By NICHOL HOBSON
The 55-foot deep crater at The Homestead has been a distinctive landmark for hundreds of years, but it wasn’t until 1995 that the crater was seen as anything more than an eyesore.
More than a century ago, Swiss-born Simon Schneitter struck a mineral “hot pot” while farming in what is now Midway, Ut. Schneitter decided to take advantage of his find by building a swimming pool and filling it with the warm mineral water. Soon wary miners and many of Schneitters neighbors came to “Schneitter’s hot pots” to bathe and soak away aches and pains.
Since then, Schneitter’s hot pots have become the Homestead Resort offering the only warm-water scuba diving in the continental United States.
“Four years ago some scuba divers wanted to find a place nearby where they could dive year round,” said Dave Brinton, manager of the crater at the Homestead. “They found this location and worked with the homestead to create what we have today. It took three months and 15 tons of dynamite to create the 110-foot tunnel that goes to the center of the crater.”
Dr. Jerry Simons of Provo is the man responsible for the diving program at the crater. “My father approached the Homestead in 1994 about (diving in the crater), then it took about a year of planning and a year of construction,” said Jim Simons, Jerry Simons son.
Today activities at the crater are run and managed by Jerry Simons’ sons, Jim and Craig, through their scuba-diving store WaterWorld in Provo.
The crater was formed by water from snow melt in the Wasatch Mountains seeping into the valley floor. The earth’s interior heated the water and caused the water to collect additional minerals and carbon dioxide.
The mineral-rich water percolated up through a crack in the valley floor and over centuries created the sloping mound of the crater dome.
The mineral-rich water is now piped out of the crater so the crater no longer continues to expand. Today the crater is 400 feet across on the outside and 85 feet across in the inside Brinton said. Inside the crater, the water is 65 feet deep and the ceiling of the crater extends 45-feet above the water.
“The water (inside the crater) flows at the rate of 90 gallons per minute, and maintains a temperature of 96 degrees” Brinton said. “The water is constantly changing in the crater because it comes in and is piped out so fast. That is why the water is so clear.” From the floor of the crater under the water you can see the clouds in the sky the visibility is so good,” Brinton said.
The floor of the crater is an 8 to 16 foot layer of fine silt Brinton said. The floor contains 8,000 to 10,000 years of history in its layers. An ongoing archeological/geological research project has discovered old bottles, cans, and marbles. “We have found thousands of coins, a wagon wheel, a rifle, and a handgun down there,” Brinton said.
Creating a new way to utilize the crater has been successful. “During the first six months of our existence we had 15,000 people come through the crater for tours, or swimming, or diving,” Brinton said. “We have people come (to use the crater) from all over the world, but particularly from Wyoming, Utah and Colorado.”
The Crater provides several activities for visitors. Tours of the inside of the crater that explain the history, archeology and geology of the Crater are available daily between 10:30a.m. and 5:30p.m. The cost is $2 per adult, and $1 per child.
A 40-minute bath or swim in the natural mineral water is available from 10 a.m. continuing every hour until 5 p.m. “We have about as many people come to swim as we do scuba dive. We have quite a few people who have arthritis or osteoporosis or something that come in a couple of times a week to soak, they say it makes them feel better,” said Briton. The cost for swimming is $10 per person.
One-hour snorkeling lessons are available to visitors, including instruction on snorkeling techniques for $25 per person.
A one hour introduction to scuba diving class is available to visitors for $50 per person.
Certified divers can explore the crater for a maximum of 35-minutes and no deeper than 35-feet. Available every hour on the hour from 10a.m. until 5p.m. for $20 per person.
A two-hour scuba diving update and tune-up class is available to visitors entailing one hour of instruction and one hour of diving. This class includes a workbook and manual. Classes are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily and cost $50 per person.
Public Certification Classes are available to visitors and include classroom study, homework and in-water pool instruction. Students will receive two crater dives over a two-day period after passing the certification test. “We’ve got (dive) shops that come from all over the state to certify in the crater,” said Jim Simons. The classes cost $250 per person.
Participants in swimming, snorkeling and mineral bath activities must be 8 years old or older and children ages 8 to 15 must be accompanied by an adult. Participants in scuba activities must be 12 years or older and children ages 12 to 15 must be accompanied by an adult.