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Ultimate Guide to St. John Mine, Wisconsin (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)

Ultimate Guide to St. John Mine, Wisconsin (Tours, Pricing, History, Map)

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St. John Mine, Wisconsin was a natural cave that the Native Americans worked on before the Wisconsin lead Rush of 1827. St John was the 1st non-American to work the mine, and it is now named after him. He made a small fortune by mining here between 1828 and 1848. 

Ultimate Guide to St John Mine Wisconsin Cover Image

St. John Mine, Wisconsin

The mine ownership changed many hands, and today it is entirely privately owned. Tours are not available anymore, but people can come up here and see the mines independently. 

History of St. John Mine

St. John Cave in Wisconsin was known as LaSalle Cave and Snake Cave. The Snake Cave is thought by many experts to be the lead mine that the French explorer, Nicholas Perrot, discovered in 1690. There are also speculations that Pierre LeSeur worked in this mine in 1700 when he ascended the Mississippi River. He had the license to develop copper and lead mines that he had explored or discovered in his earlier expeditions. 

The Indians, too, probably knew about this mine and worked in it before the arrival of LeSeur. There is a high chance that the Indians and the French continued to work in the mine through the 18th century. But it is believed that these miners only mined the ore that was readily accessible. The extensive exploitation of the Snake Cave was still not done. 

Willis St. John was the 1st American to exploit the lead deposit in the Snake Cave. He arrived in the Galena Lead District in 1825 and remained in the area amid the Winnebago Uprising (1827) and the Black Hawk War (1832), in which he actively participated.

St. John Mine, Wisconsin also known as snake cave

After the war ended, Willis St. John and Isaac Whitaker went to the Snake Cave and resumed their mining operations. But there is a story that when Willis entered the cave, he found many rattlesnakes, which prompted the naming of the Potosi Valley as Snake Hollow. 

After the mining began in St John, he expanded his operations by building a smelter in the nearby ravine. The Snake Cave proved to be a rich deposit, and it attracted a lot of people to the Potosi area. Potosi became an established village by 1840, and by 1843, the miner had taken an excess of 250,000 pounds of ore from the cave and even opened two more mines in the vicinity. 

By 1848, multiple events in his life forced St John to sell the mine to Nelson Dewey & Henry Massey. They operated the mine profitably for two decades. Around 1870, the ore got exhausted, and the mine was closed. Three years later, Dewey faced bankruptcy and sold the share to his partner, Massey. In 1969 LaVerne purchased the property from the Massey family. 

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Geological Cave Formations in St John Mine

Explorations in the mine have revealed beautiful geological formations such as stalactites. It is a pity that people cannot fully view these incredible formations as the mine is closed for public tours. 

Wildlife in St John Mine

One may come across many critters and small animals in the surroundings of St John Mine. The kind of animal species found inside the mine is not known as it is closed to the public now. 

Is St John Mine Haunted?

the mine is not haunted

St John Mine is closed now, and there are no reports of it being haunted. 

How Big is St John Mine?

The exact length of the St John Mine is not readily available in any record. 

St John Mine Tours

St John Mine tours are permanently closed for the public. But you are encouraged to come here to learn how the miners toiled for 12 hours every day, witness the beautiful geological formations like stalactites, and wonder how the people worked in such strict conditions.

Today, the cave is privately owned, and the authorities have stopped tours of the cave. You can pay the admission charges and view the mine on your own. You are not likely to face any problem as the mine is well lit through an incandescent electric light system. 

Many efforts had been made to turn this into a tourist attraction, but eventually, all tours were withdrawn. Always be careful when you walk up the steep slope to the cavern and make sure to put on comfortable walking shoes if you are planning on entering the mine.

When you are inside the mine, you can look for cuts and pockmarks on the walls, which were gouged out by the picks and chisels. You are likely to get an eerie feeling knowing fully well that miners used to work here a long time back, on their hands, knees, and even crawling on their stomachs. 

St John Mine Tour Prices and Discounts

No tours are offered to the public at St John Mine. However, an admission fee of USD 5 is charged to the visitors. Children between 2 and 12 years need to pay only USD 2.25 for entry. 

Is St John Mine Cold?

The exact temperature inside St John Mine is not known for sure, but it is estimated to be colder than the temperature in the surrounding areas. 

What to Wear?

You can wear loose, comfortable clothes and proper walking shoes. Do keep an eye for the odd snakes as the place had plenty of them at one point in time. 

 St John Mine Hours

The mine is accessible from 9 am to 5 pm but only from May to October. 


 What to Do at St John Mine (Beside Tours)

Since tours are not available, there is not much to do at St John Mine. You can view the surroundings and spend some time here. If you can bring your canoeing equipment, then you can try canoeing on the quiet waters of Grant, Big Platte, and Little Platte rivers. You can check out the Rollo Jamison Museum on 405 E, Main Street, if you have time in hand.

Best Time to Visit St John Mines

The best time to visit the mines is between May and October. 

How to Get to St John Mine

St John Mine is in a small town called Potosi, which borders Iowa and Illinois. The town is easily accessible from both these cities. 

Provide a safe bat habitat
Provide a safe bat habitat!

Hotels near St John Mine

There are some decent hotels like Potosi Inn that you can put up if you are looking to stay overnight. 

St John Mine Fun Facts

  • It was initially a natural cave before mining began here in 1827 after signing the Winnebago Peace Treaty. 
  • Between 1827 and 1829, the Snake Cave was the most productive mine in the area. 
  • Operations in the mine altogether ceased in the 1870s.
  • The mine was opened to the public in 1969 as a show cave. 
  • St John Mine is the oldest mine in Wisconsin. 
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St John Mine Details 

  • Length: Not Known
  • Time Recommended: 1 – 2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Kid-friendly: Yes
  • Dog-friendly: Yes
  • Fees: USD 5 for adults
  • Hours: 9 am to 5 pm 

Visiting St John Mine

Do you need more information before visiting St John Mine? You need to check the internet for details as public tours are permanently closed. 

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