Guest post by Keith
A friend of mine from WFHB had long ago extended an open invitation to us to come swim in the limestone quarry on the property she and her husband rent. Last weekend, we finally got our schedules aligned and took the plunge. What an awesome adventure!
Fans of the 1979 film Breaking Away can attest to the lure of quarry swimming. The water is typically very clean as most of it comes from underground aquifers. But some quarries receive nutrient-rich surface runoff, and can become overgrown with algae. The quarry used for filming the Breaking Away movie is about five miles south of the one we visited.
Limestone mining was once the major industry of south central Indiana, and it is still important, but the demand for limestone has diminished steadily over the years as other, less expensive building materials have come on the market.
Bloomington-area limestone has a long history for its quality, and limestone from this area has been used in the construction of the Empire State Building, the Pentagon, the National Cathedral and various other monuments and buildings in Washington, D.C. Indiana limestone was also used extensively to rebuild many Chicago buildings after the great fires of 1871. And of course, Indiana University features local limestone in nearly every building on campus.
There are literally hundreds of abandoned quarries in this area, and nearly all are considered accidents waiting to happen by their owners, as quarry swimming can be very dangerous. Extreme caution and skill is necessary before jumping into the clear, cold water. Most have fences and/or security patrols to keep out trespassers, but determined swimmers usually find their way in, as evidenced by their graffiti. Limestone mining is also very dangerous, as it takes a special kind of skill and bravery to wrangle three ton blocks of stone out of the earth, without getting crushed.