14 Best Waterfalls in Illinois [Update 2024]

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waterfalls in Illinois

Illinois is one of the flattest states. Many people are surprised to learn that Illinois has waterfalls. Even if the falls in the Prairie State cannot compete on a global scale, they are still worth exploring.

There are many seasonal falls as well. Some are reduced to a trickle in the summer, while others completely dry up. If you want to see the Illinois waterfalls in all their glory, plan your visit for around the beginning of spring, when the snow is melting and increasing the flow rate of these cascades.

1. Matthiessen State Park Waterfall

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Matthiessen State Park Waterfall is one of the best waterfalls in Illinois

This waterfall distinguishes the upper and lower dells in Matthiessen State Park. Because of the small canyons that the streams have created in the rock, it somewhat resembles a fairy grotto. The fall descends 45 feet into a canyon. This area’s surroundings are extremely lovely. You can descend to the rim trails from the parking lot in 100 steps.

These waterfalls in Illinois have a base that resembles an amphitheater, and the echoing sounds add to the place’s eerie atmosphere. This waterfall in Illinois is one that you absolutely must visit since it is so stunning. It would be a great romantic break to go see them in the Midwest.

2. Burden Falls

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Burden Falls

The most popular and frequently visited waterfall in southern Illinois is Burden Falls, which would be the ideal destination for a Midwest road trip. The waterfall is seasonally hidden within the Shawnee National Forest’s 3,775-acre The Burden Falls Wilderness, so you won’t always be able to see it. There are lots of hikes, mountains, and stunning scenery. But the waterfall is the pièce de résistance, and it’s really beautiful if you go just after a significant downpour.

The greatest descent is around 20 feet, with a total drop of 100 feet. By following the trail at the creek’s bottom, you can get to the waterfall. On the route, you’ll see a few lesser waterfalls that are excellent locations for pictures. These falls, which are the biggest in Illinois and are located near the Ohio border, are surrounded by a 280,000-acre forest.

3. Thunder Bay Falls

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This is one of the easiest waterfalls in Illinois to access if you’re looking for them. In fact, you can nearly drive up to this waterfall, making it the easiest place to see. Additionally, it is very beautiful and provides for some fantastic photos. It is one of two waterfalls in Galena, and you can see it from a residential neighborhood’s parking lot.

There is a short, easily accessible route that you can use to go closer to the fall. With this, you’ll be so close that you can actually feel the mist and hear the sounds. Any time of year is gorgeous, but freezing makes for an especially spectacular spectacle.

Check out these stunning fishing spots in Illinois.

4. Tonti Canyon Waterfalls

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Tonti Canyon Waterfalls

You get two waterfalls for the price of one at Tonti Canyon, which has a 60-foot plunge. There are two falls as you get closer to the canyon’s end: one on the left, and the other a bit further on to the right. Depending on the time of year, the hike to these waterfalls in Illinois is very lovely and brimming with various flowers.

A 6-mile loop features several steps and can be a little difficult to navigate due to the terrain. The hiking loop travels along both the river and bluff trails and passes some breathtaking vistas. You will get to pass Tonti Falls, various rivers, and LaSalle Canyon Falls while walking this route.

5. Starved Rock State Park

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There are several waterfalls along the Illinois River in Starved Rock State Park, but getting there requires some walking.

Although the park is beautiful, families that come for a picnic won’t likely see any waterfalls, at least not without making a short hike. The numerous cliffs offer good vistas, and the majority of the canyons include waterfalls of various proportions.

The three greatest canyons are Wildcat Canyon, LaSalle Canyon, and St. Louis Canyon; the paths leading to these are well-maintained, and maps are provided for those who require them.

6. Cascade Falls

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A mile-long sandstone canyon that has been sculpted out through time contains the 45-foot-tall Cascade Falls.

The spring is the ideal season to view the falls; in the summer, there might just be a trickle of water, yet the scenery is still stunning. Just behind the falls is a bridge, however you can descend to the bottom via several concrete steps.

You can see the amphitheater the water carved out there, as well as the numerous caverns it sculpted out through its motion.

Take a look at these amazing hiking trails in Illinois.

7. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve

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Waterfall Even though the waterfall at Glen Forest Preserve is artificial, it is still impressive. Due to its proximity to the city and 2,500-acre size, the Preserve has gained popularity among joggers, cyclists, and walkers. The trail around the Preserve’s perimeter, and with its varied topography—hills, forests, prairie, and savannah—it is a beautiful day trip. The Civilian Conservation Corps added the waterfall in the 1930s, and it has multiple levels.

8. Jackson Falls

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The Shawnee National Forest’s Jackson Falls is a stunning climbing area with several sandstone bluffs, enormous boulders, hundreds of routes, and a magnificent cascade. The moderate 3.7-mile walk that leads to the waterfall is near to McCormick. This means that anyone with average fitness levels can access the waterfall.

The water flow is at its highest in the spring and then decreases until the fall rains come again. When winter comes, activity stops, but when spring comes back, activity picks back up.

9. Double Branch Hole

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With parking spaces in the campgrounds, this Shawnee Hills canyon in southern Illinois has grown to be a well-liked camping location. The area is popular with hikers, and one of the things they discover there are two waterfalls that merge into a single pool. To climb the rocks, you should have comfortable shoes, but be careful because they might be slippery. The Best of America by Horseback has covered the canyon.

10. Wildcat Canyon Falls

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The 5.8-mile circle in the State Park is moderately tough and offers a lot of enjoyment, including lovely flowers. Binoculars are a great tool for birdwatchers, but they are not necessary to observe the waterfalls because the summits offer breathtaking views of the surrounding area and the water channels.

You can bring your closest friend with you because dogs must be leashed securely. Compared to the weeks prior and beginning in the fall, there is less water in the middle of summer.

11. Garden Of The Gods Waterfalls

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One of the Shawnee National Forest’s most popular locations for Instagram photos is Garden of the Gods in Illinois. Although there may not be a permanent waterfall there, on a rainy day you can be startled by what you see. This locale is a well-known tourist destination in southern Illinois and the most frequented spot in the Forest.

But if you go there on a rainy day, you’ll see a lot of waterfalls—too many to count—falling from the cliffs. If you enjoy unpredictable waterfalls in Illinois and are looking for a little excitement, this might be the place for you.

12. Ferne Clyffe State Park

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You will be greeted with numerous Illinois waterfalls if you visit this state park during a significant downpour. However, the water here tends to evaporate quickly, so do not anticipate seeing the falls all year. There are many recreational opportunities and campsites at the state park, which has a lot to offer as well. The park is traversed by the River to River Trail, which is a terrific opportunity to see everything it has to offer.

The main waterfall may be found on Big Rocky Hollow Trail, however it might get crowded after a lot of rain. In order to avoid the crowds, it is best to visit early in the day or late in the day. If you take some of the quieter routes such as Happy Hollow, you can see other falls.

13. Dixon Springs State Park

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In this relatively rocky area of the Shawnee Hills, there are crags and rocks, and the slopes are covered in moss and lichen. Between the cliffs on either side, the water gushes onward.

Swimming in the pool is possible, although you wouldn’t want to do it in the section with the falls and the swiftly moving water. You are welcome to camp there and enjoy the nearly 800 acres of land. This park is frequently chosen by daytrippers for a picnic.

14. Little Grand Canyon

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It certainly has a big name, and there is a beautiful, three-mile round that requires some effort to traverse. You will be rewarded with a nice waterfall if you take it. In the summer, when the river is running, the area can be dry, and you need use caution since the rocks may be wet. There are a few locations where you must descend into the canyon.

On the plus side, there are parking spaces, restrooms, and picnic spots with barbecues. When the flowers are in bloom, there is also a huge range of color.

You must choose at least one of Illinois’ top waterfalls if you wish to feel renewed and regenerated in nature. Why are you holding out? Plan your next getaway and set off on the path to an unforgettable experience.

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