Are you looking to chase waterfalls near Southern Illinois? Who doesn’t love an epic waterfall? We have 5 of the best waterfalls to see in and around the Shawnee National Forest. From a moderately difficult hike to a perfect view right from the parking lot, here are our top 5.
Waterfall Safety Disclaimer
This post has been published for entertainment and informational purposes. We do not advise that you partake in dangerous activities. Our Wild Wanderers will not be held liable for injury, fatality, or damage resulting from visiting these waterfalls.
Make sure you tell someone where you are, not only when you’re going to a waterfall, but any time you go out for a hike.
Many of these waterfall sites have very limited, or no cell phone service.
Keep children within arm’s reach at all times.
Waterfalls can be dangerous. Not only are there steep drop-offs, but it can get very slippery where the water is or has been running over rock. Even if you’re being extremely careful, you may not be able to prevent a fall.
1. Kinkaid Lake Spillway
This is by far my favorite of the Shawnee National Forest area waterfalls. Strangely, you don’t see it mentioned much around the internet in any of the “waterfalls near Southern Illinois” articles. Anyway, this “secret” waterfall is one of the best!
As you can see in this photo, it’s a super fun place to play and explore in Southern Illinois. My kids absolutely love coming here! Just remember the precautions from the disclaimer above- waterfalls can be dangerous!
The Kinkaid Spillway is one of those waterfalls that you can see right from the parking lot, which makes it a great place for people of all abilities if you just want to come out and enjoy the view!
There are picnic tables right there at the parking area, overlooking the falls. Vault toilets are right next to the lot.
How do I get to the Kinkaid Waterfall Spillway?
The spillway is on the south side of Kinkaid Lake. To get to Kinkaid Spillway, you will turn on Spillway Road, off of IL-149, and follow it to the parking area.
If you want to climb up the falls, from the parking area, you will walk down a gravel path, which crosses over a little stream. Sometimes the stream is dry, and sometimes it’s flowing and you have to wade through.
From there, you will see a little trail to the left of the falls. It’s a very narrow trail, and NOT good for disabled persons. This is a tiered waterfall, so you can stop along the way at the base of each tier.
I just want to note that when it is flowing really powerfully, please don’t attempt to get into it! We have been to this spillway in conditions everywhere from almost totally dried up to flowing like crazy, and we would never attempt to get in during hazardous conditions!
Can you swim at the Kinkaid Spillway?
When you climb the trail to the top tier of the waterfalls, you will see the dam. Here, they do have a roped-off swimming area.
Be very careful walking to the swimming area- it can be very slick! It’s best to not carry little ones that can walk themselves- believe me, we learned the hard way! A fall on their own is much better than a fall with an adult holding them. The fall will be farther down, they can’t catch themselves with their hands if they’re being held, and the adult could fall on top of them. Trust me, just don’t!
The spillway can get a little crowded on summer weekends, but if you come during a weekday or any other season, sometimes you can have it almost completely to yourself!
Cell phone service is very limited here!
Address to Kinkaid Spillway
432 N Spillway Rd, Gorham, IL 62940
2. Bork Falls
Another waterfall to visit near Southern Illinois is Bork Falls. Bork Falls is located inside Ferne Clyffe State Park. Don’t confuse this waterfall with the super popular falls at the end of Big Rocky Hollow Trail, though. This is a much less populated waterfall, and not quite as easily accessible.
How do I get to Bork Falls?
Bork Falls (sometimes called Hippie Hollow) is located on the trail called Borks Waterfall Trail (imagine that!) It’s about a half-mile out-and-back trail. Off of I-57, take the Goreville exit and follow Goreville Road for less than a mile. Turn right on Regent Lane (gravel road) and follow to the falls.
There’s another way to get to the falls, which isn’t any better in wet weather and still includes a creek crossing. From Cedar Bluff in Ferne Clyffe, you will take Cedar Grove Road north and it will come to the falls.
This waterfall, like most, really depends on recent rainfall. What’s frustrating about this is that when the waterfall is looking its best, it’s also the most difficult to get to. The road runs across a creek above the falls. To say the least, it can get sketchy! I’d definitely recommend a high-clearance vehicle to get here.
If it’s been raining a lot, or especially if it’s flash flood weather, DO NOT attempt this! At least one car has been swept off the edge in the past.
In the warmer months, beware of venomous snakes. Copperheads are in this area. Don’t forget bug spray as well! The ticks and mosquitos can be thick!
3. Big Rocky Hollow Waterfall
Now that we talked about Bork Falls in Ferne Clyffe, let’s talk about the other, more popular, waterfall in this state park- the falls at the end of Big Rocky Hollow Trail.
The Big Rocky Hollow Trail is a super easy, accessible trail, great all year round. It’s less than a mile, and stroller and wheelchair-friendly.
The trail is out-and-back, and at the end is the waterfall. This waterfall is very dependent on recent rainfall. But even if it isn’t flowing, this is a place worth visiting. The trail itself has boulders to climb on and a stream to wade in.
The base of the waterfall has places to climb and swim (or splash and wade around depending on the water levels).
I talk more about this state park in our article, Fun Things to do in Southern Illinois.
How do I get to the Waterfall at Ferne Clyffe State Park?
Ferne Clyffe State Park is located in Goreville, Illinois (12 miles south of Marion, Illinois.) From I-57, take the Goreville exit and follow the signs to the entrance of Ferne Clyffe.
4. Burden Falls
This is an easy-to-reach series of waterfalls in a designated wilderness area in the Shawnee National Forest.
Burden Falls drops a total of around 100 feet, making it the tallest waterfall in the Shawnee National Forest. The upper falls can be seen from the parking lot. To get to the base of the falls, take the Waterfall Trailhead, which is about 1.5 miles and is an out-and-back trail.
How do I get to Burden Falls?
Burden falls is in the Shawnee National Forest. The closest town is Eddyville, IL. To get to the (gravel) parking area, follow Ozark Road to McCormick/Burden Falls Road.
Burden Falls is in a wilderness area that is popular for hunting. Please check Illinois hunting seasons and avoid coming during those times!
Don’t forget bug spray in the warmer months, and keep an eye out for venomous snakes.
Cell phone service is basically non-existent in this area. Make sure someone knows where you are going beforehand!
There are no restrooms at this trailhead.
Remember that all waterfalls are dangerous! Serious injuries from falls are reported here each year!
5. Devil’s Kitchen Spillway
Ok, this might be a tiny stretch to call a “waterfall” because it’s not a natural waterfall, and isn’t even flowing over natural rock. But it’s still totally worth mentioning!
Devil’s Kitchen Lake is a reservoir and is part of the Crab Orchard Refuge in the Shawnee National Forest. At the spillway, water spills straight off a concrete cliff in a mesmerizing pattern.
There are regularly people fishing here at the base, so be careful not to disturb them. We usually play in the stream behind all the fishermen. It’s easy to wade around in and there’s a small trail running along it. If you wade across the creek, there’s a shelter bluff that’s fun to explore as well.
How do I get to Devil’s Kitchen Spillway?
The Devil’s Kitchen Dam is located in the southern part of Crab Orchard Refuge, between Carbondale and Marion, Illinois.
From Giant City Road, take Grassy Road to Tacoma Lake Road to get to the parking area. From here, you will walk down a steep gravel road (closed to vehicles) right to the spillway.
Aside from the steep gravel hill, this is super easy to get to, and no trail hiking is required!
I hope this article was helpful to you. I hope you find some waterfalls near Southern Illinois that your family can visit! Let us know if you explore one of these areas around the Shawnee National Forest! We would love to hear about your experience!
Find more fun things to do in Southern Illinois!
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