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Top 5 Waterfalls to Visit this Spring

The Most Impressive Waterfalls at Starved Rock & Matthiessen this Spring.

Springtime is the best time for seeing waterfalls in Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks. Snowmelt and increased rainfall help the canyons that are not spring-fed, flow just as much as those that are. However, with rain comes muddy trail conditions, so make sure to be prepared! If you’re looking for recent information about which falls are currently flowing, we encourage hikers to ask in our Starved Rock Hikers Community Facebook Group.

Here are our top 5 waterfalls to visit in Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks this spring.


Starved Rock State Park

LaSalle Canyon
LaSalle Canyon

LaSalle Canyon

LaSalle Canyon, located in the heart of Starved Rock, is one of the most iconic waterfalls the park is home to. This 25ft waterfall is likely to be flowing year round and is especially beautiful in the spring when it is flowing in full force. It is also one of the only waterfalls in the park you can walk behind and get a full 360 degree view of! Truly one of our favorites.

St. Louis Canyon

St. Louis Canyon

Known for being the site of the infamous Starved Rock murders, St. Louis Canyon is also known for having one of the tallest waterfalls in Illinois. You won’t want to pass this one on your next trip out! Hiking there is also very easy as it is only a short hike from the park entrance off Route 178 (across from the Grand Bear Resort). If this parking lot is full, the trail can also be accessed from the Starved Rock Lodge.

Wildcat Canyon

Wildcat Canyon

How often do you get to look at an 80ft waterfall….from the top looking down!?! Wildcat Canyon offers a unique perspective that other canyons do not have. You can view the waterfall from above on either the east or west overlooks that stick out over the canyon. The canyon can also be accessed from below, allowing you to walk right up to the waterfall. Wildcat Canyon typically only flows fast in the spring, making it the perfect time of the year to hike there.


Matthiessen State Park

Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls

Surrounded by one of the largest and most stunning canyons in either park, Cascade Falls is a beautiful, photogenic waterfall to see this spring. This waterfall is located in the Matthiessen State Park Lower Dells, accessible from the park’s main entrance. Cascade Falls flows well in spring and summer months especially after heavy rains. Expect muddy trail conditions during the spring.

Lake Falls

Lake Falls

Matthiessen State Park’s Lake Falls is one of the most recognizable waterfalls in Illinois. Flowing nearly year-round because of its attachment to Matthiessen Lake, this towering waterfall is sure not to disappoint at any time of the year. For those looking to see a great waterfall with the shortest hike, this one is for you. Take the north entrance past Deer Park Golf Club and drive down the gravel road until you reach a small parking lot. From there, the falls are close enough you should be able to hear them without taking more than a few steps into the trail! If this entrance is closed, hikers will need to park at the main parking lot by the Matthiessen Fort and hike to this location.


Trail Tips for Spring Hikers

Before you lace up your hiking boots, remember that spring weather can be unpredictable. Here are a few tips to ensure your visit is enjoyable and safe:

  • Wear Appropriate Footwear: Trails can be slippery and muddy. Waterproof hiking boots with good traction are highly recommended.

  • Stay on Marked Trails: To protect the natural habitat and for your safety, always stick to marked paths.

  • Check the Weather: Spring weather can change quickly. Be prepared with layers and rain gear.

  • Hydrate and Pack Snacks: Bring plenty of water and some energy-boosting snacks for your hike.

  • Leave No Trace: Preserve the beauty of the parks by packing out all trash and leaving what you find.

Photography Tips for Capturing the Waterfalls

Capturing the beauty of the waterfalls can be a highlight of your trip. Here are some tips for getting those perfect shots:

  • Best Time for Photos: Overcast days can provide the best lighting for waterfall photography by reducing glare and shadows.

  • Use a Tripod: To capture the smooth, flowing water effect, a tripod and a slow shutter speed on your camera can work wonders.

  • Experiment with Angles: Don’t hesitate to explore different viewpoints. Sometimes, the best photo is found from a different perspective (while still respecting trail boundaries).

  • Pack a Lens Cloth: Spring mist and spray from the waterfalls can dampen your lens. Keep a cloth handy to ensure clear shots.

Local Wildlife to Observe

The parks are teeming with wildlife, especially in the spring. Keep an eye out for:

  • Birds of Prey: Eagles and hawks can often be spotted soaring above the canyons.

  • Deer: Early morning or late evening hikes may reward you with sightings of deer.

  • Amphibians: Listen for the chorus of frogs and toads, particularly near water bodies.

Waterfall Flow Reporting

As a reminder, we are asking every person who hikes to a waterfall this spring/summer to submit a waterfall flow rate report on our website at This takes less than 60 seconds and can be completed for all the major waterfalls within Starved Rock State Park. You can also attach photos/video clips of the waterfall. Your help is greatly appreciated by us and the entire Starved Rock Hikers Community.

Don’t forget to tag us and use the hashtag #starvedrockhikers when sharing all your spring hiking adventures! We’ll also do our best to keep hikers informed via our Hikers group on Facebook. Click here to join for free!

See you on the trail!!

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Every time you purchase a product from Starved Rock Hikers, you are also helping the park. A portion of our annual proceeds are donated to the Starved Rock Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports Starved Rock & Matthiessen through educational programs, guided hikes, exhibit updates, and more.

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