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Flooded Mine Exploration

posted Mar 20, 2017, 4:06 PM by Dustin Thomas
First, going into an abandoned mine of any sort is dangerous. A mine filled with water is extra dangerous. There are all sorts of ways to die so don’t do it – at least, don’t say that I told you to do it.

Abandoned mines are cool though and scuba diving in one is absolutely awesome! Still, don’t do it.

People mine for precious metals all over the world. Eventually the deposit runs dry or the miners run out of money, and the mine is abandoned. Sometimes the mine entrance is intentionally collapsed to help return the area to its natural state, and to make it safer. This was very rare in the gold rush days – closing mines costs money (for “nothing”) and the miners were often in a hurry to get to the promise of the next spot. Now here in the United States, the government has gone back and dynamited many abandoned entrances while installing metal grates over some. Still others remain hidden, waiting to be found. Which is not to say that anybody should go find them – these things are dangerous. Now, some metal grates are actually locked gates which can be opened if you find the person with the key. I am not saying you should do it, just saying that it can be done.

One of the cool parts about an abandoned mine is that often people just left. They were working one day and then gone the next. It was too expensive to remove a lot of the equipment and tools that had been hauled deep into the bowels of the mine, so much of that stuff remains to be “checked out” by future explorers. Don’t let that tempt you though: Danger, danger, danger.

Now sometimes a mine was dug below the surrounding water table. That meant that pumps had to be brought in to pump the water out while the miners excavated further. These are special. When these mines were abandoned, the pumps stopped running. The excavated tunnels filled with water. This makes the mine less likely to be explored by your average Joe. It also makes them AWESOME! And dangerous!!! Don’t do it!

One thing that is safe is to watch YouTube videos of other people exploring. Kinda like watching Indiana Jones rather than being shot at yourself. A lot of the videos are from other countries (where the general attitude towards this sort of thing is much more lax). Here’s one of my favorites from Germany:

Here’s one in Washington state, which is much closer to my home. The lighting isn’t the greatest but the scenery more than makes up for it in my opinion. This is actually part two of three – all three parts are worth seeing, but I think this one is the coolest:


If you want to get in on the adventure with less risk of death, I’d recommend checking out Bonne Terre Mine near St. Louis, Missouri. Bonne Terre is a monstrous flooded mine that isn’t flooded all the way to the ceiling (in most places). So, it is really more of an underground lake allowing you to return to the surface anytime if necessary. The water is crystal clear and all “exploration” is performed with a pair of guides who lead you along designated underwater “trails.” I believe all certification levels are allowed to participate. The place is incredible!