Cave diving team efforts find endless depths inside Roaring River State Park spring

CASSVILLE, Mo. – Roaring River State Park is home to what could be one of the deepest springs in the United States, and the Kiss Rebreathers diving team from Fort Smith, Arkansas are gearing up to find out how deep it actually is. 

Owner of Kiss Rebreathers and lead diver Mike Young told The Heartlander that he wanted to explore the cave after he had seen it 15 years prior, but the park was not very receptive of the idea at the time. Years later, he did some work for a geologist who was performing dye-tracing tests at the Roaring River and he put in a referral for Young’s team. Soon thereafter, Kiss Rebreathers were accepted and set to explore.

Only two other diving teams have explored the cave in the last 50 years. One group began their expedition in the late 1970s, while the other tried making discoveries in the late 1990s. Due to tight structures within the cave system, the furthest depth reached by either team was 225 feet.

However, Kiss Rebreathers were able to reach a depth of 344 feet recently using their rebreather masks – underwater breathing apparatuses that recirculate the gas exhaled by the diver and replaces the carbon dioxide with more oxygen. After hearing that divers were able to get to the 344-foot mark, locals have been buzzing with excitement about the spring.

Blue Spring in eastern Missouri on the Current River is considered one of Missouri’s deepest springs at a maximum depth of 300 feet. Cannonball Springs, also known as Davidson Spring, surpassed that with a 380-foot depth the last time divers explored. Since there is still no bottom to be seen at the Roaring River’s spring, the Rebreathers’ findings could end up being a record breaker.

Young said the cave’s water flow has been sitting at seven cubic feet per second (CFS), making things much easier for research purposes. Visibility has also improved compared to the last time the team visited the spring in May. 

Clear visibility is a cave diver’s best friend when it comes to safety, as are many other precautions. Each diver carries three to four flashlights and a guideline is run to the mouth of the cave in case a member of the team loses light or visibility. 

Young also explained that using rebreather masks makes things relatively safe because the masks don’t consume a lot of gas, they only use what the body metabolizes. Along with the rebreather, each diver carries two open-circuit scuba tanks for additional safety. 

“We do lots of things to mitigate risk,” Young said. “It is relatively safe if you follow the rules. In the cave, we put extra safety tanks along the way at different depths for different reasons. A lot of stuff goes into place ahead of time.”

The creator of Kiss Rebreathers founded the company in British Columbia in the 1990s and wanted to build a rebreather that was made by a more simple design, which is where Kiss’ name comes from. Kiss is an acronym for “Keep it super simple”. Young purchased the company roughly eight years ago and decided to keep the name.

Young said that the team did not find much aside from trash on their recent dives, but they did find an isopod which biologists are interested in to see its relation to other cave systems in the local area. 

Young told The Heartlander that the upper portion of the cave is 10 to 15 feet wide and rapidly drops to 230 feet below the surface, which is the equivalent of a 23-story building. There is a restriction within the walls that divers have to squeeze through to get to the next chamber, which opens up into a room that nobody has found the total depth of yet.

The team’s main objective is to help Roaring River State Park map out it’s caverns and give the public information on the spring. 

“We’re going into the unknown and seeing what’s there,” Young said. “Whatever it is that we find, we’re gonna map it. We’re also shooting a documentary. The park service wanted a short film that they can show at their visitor center. So, we’re also shooting a 10 to 15 minute film for them.”

Each month until the end of the year, Kiss Rebreathers will be going back to Roaring River State Park for more exploration. The group is waiting for a new permit from The Department of Natural Resources to continue their expedition into 2022. 

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