Sunday, December 1, 2019


I first heard about Bonne Terre Mines through a dive shop in Springdale, Arkansas, where my family and I were buying scuba gear in the 1980's.  That dive shop was putting together a winter trip to go scuba diving in an abandoned mine in Missouri.  I was intrigued, but never got around to actually planning a dive trip there.  Fast forward almost three decades, and I find myself entering the double doors, seen in this photo, of DEEP EARTH DIVERS.

The parking lot of the location had the remains of an old ore car railroad track.  The only reason I knew what it was is because I had seen a similar contraption when I  stepped inside the Flooded Mine Train in Silver Dollar City, near Branson, Missouri.

The building shown in this photo, with the ore mine train in front, is where one buys their ticket to take a tour of the Bonne Terre Mine.  At this point, I should mention that I found out just a couple of years ago, that the Bonne Terre Mine experience is not restricted to just scuba divers.  These days, non-divers can also take a mine tour, provided they are able to walk.

This photo shows the entrance to the mine.  At first, it is just a gentle slope downward, and you are covered by a metal shed, with dozens of antique mine equipment on display. 

The gentle slope soon changes to a steep slope, and one must be able to navigate the 62 stair steps shown in this photo, if they want to see the mines. 

This is a photo of the young mam who was the tour guide on the day I visited, and he is standing beside an old ore car, full of examples of the ore the miners were extracting. 

No need to do a "StairMaster" exercise machine on the day you tour the mine, as your thighs will get an ample workout on the steps inside the mine!

The mine stays a constant 62 degrees Fahrenheit year-round, so heavy clothing is not required, as illustrated by the lady wearing shorts and short sleeves, in this photograph. 

This photo shows one of several elevated walkways that the visitor will encounter on their tour. 

You may have heard of a "chasing waterfalls", in reference to trying to find hidden waterfalls in the woods; in contrast, this is an example of "chasing calcium falls", which is what the cascade of white is on the side of the earth in this photo.  

Our guide pointed out the two shovels that had become embedded in this very large calcium falls. 

The shapes
taken on by the calcium falls can be reminiscent of the frozen icicles I have seen oozing out of bluffs along Ozark hillsides, 

This photo was the first glimpse of water we got on the tour,  Our guide told us that the water if 375 feet deep in some places!  I read that my scuba diving hero, Jacques Cousteau, dove here, and I am curious about how deep he was able to get with the equipment that was available at the time of his dive, several years ago.  I earned the specialty certification of "Deep Diver" during my training, but at the time, the deepest a recreational diver was supposed to go was 100 feet.  However, new diving technology, and nitrox breathing mixtures, have extended the limits of the recreational diver in recent years. 

This photo lets you see the columns that support the various levels of the mine.  Some of the columns are 50 feet high. 

Besides me, the only other people on this tour were the mother/daughter pair shown in this photo.  The daughter told me that her mom used to live in this part of Missouri, and had always been curious about the mine, but had never toured it.  It was interesting to hear her tell stories from long ago, about the people she knew who were associated with the mining operations.

Our tour guide also listened to her stories, and commented that many locals have concerns about the mine, and the possibility that if it collapsed, the town of Bonne Terre would be destroyed.  Those concerns may have been compounded by a television show on the History Channel, that had a segment about Bonne Terre Mine.  The title of the program was "Life After People:  Depths of Destruction". 

The guide also mentioned that some local residents are concerned that since the mine extracted lead, it might affect the town's drinking water in a bad way.  The guide said tests have shown no lead contamination in city water.  He said the blue color of the lake is due to reflections, and not contamination. 

The marketing brochures advertise that the visitor will see gigantic cavernous rooms, supported by massive stone columns.  This photo shows just such a room!

When we were about 120 feet below the parking lot, we came to the wooden deck that contained the scuba gear, as shown in this photo, as well as the blue tarp-covered structure that contained the scuba air compressors, and could be used for a staging area/dressing room,  for the divers going into and out of the water.

This long storage box of dozens of scuba diving air tanks, is a reminder to say that Bonne Terre Mines is the world's LARGEST fresh-water dive resort!  It is open all year, with a constant water temperature, and 100 foot visibility.  When divers are underwater, they will see mammoth architecture, ore carts, scaffolding, grating, staircases, pillars, slurry pipes, calcium falls, and an elevator shaft. 

But, as I mentioned earlier, many of these sights are visible to the above-the-water visitor as well.  Such visitors get onto the pontoon boat shown in the photo, and (after putting on a life jacket), enjoy a cruise around Billion Gallon Lake.  I was told the lake has one, and only one, fish! 

This photo shows the pontoon boat we are in , with the floating dock from which we departed, located to the left. 

There are 17 miles of navigable shoreline on this underground attraction!

The French phrase "Bonne Terre" means "good soil", and you can see some of that soil in this photo of an air shaft that we traveled under.  If you know your Missouri history, you will remember that this part of the state was originally settled by the French in 1720, after lead ore was discovered.  It was this lead ore that caused the mine to be a target of Confederate General Sterling Price, during the Civil War.  The mine was a strategic icon for his goal of capturing Missouri for the Confederates. 

Most of the visitors to the mine are not local, as the town of Bonne Terre, Missouri, only had a population of 6,864 people in the 2010 census.  I think the town motto is very clever, because it says, "Good Earth, Good People"!

This photo shows our pontoon
boat approaching the landing dock, as we finished our boat tour. 

If you are a scuba diver, you will probably recognize the items in this photo as the lead weights that fit around the divers waist, to help them achieve "neutral buoyancy".  One's buoyancy is affected by their body size, percent of body fat, and the thickness of their wet suit.  I took the photo because to me, it was ironic to see such an extensive lineup of LEAD weight, in a LEAD mine!!  I was curious if the lead in these weights actually came from this particular mine!

When I inquired about why the two columns shown in this photograph looked difference  from the other columns, the reply the tour guide gave was not particularly "comforting".  I understood him to say that those two columns had shown some structural "issues", so they had been encircled with steel cables for additional support.  I suppose that is understandable since the  building of the mine started in 1864!  There is a long history of ore mining in Missouri---Bonne Terre Mine was the first in the network of St. Joe Minerals Lead Mine Company, which produced 70% of lead used in the USA!

There is an underground garden in the mine, made possible by the addition of "grow lights".  Although it is small and experimental now, there is a very LARGE underground structure in London, England , that is being used to grow fresh greens for a population of millions.  That is because the bomb shelters that were built to protect British citizens from Hitler's bombing raids, are now being used for a very beneficial purpose!  They are an underground garden that supplies fresh produce for the people in the city above them!  This concept serves the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses that says, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."  Genesis 50:20

There have also been at least two weddings in this underground garden, with one of them being the wedding of the couple that bought the mine.  When Doug and Cathy Goergens bought the mine in the 1970's, water had filled about 88 miles of passages, with its three lowest levels being completely flooded.  After extensive pumping, the walking surface is now at the floor of Level 2. 

After the hour-long walking tour, and as we climbed the stairs to exit the mine, I pondered how many people must have used these steps since the mine closed in 1962.  I was also curious if these steps were ever underwater when the mine flooded after the pumps were turned off in 1962!  Thankfully, present day pumps maintain the lake level at a constant depth, to facilitate the boat and walking tours. 

In answer to this scuba diver's question, "Who's with me?", the reply is "Bunches!".  That is based on the fact that Bonne Terre Mine was named America's best underwater attraction by the readers of USA Today!

Bonne Terre Mine was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and if you would like to add it to YOUR list of places visited, just call 1-888-843-3483,  or log onto  .    I know it will give you "MILES OF SMILES"!   Tricia

Friday, November 1, 2019


The Ozark Folk Center ( ) is a part of the Arkansas State Parks System, and is located in Mountain View, Arkansas.

The center is home to more than 20 craft artisans, who are all independent business folks, who make their living selling the items they create by hand. 

There are many amusing photo opportunities, in the park---including this one where two visitors can put their faces inside the openings, and take on the body of a mule. 

One of the craftsman in the village is shown at his old fashioned, foot and arm powered printing machine.  I am quite familiar with this piece of equipment, because my parents had one of them in their school supply business in Harrison, Arkansas, during the 1960's.  They hired a young man named Sam Brown to be their printer, and my sister also knew how to work the machine.  As a pre-teen,  I was strictly forbidden from operating it, however, as my parents apparently were concerned I would either tear up the machine, or mash a finger off during the pressing and rolling process.  (Apparently, they had reason for concern, as I am told that when I was a youngster, I tried sticking my fingers between the rollers of the wringers used to squeeze out excess water from freshly washed clothes, before they were hung on the clothesline to dry!)

Another shop in the craft village is the Fiber Arts Shop, which has every kind of loom imaginable.  I am also familiar with a loom like the one shown in this photo, as my great grandmother had one of these, and made numerous rugs, table runners, and pillow tops, that I am still using to this very day.  She was the widow of a Civil War veteran, so the rug and matching pillow cover she made, when she learned her granddaughter was pregnant with me, are treasured items !  I have written about these vintage rugs in previous blogs, which can be accessed in the archives.

Another type of fiber art that you can observe being created at the folk center, is that which is being made, from the raw wool of a sheep, by using a spinning wheel.  If you make arrangements in advance, you might also be able to see the actual "sheep shearing" event!

Throughout the Craft Village, you will see examples of how early settlers in the Ozarks managed to survive on the "less than ideal" growing conditions of the mountains.  Whatever crops they were able to preserve in jars, or store in crates, would be kept in a "root cellar", where there would be less temperature fluctuation than the farmer would find in a free-standing storage shed.  These cellars sometimes also doubled as storm cellars, when a tornado was spotted.

The Heritage Herb Garden is a favorite of many visitors, and is also one of the places where an organization I am a part of, the Arkansas Master Naturalists ( ) does volunteer work on Wednesdays, during the months the park is open.  You can go to the Master Naturalist website to learn more about being a volunteer for the Ozark Folk Center, as well as a myriad of additional service opportunities. 

It is a fascinating thing to see a craftsman take natural straw, and turn it into a functional item, such as a broom.  And while he is working, he can keep up a steady conversation with spectators, to answer questions, or teach them the intricacies of weaving together different colors of straw to create a pleasing pattern.

In yet another example of a craft I observed by grandparents and parents doing, the lady in the Leather Shop, keeps the tap-tap-tap of her special hammer going, as she explains to visitors the techniques she is using to "hand tool" a design on leather.  I still have a leather wallet made by a family member, that has their name intricately spelled out on it---all made by doing exactly what is shown in this photo. 

Since my parents had a school supply store, they were in the business of selling new school furniture, as one room schools closed down to form "consolidated school districts", like we are familiar with today.  In the process of doing these sales, they would occasionally take as "trade-ins" wooden desks like the one shown in this photo.  I always enjoyed "playing school" with these old desks, and imagining what it would have been like to attend school where all the ages were together in one small room!

There is also a Basket Shop, and as in previous paragraphs, this too was familiar to me, as our family had a "gizzard" basket made by one of our ancestors, and I still have a basket made by my Aunt Helen (although she actually made hers during a college course she was taking to meet graduation requirements). 

The anvil shown in this picture, along with the furnace, should be a clue that the village also has a Blacksmith Shop.

I had the good fortune to meet the pretty lady pictured below, (with her official Ozark Folk Center work apron), named Jeannette Larson.  Jeanette  is a familiar and welcoming face at the Ozark Folk Center, and is also the lady pictured earlier in the blog at the spinning wheel.
I had the opportunity to attend a cheese making course she was giving at the Ozark Folk Center.
The event took place in a classroom, adjacent to the Performing Arts Auditorium, and had the essential items Jeanette needed for her demonstration.  The photo shows her using two hot plates, to heat the milk, which proves a regular stove is not a requirement!

Part of the dairy products used were cows milk, and part of them were goat's milk, fresh from Jeanette's very own goat herd!  You can learn more about the items produced by her family at their website

Some of the cheese she made on this particular Saturday used vinegar (shown here) as the starter for the enzymatic process that would change the liquid milk into cheese.

Class size is limited for these special Saturday events, so be sure to create a "shortcut" on your Internet device that will take you to the site where you can see what is available, as they fill up quickly.  See to find out what classes, workshops, and concerts are to be held in the future.

photo shows some of the "store bought" ingredients that Jeanette used to begin a different kind of cheese from that made using vinegar.

I have a new visual aid for the term "cheese cloth", because that is what Jeanette used to strain the product coming off the hot plate, that was on its way to being a delicious cheese.

This photo shows Jeanette holding up the cheesecloth, with the product inside, letting as much of the liquid drain off as possible.

I cannot see this picture without thinking of the nursery rhyme, about the little lady who sat "eating her curds and whey"!

 Our teacher demonstrated how Farmers Cheese could be grilled, on both sides, to perfection.  She said some stores call it "Grilling Cheese"
I learned that Farmers Cheese is made using vinegar, and that it tastes great when grilled!

There were several resources available for the classmembers to peruse, and many of them are for sale in the park gift shop.

The wooden device shown in this photo lets the cheese continue to drain, assisted by gravity, and its own weight.

This photo shows the start of the "pressing" process, as even more moisture is pressed out of the cheese.

The reader may wonder, "Why are there photos of figs in a blog about cheese-making?"  The answer is, Jeanette Larson might never have moved to Arkansas, and started her work at the Ozark Folk Center, if it were not for figs, such as these.  That is because, one of the factors that influenced her move to the Mountain View area, was finding out that fig trees could grow here!  (Several times in the
Bible, figs are mentioned.  In fact there is a reference to one of those verses in the famous musical, Hamilton---"Every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken."---according to the verse Micah 4:4.  That Scripture is included in the musical because it is a quote from George Washington's Farewell Address, that was dictated to his secretary, Alexander Hamilton. )
These slices of figs were made even tastier, with a bit of goat cheese spread on top!

Getting to sample the cheese was

After seeing what fun it is to learn how to make cheese, are you ready to go back to school yet?  Jeanette said the one thing she wanted readers of the this article to learn was that "cheese making is not hard"!!  Give it a try, and it will give you "MILES OF SMILES"!!  tricia