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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Roaming in Cave Country

    Default A whirlwind tour of the Ozarks

    Part 1:
    I've been to Missouri twice in the past. The first visit was over 5-6 years ago to dive Bonne Terre mine with a few friends. This was well before I got into cave diving. Last year, a business trip to Bentonville nicely aligned with the NSS conference in St. Louis. Unfortunately, I didn't dive that trip. This time around, the stars aligned! Another business trip, a long weekend, a changed/cancelled charter on Lake Erie, was the perfect opportunity to return with my gear and check out what MO diving has to offer.

    Day 0 - Drive through Ontario, Michigan, and most of Illinois. Pretty uneventful 950 km!

    Day 1 - Roubidoux
    Finished driving from Bloomington, IL to Roubidoux Springs in Waynesville MO. Met up with Konstantin who was my local expert for the weekend. We checked in at the police dispatch center in town. The address: https://www.google.com/maps/place/Pu...!4d-92.1862867
    You have to provide C-card and personal identification which they photocopy. Provide a start time and expected exit. You will need to come back to the dispatch to check out after the dive. Driving to the spring is about 5 minutes away and easy to find on google maps. You can ask the dispatch center for the key to the chain lock so you can park closer to the spring and avoid lugging gear up and down to the upper lot.

    Our planned dive was a lazy scooter run to the 2nd drop off about 2000' into the cave. The surface was looking great with a slight boil. Inside the cave, we were met with about 15-20' visibility (particulate and milky) and 62F. You have to run a primary from the surface to the sign which is about 100' of line. The cavern is rather large with the sign at ~40'. From there, we hit the trigger for a slow ride with the low viz. The cave has prominent depth levels that are separated by pits. The front is 0-50' then you reach the first drop off which is the ideal spot to drop you 50% gas. This is a large room with a line that goes around its circumference. At the bottom of the pit, you are now in the 140-150 range which goes to ~ 2000' where you are met with another pit. At around 1400', you are met with a large room where you barely the floor or walls as you follow the line. There is a large ball/decoration attached to the line as it goes down to the 200' range. We turned here w/ max depth of 168'.

    The cave itself is very dark, all rocks are black, coated with a fine dust. The walls are a mix of cream and black with goethite flakes or shelves sticking out at times. Overall, it's a really pretty cave; I only wish I had another 20' of viz. After 105mins, we surface to people jumping into the spring (gotta watch out) and locals cooling off with the spring flow.
    We packed up and headed to St. Louis for the night

    Day 2 - Cannonball and touristy things
    Time to drive to the other side of the state down HW 55. Cannonball is a spring under Wannapello lake close to Poplar Bluff, approximately 2.5 hours from St. Louis. The spring got hidden when the state dammed the area and created yet another artificial lake. Good thing someone knew about the location of the spring pre-flooding; otherwise nobody would ever know if the cave's existence! The access to the cave is from a parking lot in the woods with a bend-o-matic hill that you have to climb up and down. We opted to walk down and drop our bottles and then head to the boat launch nearby and scooter to the spring. Double benefits, more shade and no up and downs that hill. The spring itself is about 30' from the bluff in a straight line. The lake water is ~85F at this time of year while the cave is 56F. So you will feel the difference and the surface sweat will not be pleasant once in the cave! The descent to the bottom is zero viz till you feel a gush of cold and clear water. The gold line comes out of the cave to a bucket, so no need to run a primary; although a dive flag is recommended from the surface to it.

    The entry to the cave is through a pebble strewn bedding plane with some flow which required light pulling. The front is BLACK and very pretty. The walls are very square from the bedrock. From there, its an easy 800' swim to the giant pit. Visibility was about 50' which was very nice for the place. On your right there is a loop from around 300' to the start of the pit (jump). Also, on the way to the pit, there is a nice arch. Look for the clay bank on the right side before the pit. We swam very slowly from the entrance to the pit (22mins)
    The pit was the feature I was looking for and it did not disappoint. It just blew my mind. Its an abyss of giant proportions. It goes from 50' all the way to 285'. The first portion is a straight drop along a thick rope where you can hang 70 and 190' bottles. At the bottom, there is a round anchor hanging and a new line takes off in a 45' angle to the "restriction" at 285' where water is gushing out. We poked our heads in, but decided to play it cool and not push it on my first dive there. It sure looked inviting. At 270', there was a large catfish hanging in a nook. On our way up, we took our sweet time to ascend in a corkscrew fashion to check out the features around the pit with my jaw dropping at every corner. Towards the top, we reached our 70' bottle and started doing our first stops before being allowed back out of the pit. Once out, we followed the flow out, poking my head at the jump close to the pit. At 300' from the exit, we took the loop that goes back to the pit to continue blowing our deco off. It was a nice stroll! Jumping back onto gold, it was time to go home. I continued poking my head everywhere till Konstantin had enough of my dicking around and lifted the thumb; fun was over .

    Once out of the cave, I still had 10mins to burn which I moved up to the warmer water. All in all, it was a 2hr dive that I won't forget anytime soon. Someone take Kyrill there!
    After our scooter back and packing up, we split ways. I still had time to do a few touristy things in the afternoon.

    Touristy #1 - Elephant Rock State Park
    Missouri is packed with parks and this one was highly recommended. The park is an easy 1 mile hike on a paved path through a forest with interesting rock formations (giant round granite rocks) and remnants of an old mining operation. On top of elephant rock, you have a great view of the surrounding area.

    Touristy #2 ? Johnson Shut-ins State Park
    12-15 miles from Elephant Rock is another state park with hiking trails and swimming areas (didn?t see). The drive there felt so much longer than 12 miles as its windy / up / down, typical Ozark back road. I stopped at the first sign for Johnson Shut-ins which was a hiking trail. I wasn?t sure I was up for another hike?.but the sign referred to a huge scour from a dam failure years ago?.and that got my interest! The hike to the lookout point takes about 25-30mins. From the lookout, you have view to the distant dam and the scour damage from the failure. It would have been a crazy sight to see the failure in person. The scour exposed rocks and created a path of destruction from high up all the way down to the road. After the hike, I called it a day and continued driving in search for a crashing pad for the night. I skipped the park?s main entry?which I hear has other cool stuff to visit.

    Day 3 - Planned for a dive at Boiling springs?..did more touristy things

    Touristy #1 - Maramec Caverns
    With all the signs on the highway about the place, I decided to check it out. The park has a huge parking lot and multiple activities: kayaking/canoe, boat rides on the Maramec, and obviously, cave tours. Since I was there first thing in the morning, I got lucky and got a private tour of the cave. Solo is good and beats being in the next group which was 50 people  Lots of cool history about this cave. There are 2 sections to the cave: lower with the river, upper with more decorations. Cost: $23.

    Touristy #2 - Onondaga Cave
    I was planning to hit boiling springs after my tour, but then saw the sign to Onondaga and changed my mind! I didn?t feel like diving for some reason so it was a good procrastination alternative. Onondaga is a sizeable park with a cave entrance from within the main building. On the property, there is a spring which is apparently a quick sump into the cave.
    This cave is about the big stuff. Big rooms (think diepolder size), big draperies, huge canopy, huge stalagmites (the twins). I wish I had taken my dive light to really light it up. Cost $15.

    Touristy #3 - Maramec Springs
    As I started my drive towards Bentonville, yet another attraction caught my attention, Maramec Springs park. This is the start of the Maramec river that both caves I visited sit close to. Maramec springs is a huge park where a few attractions can be checked out by car. However, the spring was the real deal for me; as much as they would not let me dive it (it?s a permit site from what I understand). As you get close to the streams from the cave, you can feel the air is colder from the water gushing through. The streams are converted into fish hatcheries and power generation. The head spring is under a bluff. Water is a milky blue with a STRONG boil. It reminded me of Silver Glen in Florida for some reason because of the fish. I?d love to hear about the exploration efforts in this cave. I think it goes to 350'. Cost $5.

    Fun's over and time to hit Bentonville for a few days?.to be continue next weekend (Boiling Springs & Mine La Motte)

  2. #2


    Great write-up, thanks! Any pics or videos?

  3. #3


    It goes back further than that!!!

    David Moore

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Roaming in Cave Country


    Quote Originally Posted by DMoore View Post
    It goes back further than that!!!
    Which one? Maramec?
    Would love to hear exploration info

    Sent from my ONEPLUS A5000 using Tapatalk

  5. #5


    Great trip report.... Thanks for sharing.

    Why yes that was me in shorts and a t-shirt @ the 700' marker

  6. #6


    Great write up, thanks for sharing! I enjoyed the tour and views and old stuff at Meramac too

    Jeff Rouse
    Chicago, IL

  7. #7


    Great write up! If anyone reading this is now interested, you should consider coming out to the Midwest Workshop October 20th in St. Robert MO. It's 10 minutes from the massive and beautiful Roubidoux cave mentioned above. I hope to see you there Patrick!


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