Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

Illinois isn’t often praised for its beauty in nature; however, within its borders are breathtaking waterfalls worth a visit.

Illinois is among the states that are flat. A lot of people are surprised to find waterfalls in Illinois. 

Many of the falls are seasonal. Some of them are reduced to tiny drops in the summer, while others are completely dry. For a chance to see these Illinois waterfalls in their entirety, it is best to schedule your visit near spring, when the snow melts, and enhances the flow rate in the cascades.

Illinois waterfalls are hidden all across the state, within stunning state parks as well as dramatic canyons. This article highlights 10 of the top Illinois waterfalls in Illinois.

Cascade Falls

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

The falls plunge 45 feet into the crystal-clear turquoise water below Cascade Falls is one of the most sought-after spots in Matthiessen State Park, tucked in the middle of the sandstone canyon that runs for a mile. 

They can be seen from a bridge suspended above the falls or hike down to their base along some of the park’s numerous walking trails. However, don’t wear your bathing suit as swimming isn’t permitted in one of the park’s numerous pools of water!

The large forest preserve known as Matthiessen State Park offers several waterfalls to dangle by and dotted throughout its series of well-constructed sandstone canyons. Alongside hiking, the park is also a popular destination for horses, and they do provide camping on-site for those who wish to play for a while. 

Ferne Clyffe Waterfall

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

There aren’t many Illinois waterfalls that are loved enough to inspire a state park to be created around it, but Ferne Clyffe Waterfall certainly is! In the 2,400-acre expanse in Ferne Clyffe State Park, this stunning, mid-sized waterfall is a popular destination for hikers all year long, but they’re most impressive after winter snow has mostly gone away in the late spring. 

The waterfall can be accessed via numerous hiking trails. The majority of them are relatively simple and don’t require much elevation. The shortest trail is the most difficult, which means you’ll need to decide between walking an additional step or adding a bit of elevation to your walk of one mile!

Tucked in the south part of Illinois, along with wilderness areas such as Shawnee National Forest and Giant City State Park, The waterfall is only the beginning of the natural beauty to view in southern Illinois. 

Burden Falls

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

Shawnee National Forest covers a staggering 280,000 acres; however, if you must pick just one spot within that vast swath of land to see, we would highly suggest Burden Falls. One of the biggest waterfalls located in Illinois, the cascade is situated in the middle of this lush landscape. In fact, they have their own smaller wilderness, a mere 4,000 acres. 

Although they tend to dry up at the peak of the dry, long summer in spring, they surge forth with a violent force. The easiest way to reach the falls is via a short one-mile round trip out-and-back hiking trail that only sees around 150 feet of elevation yet is rated as moderate since the terrain can be slippery and uneven. Make sure you wear sturdy shoes!

Shawnee National Forest is truly an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with an almost endless variety of recreation opportunities to enjoy. The region is surrounded by charming towns such as Carbondale that have everything you require to make your stay enjoyable and simple and enjoyable. 

Thunder Bay Falls

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

This impressive waterfall is located on private property within The Galena Territory, so be certain to follow all signs posted and local laws whenever you visit. If you’re lucky enough to be able to view them, however, you’ll be awestruck by their large length and gradual, steps-wise descent down a stunningly designed rock face that makes these falls unique. 

These falls are particularly impressive in the springtime due to the amount of rain that the area experiences during the season. These waterfalls are fed by a gorgeous freshwater source, and rather than a trek, they require just one short stroll from the parking lot to reach them.

 The expansive Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, located on the same land the falls are situated, is a treasure trove of things to offer its guests, including golf courses and children’s clubs. The resort is located just half an hour away from Dubuque, Iowa, or around ninety minutes from Rockford.

Jackson Falls

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

Another stunning Shawnee National Forest waterfall not to be missed, Jackson Falls, stands tall over the water below. It is an often-visited destination for people who live in the area as well as further away. Alongside the cascade, this area also offers stunning sandstone rock formations, lush greenery, and stunning autumn colors, even though the waterfall is itself worth the visit. 

The most scenic hiking trail to experience the falls is the Jackson Falls Trail, which is just over four miles round trip and has just 500 feet of elevation climb. There are definitely certain sections that are steep; however, they’re fairly short, and as long as you are careful with your feet and put on good shoes, the hike should be feasible, even if it’s challenging when you’re in good condition.

Another southern Illinois location, Jackson Falls, is only just a few miles away from the Kentucky border. Paducah is accessible within just one hour. Of course, the towns that are smaller in Illinois are worth visiting, and there are excellent RVshare rentals that are available in the vicinity.

Giant’s Bathtub Falls

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

A different Matthiessen State Park must-see, the imaginatively called Giant’s Bathtub Falls really does look exactly like the one that Jolly Green Giant might use to wash his ablutions at night: compact but powerful and falling over a set of tiers of rock ledges. The waterfall is most impressive in spring, as the rains increase its flow. 

In addition, this park is a good option for families traveling with kids as the trails for hiking typically are shorter and more enjoyable and will not tire out or bore your kids. It even has an airplane field that can be controlled remotely to help if anyone in your family happens to be an amateur pilot!

The nearby city of Oglesby, which has an estimated population of 4,500, is large enough to handle any needs that arise during your trip while still maintaining that warm small-town Midwestern atmosphere. 

Double Branch Hole 

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

Hayes Creek Canyon, where the Double Branch Hole waterfall tumbles into the waters below, is a well-known outdoor activity and camping location for those who want to explore southwestern Illinois hills. The waterfalls are worth the journey for themselves. Small but powerful, the waterfall makes it down into stunning sandstone, which has been cut out beautifully over the centuries, and the walk to visit them is brief but certainly fascinating; a bit of hand-over climbing, also known as “scrambling,” is required. 

These falls flow most frequently in the springtime, following the snow melts, but the stunning landscape makes it enjoyable at any time. Additionally, camping is available close to numerous small towns with great groceries, restaurants, and other services.

Nearby Eddyville might be home to a population that is in the triple figures; however, what it lacks in size, it more than compensates for the charm and hospitality. In addition, larger cities and their resources are not too far away. 

Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

It is located between an area of the Fox River where the vast Chicago suburbs begin to thin in the summer, and this Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve is a very popular vacation area for those who live in cities due not just to its gorgeous water feature but to the trails for biking and hiking which wind through the nature reserve.

The waterfall is fed by a spring and is only 10 feet tall. The waterfall cascades through a gorgeous natural stone staircase and is equally stunning, or more so when the surrounding area is covered by a layer of snow in winter. The park also features areas for picnics, a docking area and boating area, and historical sites to think about.

The tiny sliver of wilderness is just about an hour away from Chicago and is tucked in a mostly urban area, making it convenient and easy for an easy getaway. 

Starved Rock State Park

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

A few people are amazed to see the surreal scenery in Starved Rock State Park, located close to the state that many believe is a flat, level state. It is characterized by beautifully carved stone canyons and stunning lush vegetation. The state preserve has not just one or two but 14 waterfalls that cascade down the top of several canyons. 

In order to experience as many of these waterfalls as you can, you’ll require some walking, and you can pick from a wide range of trails to suit your level of interest and ability. However, none of them can be easily viewed without an excursion. It’s good that the park has a camping spot situated on-site, which means you’ll be in the middle of the activity!

The park is situated close to the east of Peru, just west of town Peru, Starved Rock State Park is easily accessible from several smaller towns in the region and is just two hours away from Chicago. In addition, close by Matthiessen State Park has plenty of waterfalls to provide.

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

Best Waterfalls In Southern Illinois

Another urban waterfall that is easy to access, Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, was designed primarily to show this tiny but beautiful cascade. It is a man-made creation that was built around 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC. Although it has an “unnatural” origin story, however, the waterfall isn’t less beautiful, and a large number of joggers, walkers, cyclists, and hikers appreciate its beauty and the tranquil water’s gentle gurgling while they travel through the loop trail that also weaves through forests, hills prairies, and a savannah-like ecosystem.

With its proximity of just 40 minutes away from Chicago and traffic-free, this Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve has obviously gained lots of popularity among local outdoor enthusiasts as well as those seeking a spot to go for a quick run after work. This area in the southwest is also the home of a zip line adventure outfitter as well as a variety of preserved green spaces. If you’re looking for a place to escape from the bustle of city life and bustle of the city, we’ve got you covered. 


In light of this article that lists the top 10 waterfalls in Illinois, it’s clear that Illinois is the home of stunning natural waterfalls that are breathtaking and beautiful. The article offers a comprehensive description of each one. From the breathtaking beauty in Starved Rock State Park to the calm that is Ferne Clyffe State Park, there’s a waterfall that will meet the needs of every person. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re an avid nature lover or a photographer or are looking to get away from the hustle of your daily life, taking a trip to the waterfalls of Illinois is an unforgettable experience.

In the end, this article serves as a guideline for those who want to experience the beauty of nature in Illinois as well as its waterfalls. 

Also Read: 10 Best Beaches To Visit In Chicago 

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