Iowa is not the first state that one thinks of when considering waterfalls, and many of the cascades here are, in fact, manmade spillways rather than natural falls. However, these impressive waterfalls are still gorgeous and well worth a visit if you are interested in getting into the great outdoors during a trip to Iowa.
Usually surrounded by a variety of natural attractions and outdoor activities, taking time to visit these waterfalls gives you a chance to get back to nature, get some exercise – with hiking trails to suit a range of fitness abilities – and enjoy a fun family day out.
Check out our top 14 amazing waterfalls in Iowa.
1. Siewer’s Springs and Falls
Located in Decorah, these falls are technically a spillway created by humans to help the Siewer River or Springs flow in a controlled manner.
The falls can be reached by hiking Trout Run Trail from the Ice Cave Road parking area near Dunnings Springs or by going to Decorah Fish Hatchery. The hatchery is also a good place for a fun and educational family outing.
Also in the area is a Decorah bald eagle nest where the birds spend time every year. If you time it right you may be able to catch a glimpse.
The waterfall – or spillway – is made of smooth stone, in a step design, with three points for the water to separate and flow into the springs below. Swimming is not possible here.
2. Bridal Veil Falls
It seems that nearly every state has a ‘Bridal Veil Falls’, but in this instance, Iowa offers Pikes Peak State Park in McGregor as the home of the waterfall.
The best time of year to visit this location is in spring or summer; however, weather conditions can make the fall dry up or gush.
It is a one-mile hike round trip to Bridal Veil Falls. The trail is marked and user-friendly. Because it is a state park, visitors should be aware of state park rules.
Effigy Mounds National Monument is also in the area and is worth a visit for those who have never seen a mound that reveals ancient civilization’s history.
Bridal Veil Falls provides a magnificent viewing point of the Mississippi River. The waterfall is dependent on the rainfall and snowmelt of the season, which means it can be a small trickle over a ledge or a large, plunging cascade of water.
3. Backbone State Park Spillway and Falls
Backbone Falls is part of a spillway in Backbone State Park in Dundee. The spillway waterfall is available to see year-round.
Visitors will need to find the West Lake Trail in the park. It is also possible to drive to 129th Street and enter the park to see a view of the spillway.
Backbone State Park Beach is nearby if you’re keen for more natural entertainment after viewing the waterfall.
Backbone State Park has several trails that go from easy to difficult. While in the park, visitors may wish to see Richmond Springs, listed below.
4. Richmond Springs Spillway
Richmond Springs Spillway is also in Backbone State Park. It is the more impressive of the two cascades in the park.
The spring bubbles up from the ground creating a pool. A spillway was created to change the flow of the spring, which helps provide a waterfall that keeps the water flowing out of the pool.
Head to Richmond Springs Shelter to take a walk around the springs, the spillways, and the park for wonderful views.
5. Duck Creek Waterfall
Duck Creek Waterfall is in Bettendorf. The waterfall is natural and part of Duck Creek. Duck Creek runs down limestone bluffs to create the waterfall and then empties into the Mississippi River.
To visit Duck Creek Waterfall, go to Devils Glen Park in Bettendorf. The park has several trails that connect to Mississippi Riverfront trails, plus picnic areas and, of course, the waterfalls.
It is best to see the waterfall during the spring or summer when the water flow is at its best.
6. Briggs Woods Waterfall
Briggs Woods Waterfall is in Webster City and the falls can be viewed throughout the year.
The waterfall is along Boone River and can be reached by taking the paved Boone River Recreational Trail from the parking lot.
The waterfall is short but wide. There is one point that is taller than the other, where the water can flow into a deeper pool, but, as always, the river water takes the path of least resistance.
Camping is allowed at Briggs Woods Park. Visitors can also go into Brushy Creek State Recreation Area or Dolliver Memorial State Park for more incredible vistas.
7. Beed’s Lake Spillway and Falls
Beads Lake Spillway in Hampton is one of the largest spillways that offers falling water in the state.
Beed’s Lake Spillway is a short walk from Beed’s Lake Drive parking lot.
The “waterfall” is over a half mile wide and falls at least 60 feet, helping Beed’s Lake water get from the lake down the river and throughout the Midwest. Many consider it to be the most photographed spillway in the state.
8. Willow Creek Waterfall
Willow Creek Waterfall is in Mason City. Visitors can enjoy the area year-round and see the river flow over the rocks and enjoy the short drop from a pool to the river’s continuation below.
Willow Creek is near the State Street Bridge in Mason City, so there is only an easy walk to get there. The waterfall, however, is on private property.
9. Ledges State Park Waterfall
Ledges State Park Waterfall in Boone is filled with various water features. It is possible to visit the state park throughout the year.
There are several hikes to choose from, of varying difficulty levels. A favorite is Canyon Road, which has shallow water which kids may enjoy playing in. Water even runs across the road, which is the path to the waterfall.
It is not possible to drive on Canyon Road due to the river running on it and across it, which makes it a nice and easy path to help visitors explore the countryside.
After a little walk around to see the waterfall, visitors can enjoy the local Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad for a different view of the area.
10. Union Grove State Park Spillway and Falls
Union Grove State Park in Gladbrook has a spillway that can also feel like a waterfall.
This waterfall is both a natural and manmade spillway, with a smooth crop of rocks on the top and rougher stones behind the waterfall. It is not a huge drop that makes the river plunge down and continue, but it is one of the wider spillways.
Spring and summer are the best times to visit given the weather; it has better water flow throughout the warmer months.
Visitors will need to enter Union Grove State Park and find the trailhead to walk to the river. It is an easy walk, as well as an easy drive throughout the park to see the many amazing views.
11. MacBride Falls
MacBride Falls is a year-round waterfall in Solon. Visitors will find the falls are more of a spillway due to the rock formations. This makes the “falls” small in terms of how short the drop is to the next layer; however, it is also a part of the river that keeps the water going down in steps until it eventually reaches the bottom.
The spillway is between Coralville Reservoir and Lake MacBride and the hike is easy.
Lake MacBride is also a place for beach entertainment, with camping and other outdoor activities. Local visitors come from Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, and the Amana Colonies to enjoy the peace and quiet of the area.
12. Beulah Springs Falls
Beulah Springs Falls is in McGregor, but not within the Pike Peak State Park. It is instead close to Spook Cave Campground.
Beulah is a year-round waterfall, with minimal flow over a ten-foot distance. Coming out of a cave-like rock mound, the spring runs down the hill into a larger creek – the Bloody Run Creek.
Visitors can enjoy hiking to the falls, viewing the river’s magnificence and take a tour of Spook Cave.
Depending on the rainfall or snow, the waterfall can be more impressive and wider than the single run of water that occurs in dry season.
13. Malanaphy Spring Falls
Malanaphy Spring Falls in Bluffton is a place to enjoy at all times of the year.
Visitors in the Decorah area can explore Bluffton, only a short distance away from the spring and waterfall. The hike is easy, taking only two miles for a round trip.
Malanaphy is on the Upper Iowa River. The waterfall is not a big gusher, but a modest flow dripping through plant life and into the shallow spring below.
The drop is only about 10 feet from the top of the cliff to the area below, before it goes down another embankment to continue as a modest creek. The lush vegetation and views are worth seeing.
14. Dunnings Springs
Dunnings Springs in Decorah is a place for family adventure all year round. The waterfall is part of Dunnings Springs Park. Visitors can use Ice Cave Road from Decorah to get to the park and then hike the trail to the waterfall. It is a short and easy hike up to the over 40-foot cascade.
Water runs over various rocks, eventually joining the river from the mountain above to the path below.
The road is named for the Ice Cave that can be found in the same area. Ice deposits tend to remain in the cave until late summer.