Cascade Falls

June 2005

State: Illinois

Location: Illinois' Matthiessen State Park

Height: 45

Crest: 5-10

Water Source:

Waypoint: 41.29556N 89.02528W

Summary: This seasonal waterfall separates the upper and lower dells in Matthiessen State Park. In the Spring it is quite scenic but by July it is nothing but a trickle. This is still one of the best waterfalls in the state of Illinois, and the gorge is lovely even if there is no water.

Cascade Falls is in Illinois' Matthiessen State Park. Here a number of small streams have carved out a little labyrinth of gorges in the sandstone. The main canyon is a mile long. At Cascade Falls the gorge floor drops 45 feet and below the falls the canyon is 100 feet deep with steep sandstone cliffs on either side.

This is a small park and you can explore all the trails in a single day. From the parking area a flight of stairs with at least 100 steps leads down to the rim trail. There is a bridge across the gorge just above the falls. To reach the base of the falls, go left, or cross the bridge and go left. There is another bridge about 1/4 mile downstream of the falls and an interesting concrete stairway that takes you down into the gorge. It is a pretty walk back up to the falls. You do have to rock hop across the stream at one point.

The stream has carved out an impressive amphitheater at the base of the falls. The walls overhang the gorge causing the sound of the falls to echo. Small caves have been carved into the walls on both sides. The caves on the west side are connected by short tunnels, one which leads to a nice view of the falls.

The main drop of the falls is over 30 feet. Just above that are two smaller drops. There is a somewhat unsightly fence above the falls. The fence is there to prevent people on the upper dell trail from trying to get to the brink of the falls and accidentally falling into the gorge.

Above the falls a trail works its way through the gorge. Instead of bridges there are small circular cement platforms that you can use to hop across the stream. Along the way you will pass the small Devil's Bathtub. At the head of the canyon is an old dam and Lake Falls. Lake Falls appears to be man made, or at least "man enhanced", but I cannot find any definitive information about it. The dam here is old and weathered and hardly looks man made at all.

There is another small dam in the gorge between the Devil's Bathtub and Cascade Falls. I believe this dam and the dam at Lake Falls help prolong the life of Cascade Falls keeping it running later in the year than it would otherwise. The falls does go dry in summer.

This is a popular spot. Sadly there was a lot of litter along the trails, especially by the waterfall.

Nearby Falls

The seasonal waterfalls of Starved Rock State Park are just a short drive away.

Photo Gallery

Dry, August 2003

Devil's Bathtub

Lake Falls

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