10 Incredible Waterfalls in Illinois

Written by Volia Nikaci
Published: May 6, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/scgerding
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In the United States, Illinois is known for being home to Chicago, the 3rd largest city. But did you know, despite housing a major city, half of Illinois’ economy comes from farming and agriculture? Despite being considered one of the flattest states, Illinois has a number of valleys and wooded areas as well as some incredible waterfalls. Here are our top 10 favorite waterfalls in Illinois that you can’t afford to miss out on! 

1. Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls
Location:Oglesby, Illinois
Nearby Attractions:Matthiessen State Park
Animals to See:Cliff Swallows, Rock Doves

Cascade Falls is a beautiful waterfall in Illinois. The falls, which have a 45-foot drop, is inside a canyon that has been carved out over the years. When there is heavy rain or snowmelt, the waterfall is at its best, as the volume increases and creates a bigger splash in the pool below it.

Our next waterfall in Illinois is perfect if you’re a big fan of adventuring!  

2. Jackson Falls

Jackson Falls
Location:Herod, Illinois
Nearby Attractions:Shawnee National Forest
Animals to See:Groundhog, Beaver

For those who love adventure, Jackson Falls in Shawnee National Forest is a popular destination. In addition to hiking and horse trails, this park offers rock climbing among its boulders. You’ll have to hike about 4 miles to reach the falls, which is considered an overall moderate hike. 

3. Ferne Clyffe Falls

Ferne Clyffe Falls Illinois
The majestic Ferne Clyffe Falls offers a spectacular view of water cascading down rocks and boulders.

iStock.com/scgerding

Ferne Clyffe Falls
Location:Goreville, Illinois
Nearby Attractions:Ferne Clyffe State Park
Animals to See:Doves, Quail

Ferne Clyffe State Park offers backpacking opportunities, hiking trails, and even fishing in Ferne Lake. While traversing the trails, you’ll find yourself surrounded by bright green woods and impressive rock formations. With a drop of 100 feet, Ferne Clyffe waterfall falls into a pool of lush water. You can also swim in the pool below the waterfall – making it the perfect spot to cool off in the summer!

4. Burden Falls

Burden Falls Illinois
The Burden Falls are located within the Burden Falls Wilderness Area, a 4,000-acre wilderness area.

Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

Burden Falls
Location:Pope County, Illinois 
Nearby Attractions:Burden Falls Wilderness
Animals to See:Gray Squirrel, Pileated Woodpecker

This waterfall in Illinois has a total drop of 100 ft with a single descent of 20 ft. As Burden Falls can tend to dry up at the peak of summer, it is best to visit during the rainy season. Climbing along the rocks can give you a better view of the falls. Just be careful, because the rocks are slippery.

5. Apple Canyon Lake Falls

Apple Canyon Lake Waterfall
Apple Canyon Lake Falls are located on the border of Wisconsin in the hilly northwest.

Joseph Gage / Creative Commons – License

Apple Canyon Lake Falls
Location:Jo Daviess County, Illinois
Nearby Attractions:Apple River Canyon State Park
Animals to See:Eagle, Hawk

There are almost 2,000 acres of land in Apple River Canyon State Park, where visitors can go hiking and fishing. As you explore the park, you can see streams, ravines, and springs. You can see this stunning waterfall from your car once you park it, as it is so massive and beautiful. There are also over 100 different varieties of flowers throughout the country, so make sure to bring your camera!

6. Thunder Bay Falls

Thunder Bay Falls Illinois
Thunder Bay Falls is just 10 minutes from downtown Galena.

Nejdet Duzen/Shutterstock.com

Thunder Bay Falls
Location:Galena, Illinois
Nearby Attractions:Galena Cellars Vineyard
Animals to See:Green-Winged Teal, Northern Pintail

Thunder Bay Falls is easily accessible and only takes about 10 minutes by foot. The next time you’re in Galena, take a quick trip to the area and check it out. The best way to see the falls is by hiking down to the bottom, and you can even take a picnic lunch with you. During the winter, when the waterfall freezes over, it is particularly beautiful. 

7. French Canyon Falls

The French Canyon Falls are named after French explorers who visited the area in the 1600s.

Joseph Gage / flickr – License

French Canyon Falls
Location:Oglesby, Illinois
Nearby Attractions:Starved Rock State Park
Animals to See:Red Fox, Gray Fox

French Canyon Falls is very close to the Starved Rock State Park visitor center. In terms of distance, the hike to the falls is less than a mile, which makes it relatively easy. After arriving at the falls, you will finally be greeted by the 45 ft drop while experiencing the cool breeze and air.

Our next waterfall in Illinois is perfect to visit in the springtime!

8. Wildcat Canyon Falls

Wildcat Canyon Falls Illinois
The Wildcat Canyon Falls are at their highest volume throughout the spring.

SB SHOTS/Shutterstock.com

Wildcat Canyon Falls
Location:Oglesby, Illinois
Nearby Attractions:Starved Rock State Park
Animals to See:Coyote, Raccoon

A must-see attraction at Starved Rock State Park is Wildcat Canyon Falls. You can directly access this 80 ft cascade off the canyon after hiking 2 miles from the visitor center. You can observe the canyons from two viewpoints, one from above and one from a set of stairs that will take you to the bottom.

9. Lake Falls

Lake Falls
Location:Oglesby, Illinois
Nearby Attractions:Matthiessen State Park
Animals to See:Frogs, Salamanders

Lake Falls plunges 45 feet into a canyon below. Lake Falls is one of the uppermost waterfalls in the Dell Region, located in Matthiessen State Park. Once you have parked, you can head to Dell Region to see the falls. Don’t forget to bring lunch as there are picnic tables around where you can enjoy lunch with a beautiful view!

10. Rocky Glen Waterfall

Rocky Glen Waterfall
Rocky Glen Waterfall offers you the opportunity to get up close with the falls as you hop along the rocks.

Joseph Gage / flickr – License

Rocky Glen Waterfall
Location:Dupage County, Illinois
Nearby Attractions:Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve 
Animals to See:Ovenbirds, Wood Thrushes

During the summer, visitors to Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve can enjoy 11 miles of perfect hiking and cycling trails. There are over 2,000 acres of forest and hills in the preserve. The preserve also offers many opportunities for fishing in some of the waters. You can get to the falls by following the “Rocky Glen Waterfall” signs you’ll see along the way.

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About the Author

Volia Nikaci is a copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in SEO content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College.

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