April showers are a good thing! Not only do they bring May flowers, but heavy rainstorms produce an abundance of waterfalls. Although the trails might be choked with mud, if you want to see waterfalls at their peak, then mud is a small price to pay.
Ferne Clyffe State Park near Goreville, Illinois, is an excellent place to visit during wet weather. Although many visitors converge on the main waterfall at Big Rocky Hollow, the park is dotted with lesser-known waterfalls that are more secluded.
Here is a roundup of waterfalls within the park:
Past the end of the main parking lot, the Big Rocky Hollow Trail leads to the head of a canyon and an impressive falls. The round-trip distance is three-quarters of mile along a flat and easy -- but sometimes soggy -- trail. (GPS coordinates 37.540683, -88.973637)
Although it's tempting to climb behind the falls, a recently installed sign warns visitors to stay on the main trail. An unofficial side trail has been fenced off. This policy is in response to the alarming number of injuries and fatalities that have occurred here.
Just to the right of the warning sign, look for a crevice in the bluff that hides a small waterfall. (GPS 37.541201, -88.975508)
North side falls
On the way back from the main falls, look for the side canyon that opens to the north. At the head of this canyon, water cascades over a narrow chute. (GPS 37.543453, -88.976306)
Rebman Trail falls
The Big Rocky Hollow Trail isn't the only trail that starts at the parking area. Cross the stepping stones over the creek to find a place where the trail forks in three. Look for the sign for the Rebman Trail at the right-most fork. This short walk leads to a small canyon punctuated by a pair of picturesque waterfalls. (GPS 37.545347, -88.980097)
The left-most trail fork leads to Hawk's Cave. The "cave" is a massive rock shelter that towers above the valley below. In wet weather, water dribbles over the roof of the shelter. (GPS 37.543024, -88.984860)
Waterfall above Ferne Clyffe Lake
This unnamed waterfall is tucked away in a grotto to the east of Ferne Clyffe Lake, just below the park's entrance road. At the first intersection after driving into the park, turn left and then stop at the first parking area on the left next to the lake. Hike the trail eastward around the lake past the cypress knees, then head uphill to find the falls at the GPS coordinates 37.533364, -88.971756.
This waterfall is one of the more impressive in Southern Illinois, but it's located in an isolated parcel away from the main state park, so it isn't as well traveled. To reach Bork's Falls, take Goreville Road west from Goreville. Before reaching Interstate 57, turn left on Regent Lane. Drive south on this gravel road until you reach a ford across the creek. The waterfall is immediately below the ford. (GPS 37.541792, -89.021146)
This secret falls is also located within an isolated section of the park. Take Happy Hollow Road southwest from Goreville and look for a parking area for the River-to-River Trail on the right (GPS coordinates 37.531283, -89.002083).
Follow the trail for a short distance until it drops down and crosses a pair of streams. Turn right and follow the streams until they reach a small waterfall (GPS 37.532379, -89.001285).
Below the falls, the water bounces along a cascade of moss-covered boulders.
These side-by-side waterfalls are located a short distance along the River-to-River past the Bonus Falls area. Keep following the trail until it reaches a creek cascading over bedrock. Just before the creek crossing, look for a faint trail leading to the right (north). Follow this trail until you see a small canyon below. Continue walking to find an easy way to climb down into the canyon, then look for the waterfalls at GPS coordinates 37.533417, -89.003683.
Below the falls, the stream passes underneath a pair of gargantuan rock formations.
This is a spectacular double waterfall that is seldom visited because of its remoteness within the park. It is located at the head of a side canyon to the east of Happy Hollow within the main part of the park. (GPS 37.527445, -88.986273)
Although the Happy Hollow/River-to-River Trail passes nearby, reaching the falls will require crossing a wide creek -- which can be very difficult in wet weather. Another option is to approach from the trailhead at the far end of Rebman Lane, but this will require going off-trail and finding a way to reach the bottom of Happy Hollow while avoiding the tall bluffs.
Happy Hollow Falls
Located on the opposite side of Happy Hollow from Dunntown Falls, this side canyon is surrounded by massive bluffs curved in a horseshoe shape. Water trickles over an exceptionally tall waterfall, but the flow is usually weak except after a heavy rain (GPS 37.529193, -88.991366)