so it feels like you are looking into an abyss. There are ore carts here and there that you can investigate (one has a nerf torpedo to play with), the "hiding spot" bench, different mineral deposits on the walls, stairs down to the time shack, tracks, pipes and all things mining. It is interesting to see the "smoke" from the oxidization of the metal in the water. It is daunting to think that they only dive 10% of the mine and they pump out 1 million gallons of water a week to keep the water level where it is. I can't wait until we make it up to trail 10, where I hear it starts to get into the city...

Overall, I thought that this was a great trip. The staff was friendly, answered questions and kept an eye out for problems. I am not sure I would want to do this site in a wetsuit again (maybe with warmer weather or better thought out surface interval clothing), as by the end of the second dive each day I was pretty cold. There were a few things I wished I knew about in advance, but everything is a learning experience! Steve D.(guide) and Dick L. (safety) were great!!!! Keep an open mind about this place, give it a chance to get interesting and don't forget to tip your dive staff!! I know we are looking forward to our next trip- where else can you dive year-round in the midwest!!

Visited November 2011
Helpful?
4 Thank kcmedic30
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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