Bennett Springs

Diving One of Missouri’s Largest Springs… Swimming with Trout

Posted by Phil Lilley on November 8th, 2011
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This past Saturday I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to dive at one of Missouri’s largest springs , located within Bennett Springs State Park. Every year the stream in this trout park closes for two weeks between the regular and catch & release seasons. During this time the MDC has a weekend stream cleanup where they invite scuba divers to come and dive the stream and clean-up trash from the years multitude of visitors. Every year I try to dive the spring at least once and the clean-up is a good reason to get wet and do something good for the river as well.

Each group of divers was assigned a section of stream to cover , my group had requested and been given the actual spring outlet and downstream section of stream. Since the three of us were all certified cave divers we took the opportunity to do a little exploring of the spring. These diagrams show the layout of the spring cave in relation to the surrounding park.

At our deepest point of 78 feet we were somewhere deep in the hillside beneath the kids playground on the hill. The lack of rain recently made for perfect conditions , low outflow allowing us to penetrate down into the tunnel without issue and gin clear water.

The mouth of the cave opening is always full of trout and this day was no different. It’s always a cool sight to drop into the cavern opening and see all of the fish hanging there in the current.

A guideline leads down into the cave opening and it’s┬ánecessary┬áto use it to pull yourself forward against the current even at low flows.

Once inside the spring opening itself, trout can be seen down to about 30 feet deep hovering in slack water areas along the edges. I’ve seen some decent sized fish before but today they were all just average stockers.

Once you come to the first real restriction the going gets tougher and I had to put away the camera to maintain a grip on the line and hold the regulator against my face to keep the current from free-flowing it.

We did a little minor exploring and then headed back out of the cave. With plenty of air to burn up I took advantage of the situation and did a little trout watching on my second dive. The area just below the spring branch was loaded with fish and I spent several hours laying in seams and watching trout move about and feed.

It was really enlightening to watch that many fish in one area and study their behavior as they went about their business. Probably the biggest thing I noticed was that these fish (stocked rainbows) will eat almost anything that drifts naturally through their feeding lane , if it tastes good they eat it…if not they spit it back out.

This tells me that at least for these fish the drift is far more important than the fly you’re using , which while it’s not breaking news was very interesting to see proven first-hand. It was a great day altogether , I got several dives in and cleaned up a section of stream that needed some attention.

The MDC served us a free lunch of hot dogs and burgers at the nature center for our cleanup efforts…free foods always good in my book. By the time I got around to heading out of the park it was already approaching 3:00 PM and I still had at least an hour drive to get to my evenings destination , one of Missouri’s little wild trout streams. After swimming with hundreds of trout all day I was more than a little anxious to get out on the water and try to fool a few before the evening sun set over the horizon.

See more great articles and images from Jeff’s adventures on his blog at

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