"What a nice winter we're having this spring!"
That quote from social media succinctly describes the less-than-optimal weather we've been experiencing.
Cold and wet weather, however, does have a silver lining: the waterfalls in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois are flowing nicely. Here is a roundup of some of the more impressive falls that are best visited following heavy rains (or snowmelt).
Hickory Canyons Falls (Ste. Genevieve County, MO)
Hickory Canyons Natural Area features some of the deepest sandstone canyons in the state. A short hike leads to the head of one of these canyons which features a photogenic wet-weather waterfall.
Directions: Take I-55 north to the Highway 32 interchange (Exit 150) near Ste. Genevieve. Take Highway 32 west for 8.5 miles and turn right on Route C. Follow this road for three miles and make a left on Sprott Road. Continue on this gravel road for almost two miles to the Hickory Canyons parking lot on the left. Look for the trailheads on both sides of the road. The left (south) trail leads to the waterfall, although the north loop trail is well worth exploring too.
See earlier blog here
Black Mountain Falls (Madison County, MO)
The highest point in Madison County, and one of the most rugged peaks in the state, Black Mountain (elev. 1,502) is a difficult climb. Along the east side of the mountain, a small creek tumbles through a series of waterfalls. The lower falls can be easily seen from Highway E. The upper falls are more impressive, but require a serious off-trail hike.
Directions: Take Highway 72 west to Fredericktown. Follow the Highway 72 bypass around Fredericktown, then turn left at the on-ramp for US 67 south. After merging on the freeway, take the first exit for Route E and then turn right. Drive 11.4 miles west on Route E beyond the interchange. The road threads a needle between the St. Francis River on the left and Black Mountain on the right. Look for a spot where the road makes a subtle S-curve and crosses a culvert (coordinates are 37.47141, -90.48014). The lower falls is visible on the right. Parking is limited here, but a pullout -- with just enough room for two cars -- can be found a short distance ahead on the left. If you reach County Road 472, you've gone too far.
Walk to the lower waterfall, which is only a few yards from the Route E pavement, then climb past it on the left side. Keep following the creek, crossing where necessary, until reaching the upper falls.
See previous blogs here and here
Mina Sauk Falls (Iron County, MO)
Mina Sauk Falls, located within Taum Sauk Mountain State Park, is considered the tallest waterfall in Missouri. However, it's also extremely frustrating, since it only flows during particularly wet weather. You don't want to make the grueling 1.5-mile hike only to discover that the falls is bone dry -- been there, done that.
Directions: Follow Highway 72 west through Fredericktown to Arcadia. At Arcadia, cross the viaduct and then make two right turns to continue on Highway 72. This road climbs into the hills and reaches Tip Top Roadside Park. Just after the park, turn right on Route CC and follow it until the pavement ends. Continue straight into the state park until the road ends at the trailhead parking lot.
See earlier blogs here and here
Burden Falls (Pope County, IL)
Burden Falls is one of the more popular waterfalls in Southern Illinois. It's located right next to a public road, making this an easy visit. The creek first flows across a shallow ledge (the upper falls) before tumbling over a much taller drop (the lower falls). The best view is from below the lower falls, but descending to the canyon floor can be treacherous.
Directions: Follow Highway 146 east to Vienna. Turn left at the four-way stop in Vienna for US 45 north. Drive for 12 miles and then turn right on Ozark Road. This road starts as a wide paved highway but eventually narrows and then turns to gravel. Turn left at McCormick Road/Forest Road 402 (you should see a sign for Burden Falls). Follow this lane for less than a mile as it drops down a hill. The parking area will be on the left, just before the road crosses Burden Creek on a low-water bridge.
Jackson Falls (Pope County, IL)
The area near Eddyville, Illinois, features three canyons bearing the "Jackson" name, each with its own waterfalls. This causes considerable confusion, as Jackson Falls, Jackson Hole, and Jackson Hollow refer to different places that are in close proximity. Although the origin is unclear, it's likely some or all of these places were named for local settler and Civil War soldier Orange Jackson (1845-1917).
Jackson Falls is the most visited of these canyons. A short walk from the parking area leads to the top of the falls, but finding a way to the bottom requires taking a circuitous path around the rim of the canyon, over another waterfall, and then down through a crack in the bluff line. The canyon is a popular destinate for rockclimbers, so it's not unusual to find that the parking lot is overflowing during nice weather.
Directions: Follow Highway 146 east to Vienna. Turn left at the four-way stop in Vienna for US 45 north. Drive for 12 miles and then turn right on Ozark Road. Drive past Zion Church and look for the turnoff for Glen Street Falls Road on the right (this road may not be signed, but there should be a sign for Jackson Falls). Follow this rough road until you reach the parking area and trailhead on the right.
Jackson Hole (Pope County, IL)
A pair of waterfalls punctuate the head of this canyon, but they are not easy to reach. At the time of this writing, a culvert on the access road (Mustang Lane) has washed out, requiring additional hiking. A trail leads to the top of the larger falls, but reaching the bottom requires a detour to the second, smaller waterfall which allows -- with some careful footwork -- access to the canyon floor.
Directions: Take Highway 146 east through Vienna. After crossing under Interstate 24, turn left at the turnoff for Highway 147. Drive to the end of the road at Highway 145, and turn left. After reaching Eddyville, turn left at the crossroads at Shawnee Mart. Drive through Eddyville and go 2 miles. At the intersection with Ozark Road, make a sharp left. Go 0.8 miles and turn left on Mustang Lane. Drive until the road becomes impassible and park where possible without blocking any driveways.
Hike to the end of Mustang Lane and look for the trail that branches off to the right. This trail, #497, leads to a horse tie-up area. The top of Jackson Hole Falls is just beyond at coordinates 37.511450, -88.610050.
Jackson Hollow (Pope County, IL)
Jackson Hollow is a sprawling canyon complex, arguably the most impressive canyon in Southern Illinois. A small offshoot canyon to the south ends at a waterfall nicknamed Splatterstone Falls because the tumbling water splatters on top of a large boulder. As part of a national forest natural area, Jackson Hollow does not have any marked trails, making this quite a wilderness trek. However, an active railroad line pierces the lower portion of the canyon, so the solitude is quickly dashed whenever a train passes.
Directions: Take Highway 146 east through Vienna. After crossing under Interstate 24, turn left at the turnoff for Highway 147. Continue to the small town of Simpson, and then turn left on Trigg Tower Road. Continue on this twisty road (paved at first, then gravel) for 4.5 miles. Look for the Ecological Area sign on the right side of the road near the GPS coordinates 37.510517, -88.709300. Park on the side of the road near the sign where possible, but try to avoid going too far off into the mud.
Walk past the sign and across a glade before descending into the hollow. Splatterstone Falls can be found at 37.505300, -88.697033.
See earlier blogs: here, here, and here.
Bulge Hole (Johnson County, IL)
The weirdly named Bulge Hole is a large rock shelter located within earshot of Interstate 24 northeast of Vienna. The Bulge Hole sits at the upper end of a canyon complex featuring several wet-weather waterfalls. Similar to Jackson Hollow, this designated natural area does not have any marked trails.
Directions: Take Highway 146 east to Vienna. At the four-way stop in Vienna, turn left and take US 45 north. Before reaching the I-24 interchange, turn left on Holley Road (look for the brown sign for Dutchman Lake). Then make an immediate right turn on Dutchman Lake Road.
Drive 3.7 miles and turn right on Bowman Bottoms Road. This road goes under two overpasses, then curves to the left. After a short distance, the road makes a gentle curve to the right and then back to the left. There's an open field on the right. At this point, look for a muddy road on the left. This is the trailhead for the Bulge Hole -- park on the side of Bowman Bottoms Road where possible (coordinates are 37.501715, -88.888633).
Hike along the muddy road for one-third of a mile and look for the "Bulge Hole Ecological Area" sign on the right. From here you will have to bushwhack north (downhill) to reach the Bulge Hole and canyons. The coordinates for the main waterfall next to the Bulge Hole are 37.505350, -88.893317.
See previous blog and map here
Waterfall Trail (Jackson County, IL)
This trail in the Kinkaid Lake area does indeed feature a waterfall, although it's smaller than many of the other falls listed here. But that doesn't make it any less photogenic.
Directions: Take Highway 3 north past Ware and Gorham to Highway 151. Turn right on Highway 151 and go 1.2 miles. Turn right on Gum Ridge Road and follow this paved road for 2 miles. At the point where the road makes a sharp left turn, look for a tiny blue sign that says "TRAIL" and turn right here on John Lee Road. Follow this gravel lane through a wooded area and then veer right to continue past private property. The road soon enters National Forest land and dead-ends at the parking lot for the trailhead.
See earlier blog here
Fountain Bluff Station Falls (Jackson County, IL)
Is it possible for water to flow uphill? During a windy day, it can happen at Fountain Bluff. The bluffs here are interrupted by a small creek that drops over a ledge. When a strong wind is blowing out of the west, the water is pushed back against the falls.
Although technically located on private property at a former railroad waypoint called Fountain Bluff Station, this waterfall is clearly a popular hangout that is easily reachable from a county road out of Gorham.
Directions: Take Highway 3 north past Ware and Grand Tower. Turn left at the sign for Gorham. Drive into Gorham and turn left on Second Street (the second street on the left after entering town). At the edge of town, Second Street becomes Fountain Bluff Road (or Lake Road on some maps). After the pavement ends, continue along the bluff line and look for the obvious pullout on the left in front of the waterfall (coordinates are 37.700562, -89.497679).
Kinkaid Lake Spillway (Jackson County, IL)
Built in 1968, the spillway at Kinkaid Lake is a man-made feature, but it certainly looks natural. During wet weather, an impressive volume of water rushes down a series of cascades carved into the bedrock.
Directions: Take Illinois Highway 3 north past Ware, Grand Tower, and Gorham. Continue to the intersection with Highway 149 and turn right. After one mile, turn left on Spillway Road and follow this blacktop drive to the parking area for the spillway.