Missouri springs may look inviting to scuba divers, but technical challenges of instantly very deep, cold water and poor internal visibility springs make them potentially fatal to open-water divers and extremely unattractive as a destination for beginning cave divers. Diving Missouri springs is much more like wreck diving in the Great Lakes than cave diving in the shallow, warm systems of Florida, or the clear cenotes of Mexico. Furthermore, unless you like rocks and fish a whole lot, there is little to see--and what you can see is partially coated with gray-brown silt, not pretty white sand.
Before even THINKING about pursuing subterranean diving in Missouri, Cave Diving (NOT CAVERN DIVING) certification is required. Visibility rarely goes above 20 feet here--and that visibility can instantly go to zero if your bubbles dislodge the silt on spring supply passage walls. Hypothermia is a reality--not just a word on a dive test.
Even worse, Missouri liability law is very unfriendly to activities perceived as high risk, so extensive negotiations are needed to gain even research access. Persons caught diving without permission WILL be prosecuted by most owners of large springs, including government agencies.
Two of the four permitted spring sites (and yes, three of the four require permits) are open only in winter. Mine diving is in old lead mines-- several Midwestern mines permit and encourage this activity. Your best contact for mine and permitted spring access is through your dive shop or dive organization. There is little chemical hazard from brief exposure to mine water, but most people would rather go to Florida or the Caribbean for obvious reasons: (No beach, or sun or frou-frou drinks around these parts!)
If, after reading this, you are still not dissuaded, we suggest you contact either the NSS-CDS (Cave Diving Section of the National Speleological Society) or the OCDA (Ozark Cave Diving Alliance) before pursuing subterranean diving in Missouri.
This page last updated on May 3, 2006. Return to Missouri Springs homepage.