15 Amazing Waterfalls in Illinois

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Despite Illinois being a relatively flat State, it has plenty to draw hikers and those who enjoy the great outdoors.

State Parks are intent on preserving large areas of natural terrain and the annual rainfall guarantees that the water courses are regularly replenished.

When the water levels are high, waterfalls are at their best, and kayakers and canoeists can enjoy their sport.

Wet conditions may make some of the trails a little slippery, but that presents no problem to experienced trekkers.

The waterfalls are not huge, so tend to be seasonal, with the weeks after the snow has melted seeing them at their best.

Head out and take a look at these 15 Amazing Waterfalls in Illinois.

1. Worth Waterfalls, Worth

Worth WaterfallsSource: RebeccaDLev / shutterstock
Worth Waterfalls

While these falls are manmade, that does not detract in the least from the spectacle they present.

Just a short walk from your car, you approach a place which is great for a family picnic.

On weekdays, there are unlikely to be many other people around, but at weekends, there are significant numbers – most with cameras in hand.

There is plenty for children to do around the Worth Waterfalls, but you must remember they are located in a park with published opening and closing hours.

2. Ferne Clyffe Waterfall, Goreville

Ferne Clyffe Waterfall, GorevilleSource: Michael S Richardson / shutterstock
Ferne Clyffe Waterfall, Goreville

Once winter recedes, hikers come out to walk the trails near Goreville.

One of their rewards is the waterfall that is at its best in late spring.

The two trails that lead to Ferne Clyffe are a two-mile loop, with no difficult areas.

One trail starts at the Deer Ridge Camping Area, which is less than a mile long but can be a little tricky in places.

Good visitor amenities include BBQs, toilets, tables, and shelters.

The camping grounds open seasonally, offering facilities for all – including showers.

3. Starved Rock State Park, La Salle County

Starved Rock State ParkSource: Eddie J. Rodriquez / shutterstock
Starved Rock State Park

The Illinois River within Starved Rock State Park has a number of waterfalls, but if you want to see them, you have to be prepared for some trekking.

The park itself is lovely, but families are not going to see waterfalls if they come for a picnic – at least, not without a bit of a trek.

The views from the many bluffs are good and most of the canyons have waterfalls of differing sizes.

Wildcat Canyon, LaSalle Canyon, and St. Louis Canyon are the largest three; the trails to reach them are well-maintained, with maps available for those who need them.

4. Cascade Falls, Matthiessen State Park, Oglesby

Cascade Falls, Matthiessen State ParkSource: Joe Hendrickson / shutterstock
Cascade Falls, Matthiessen State Park

The Cascade Falls have a 45-foot drop and are found within a mile-long canyon that has been carved out of sandstone over time.

The best time to see the falls is in the spring; come summertime, there may just be a trickle of water, even though the setting remains impressive.

There is a bridge just behind the falls, but you can get down to the base via some concrete steps.

There, you will see how the water has carved out an amphitheater, while its action has also created a number of caves.

5. Giant’s Bathtub Falls, Matthiessen State Park, Oglesby

Giant’s Bathtub Falls, Matthiessen State ParkSource: Jason Patrick Ross / shutterstock
Giant’s Bathtub Falls, Matthiessen State Park

Matthiessen State Park is fairly compact – much smaller than its near neighbor, Starved Rock.

Giant’s Bathtub Falls is one of its cascades of water, which vary in volume by the season.

The trails within the park often intersect and it doesn’t take much time to see the whole area.

When the falls are in full flood, it is worth tarrying a while.

It is a good place for kids – certainly not too tiring for walking.

Not surprisingly for such a small park, there are no camping facilities.

6. Wildcat Canyon Falls

Wildcat Canyon, Starved Rock State ParkSource: Eddie J. Rodriquez / shutterstock
Wildcat Canyon, Starved Rock State Park

Visitors who enjoy the 5.8-mile loop in the State Park will find it of moderate difficulty, with lots to enjoy – including the beautiful flowers.

Birdwatchers have plenty to search for with their binoculars but don’t need them to see the waterfalls, with stunning views from the tops across the water courses and the surrounding area.

Dogs kept securely on leashes are allowed, so you can take your ‘’best friend’’ with you.

There is less water in mid-summer than in the weeks before, and from fall onwards.

7. Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, Darien

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, DarienSource: Nejdet Duzen / shutterstock
Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, Darien

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve’s waterfall is man-made but is nevertheless impressive.

The Preserve – which covers 2,500 acres – is not too far away from the city, so it has become popular with walkers, cyclists, and runners.

The trail loops around the boundary of the Preserve, and the diverse landscape of hills, woodlands, prairie, and savannah makes it a lovely day out.

The waterfall is tiered and was an addition in the 1930’s, created by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

8. Burden Falls, Shawnee National Forest, Pope County

Burden Falls, Shawnee National ForestSource: Danita Delimont / shutterstock
Burden Falls, Shawnee National Forest

These Falls in the Shawnee National Forest are one of the largest in Illinois and sit on the border with Ohio.

The forest covers 280,000 acres.

Burden Falls are certainly the most impressive water feature in Shawnee, where campers and hikers can enjoy the many trails.

The falls are located within the 4,000-acre Burden Falls Wilderness, but at times of the year, they can be completely dry, primarily at the height of summer.

You can get fairly close to Burden Falls but take care, the rocks can get slippery.

9. Jackson Falls, Ozark, Shawnee National Forest

Jackson Falls, Ozark, Shawnee National ForestSource: Perez Franco Cremation & Funeral Home / Facebook
Jackson Falls, Ozark, Shawnee National Forest

Jackson Falls is a beautiful climbing region in the Shawnee National Forest, with plenty of sandstone bluffs, huge boulders, hundreds of trails and a lovely waterfall.

The waterfall is on a 3.7-mile trail close to McCormick, with the trail described as moderate.

This means the waterfall is accessible to anyone of average fitness levels.

It is at its best in spring; after that, the flow of water drops until the fall rains return.

Once winter arrives, activity stops, but the return of spring opens things up again.

10. Double Branch Hole, Hayes Creek Canyon

Double Branch Hole, Hayes Creek CanyonSource: Shawn Gossman / Facebook
Double Branch Hole, Hayes Creek Canyon

This Canyon in Southern Illinois, in the Shawnee Hills, has become a popular camping area, with parking facilities in the campgrounds.

Hikers love exploring the district; one of the things they find is two waterfalls where the water drops into a single pool.

You should have comfortable footwear to clamber on the rocks and take care when they are slippery.

The canyon has been covered by the Best of America by Horseback.

11. Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve, South Elgin

Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve, South ElginSource: Joe K Gage / Flickr | CC BY-SA
Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve, South Elgin

Social media has helped spread the word about the nice little waterfall in this forest.

It is fairly small, but visitors seem to be impressed because of the kind words being expressed on social media.

It is off the beaten track on the River Bend Bike Trail, but you can park fairly close once you know where it is.

The source is a spring, from which the water flows along rocks then down rocky steps and outcrops.

The waterfall is only 10-feet high but it makes a great photograph as your reward for a visit.

12. Niles Veterans’ Memorial Waterfall, Niles

Niles Veterans' Memorial Waterfall, NilesSource: Mitch D. Coladilla / Facebook
Niles Veterans’ Memorial Waterfall, Niles

Back in 1999, the town of Niles dedicated its waterfall as a memorial to local people who had served in the forces.

The American flag flies constantly at the site of the memorial, and ceremonies are held on every Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Niles has spent a significant amount of money ‘’decorating’’ the site; at night, the LED lighting makes it especially impressive.

Start with a piece of fast flowing water and you can develop the site from there; certainly, Niles has.

13. Thunder Bay Falls, Gallena

Thunder Bay Falls, GallenaSource: Eddie J. Rodriquez / shutterstock
Thunder Bay Falls, Gallena

The problem with these falls is that they are on private property belonging to Galena Territory/Eagle Ridge Resort.

They get little publicity as a result, and it is only really the locals that know they are there.

It is the width that makes them special – though, to guarantee water, you should go in during spring.

The source is a spring and the early morning mist that the falls create make a lovely photograph from either of the two good viewing positions.

It is unlikely that anyone else will be around most of the time.

14. Little Grand Canyon, Pomona

Little Grand Canyon, PomonaSource: Curtis Abert / Flickr | CC BY
Little Grand Canyon, Pomona

It has a grand name for sure, and there is a pleasant three-mile loop that is a fairly difficult walk.

For those of you who take it, the reward is a pleasant waterfall.

When the water is flowing – it can be dry during the summer – you need to take care because the rocks can be slippery.

There are a couple of places where you need to climb down into the canyon.

On the plus side, there are picnic areas with grills provided, restrooms and parking.

In addition, there is a wide variety of color when the flowers are in bloom.

15. Dixon Springs State Park, Golconda, Pope County

Dixon Springs State Park, GolcondaSource: Shari Kuhlman / Facebook
Dixon Springs State Park, Golconda

This fairly rugged region in the Shawnee Hills has crags and boulders, with moss and lichen growing on the hillsides.

The water rushes along between the cliffs on either side.

You can swim in the pool but you wouldn’t try swimming in the stretch with the falls and fast-flowing water.

It covers almost 800 acres and you are allowed to camp and enjoy.

Day-trippers regularly pick this park for a picnic.

15 Amazing Waterfalls in Illinois:

  • Worth Waterfalls, Worth
  • Ferne Clyffe Waterfall, Goreville
  • Starved Rock State Park, La Salle County
  • Cascade Falls, Matthiessen State Park, Oglesby
  • Giant’s Bathtub Falls, Matthiessen State Park, Oglesby
  • Wildcat Canyon Falls
  • Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve, Darien
  • Burden Falls, Shawnee National Forest, Pope County
  • Jackson Falls, Ozark, Shawnee National Forest
  • Double Branch Hole, Hayes Creek Canyon
  • Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve, South Elgin
  • Niles Veterans' Memorial Waterfall, Niles
  • Thunder Bay Falls, Gallena
  • Little Grand Canyon, Pomona
  • Dixon Springs State Park, Golconda, Pope County