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Uncapped boreholes or artesian wells????


Conor
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Well, we found Bone Hole with no problems but thought the boreholes with flowing water were interesting.  I assume they were just exploratory boreholes from the mining days that were left unplugged and now flow under artesian conditions.  We saw several on the banks also one or two right at river level, spewing water like a geyser.

There was also a larger diameter casing with an inner and outer casing.  The outer casing was likely present to keep the unconsolidated materials from caving into the borehole above the bedrock.

Conor

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Thanks!  I always like checking out new sections of river.  The Big River is often overlooked because of its pollution and trash but I have found it to be quite enjoyable.  I will never eat a fish out of it though!

I found out that the boreholes are part of an old mine that has been allowed to flood.  Apparently there is a confining layer that allows these to flow like this.  The mine must slope/dip uphill from the river, allowing for artesian conditions to exist.

 

Conor

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Many sites about the Meramec River watershed completely ignore the Big and Bourbeuse Rivers.  The Big is the largest tributary by volume and I found reference to the Bourbeuse being the 2nd largest.  I am not sure about that but maybe the AVERAGE is higher.  It seems the Huzzah should be the 2nd biggest, especially down from the confluence of the Courtios.

Anyway, these overlooked rivers are quite nice.  The Bourbeuse has really grown on me as well.

Conor

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I explained the bore pipes in your inquiry on Facebook, but will go into it here...Large scale lead mining started in the Lead Belt area around Bonne Terre and Leadwood during the Civil War, and by the turn of the century there were huge excavations of the five main mines.  Leadwood and Desloge mines were closest to the river, and there are vast excavated caverns beneath the river in that area.  The boreholes were originally exploratory, and several were drilled along the banks of the river, since that was the lowest ground and had the shortest drilling to the potential lead deposits.  These boreholes were lined in iron pipes and capped with an iron cap, originally to keep the river OUT of them, as you didn't want water running down them into the mines.  

Once a mine was excavated, groundwater continually flowed into it and had to be pumped out of it to the surface.  Apparently groundwater was close to the surface before the mines; in fact, my grandfather told me of several significant springs that fed the river that gradually stopped flowing as the mines were further excavated.  So the springs dried up, but probably most of the water that had previously emerged as springs was now trying to fill the mines and was being pumped out into the river.  There was a shaft just above Terre du Lac (it looks a lot like a cave and is gated now) from which a lot of water was pumped up and flowed over a pretty little rocky waterfall into the river at the base of a bluff.  When I first started floating the river in the late 1960s this water was still entering the river, along with another large flow just below Terre du Lac at a place that was once a public access called Leadwood Beach.  Between the two of them, they probably dumped about 25 cubic feet per second into the river, and in low summer water levels they about doubled the flow of the river.

The last of the mines ceased operations in the early 1970s, and they simply stopped pumping that water out.  It took about 10 years for the mines to fill with water.  And once they did, by that time the iron pipes and especially the caps on those boreholes had rusted away, and it was a perfect conduit for that groundwater, that used to come out in springs, to instead come up the pipes and into the river.  The springs had been dry for 50 years or more and had probably been clogged up by that time, so the pipes were an easier path for that water.  

When the mines stopped pumping water, summer river flows were cut in half, and for that 10 years or so the river in that stretch flowed about half what it had flowed before.  But gradually the water started emerging from the boreholes, and brought summer flows up.  The river still doesn't flow as much water as it did while the mines were pumping water, though.

By the way, that groundwater would probably be pretty clean if it wasn't for the fact that when the mines shut down, they simply left every bit of their equipment, including excavating equipment, down there, where it sits to this day, slowing rusting away and leaking mechanical fluids.

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Just to add a bit...there is a flow into the river about a mile below Bone Hole that started out as a drill pipe atop a high mud bank on river left.  It gushed out of the pipe in the strongest flow of any of them and dropped off the bank and into the river in a little waterfall. As the years have gone by, I started to notice that I could no longer see the pipe on top of that bank, but the water was still flowing.  Finally, last year I decided to see what was going on.  The water is now coming out of a big pool back away from the bank that looks just like a natural spring.  I really wonder if that was one of the original springs, and as the pipe rusted away the flow shifted back into the natural spring conduit.

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13 hours ago, Al Agnew said:

I explained the bore pipes in your inquiry on Facebook, but will go into it here...Large scale lead mining started in the Lead Belt area around Bonne Terre and Leadwood during the Civil War, and by the turn of the century there were huge excavations of the five main mines.  Leadwood and Desloge mines were closest to the river, and there are vast excavated caverns beneath the river in that area.  The boreholes were originally exploratory, and several were drilled along the banks of the river, since that was the lowest ground and had the shortest drilling to the potential lead deposits.  These boreholes were lined in iron pipes and capped with an iron cap, originally to keep the river OUT of them, as you didn't want water running down them into the mines.  

Once a mine was excavated, groundwater continually flowed into it and had to be pumped out of it to the surface.  Apparently groundwater was close to the surface before the mines; in fact, my grandfather told me of several significant springs that fed the river that gradually stopped flowing as the mines were further excavated.  So the springs dried up, but probably most of the water that had previously emerged as springs was now trying to fill the mines and was being pumped out into the river.  There was a shaft just above Terre du Lac (it looks a lot like a cave and is gated now) from which a lot of water was pumped up and flowed over a pretty little rocky waterfall into the river at the base of a bluff.  When I first started floating the river in the late 1960s this water was still entering the river, along with another large flow just below Terre du Lac at a place that was once a public access called Leadwood Beach.  Between the two of them, they probably dumped about 25 cubic feet per second into the river, and in low summer water levels they about doubled the flow of the river.

The last of the mines ceased operations in the early 1970s, and they simply stopped pumping that water out.  It took about 10 years for the mines to fill with water.  And once they did, by that time the iron pipes and especially the caps on those boreholes had rusted away, and it was a perfect conduit for that groundwater, that used to come out in springs, to instead come up the pipes and into the river.  The springs had been dry for 50 years or more and had probably been clogged up by that time, so the pipes were an easier path for that water.  

When the mines stopped pumping water, summer river flows were cut in half, and for that 10 years or so the river in that stretch flowed about half what it had flowed before.  But gradually the water started emerging from the boreholes, and brought summer flows up.  The river still doesn't flow as much water as it did while the mines were pumping water, though.

By the way, that groundwater would probably be pretty clean if it wasn't for the fact that when the mines shut down, they simply left every bit of their equipment, including excavating equipment, down there, where it sits to this day, slowing rusting away and leaking mechanical fluids.

This is fascinating.  Thanks for the write up.  I'm sure you've done this, but if you do the Bonne Terre mines tour, you can actually see all of the old excavating equipment flooded about 100 feet down.  

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Thanks.  This is all great info.  I am amazed it took 10 years for the mines to fill but as you mention, they are HUGE.  I saw several places were streams of water were pouring over the banks and wonder if there are pipes back there or springs that again started flowing once the mine filled.

I think they still leave most equipment behind in mines but hopefully at least drain the fluids before doing so.

I am also guessing that some of the far upper stretches of the Big River might not be impacted by lead.  Is this correct or not?  I am guessing somewhere below Mounts to Leadwood is where the impact from tailings and such starts.  Apparently it gets really bad below Bone Hole on one of the sections I have yet to you.  Your description of that area to St. Fran State Park isn't the most flattering but I still want to see it.

 

Thanks again,

Conor

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