Cascade Falls

Matthiessen State Park / Oglesby / Utica / LaSalle County, Illinois, USA

Rating: 0.5     Difficulty: 2
A dry Cascade Falls

TABLE OF CONTENTS



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INTRODUCTION

Cascade Falls was the lone waterfalling attractive that we were aware of in the state of Illinois. Unfortunately, as you can see from the photo at the top of this page, it wasn't flowing. Given the vast cornfields surrounding the immediate area, we suspect that the already constrained waterflow of the creek responsible for the falls was being further robbed to feed the crops. Moreover, a dam further upstream (resulting in the formation of Deer Park Lake) may have further choked off the flow of the creek, meaning that this waterfall would only flow during the Spring months unless there were some out-of-season rains or thunderstorms that might temporarily replenish the flow. The falls was said to be 45ft as it separated the Upper and Lower Dell.

Despite the lack of waterflow during our visit, the gorge it was in was quite impressive as it featured overhanging walls, alcoves, and even serene ponds where spontaneous splashes seemed to be caused by frogs or other wildlife that might have been allowed to thrive here thanks to protections under the watch of Matthiessen State Park. Some of the gorge walls even had some interesting colors to them (from reds to greens) as there were mineral-laced springs that would seep out of the sandstone canyon walls and leave behind the color-causing solutions on them. Such scenery was reminiscent of the kind of slot canyons typically found in Southern Utah, and the fact that such an unusual feature occurred less than two hours drive from Chicago made it worthwhile and fun to check out.

Hiking within the Lower Dell on the way to Cascade Falls From the car park for Cascade Falls (see directions below), we followed a series of steps leading past some shelter and some other log house down to the bridge right above the waterfall (roughly 0.1 mile from the car park). A sign on the far side of the bridge pointed right for the Upper Dell and pointed left for the Lower Dell. Looking upstream from the bridge, we could see steps leading down into the gorge for the Upper Dell. Apparently, the trail kept going all the way out to Deer Park Lake, where nearby was the Mathiessen Lake Falls (or just Lake Falls). We didn't bother going out that far since we could see that there would be no flowing water.

I looked for a way to get into the Lower Dell since I had already seen people down there. So without crossing the bridge above the falls, I proceeded along the trail following the rim of the Lower Dell gorge in the direction of Strawberry Rock. After about 0.3 miles downstream from the bridge above Cascade Falls (and shortly after a hairpin turn above a dry gully), I then encountered stairs leading down into the gorge. After going down the stairs (not crossing another bridge spanning the Lower Dells Gorge), I was then inside the gorge itself, where I then walked back upstream in the direction of the falls.

At this point, the trail was quite pleasant as I was surrounded by the impressive gorge walls with interesting formations, patterns, and even alcoves. Most of the walking here was pretty straightforward as some boards were placed in some of the muddier stretches while a trail of use hugging the right side of the gorge further ensured to keep my feet dry. There was one crossing of the creek though it was nothing more than a muddy patch during my visit and was quite easy to cross. Shortly after this crossing, I then reached the head of the Lower Dell where there was the dry Cascade Falls fronted by a very calm but large plunge pool. The acoustics of this area meant that the conversations from the people who were already down here would echo. I could only imagine how alive this place would be had the creek been flowing. Overall, I had spent about an hour and 15 minutes away from the car. The hiking itself was probably a little over a mile round trip.

Finally, the signs here indicated that the park was named after Frederick William Matthiessen (in 1943), who employed people to construct the infrastructure that allowed me to access Cascade Falls (among other sights in the park). Prior to the dedication of the park to Matthiessen, apparently the area was known as Deer Park due to the large resident deer population back before the end of the 19th century. Some of the features still retain place names referring to the deer heritage like "Deer Park Lake."




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Cascade Falls was less than 2 hours drive west of Chicago, a very attractive city rivaling New York City in terms of must-see cities in the USA. Shown here is the famous bean at Millenium Park Cascade Falls was less than 2 hours drive west of Chicago, a very attractive city rivaling New York City in terms of must-see cities in the USA. Shown here is the famous bean at Millenium Park
One of the main attractions of sightseeing in Chicago was doing the Chicago Riverwalk, which followed the Chicago River flanked by giant skyscrapers both old and new One of the main attractions of sightseeing in Chicago was doing the Chicago Riverwalk, which followed the Chicago River flanked by giant skyscrapers both old and new
Since Chicago was full of giant skyscrapers, it was possible to go up to the top of some of them (like the John Hancock Tower shown here) for a dizzying view of the city Since Chicago was full of giant skyscrapers, it was possible to go up to the top of some of them (like the John Hancock Tower shown here) for a dizzying view of the city
Chicago was also fun for our daughter, especially at the amazing Maggie C Daley Park, where she could enjoy the giant slides and playgrounds for free while I can view the Chicago Skyline Chicago was also fun for our daughter, especially at the amazing Maggie C Daley Park, where she could enjoy the giant slides and playgrounds for free while I can view the Chicago Skyline
The busy car park for Cascade Falls at Matthiessen State ParkThe busy car park for Cascade Falls at Matthiessen State Park

The shelter at the top of the stairs leading down to the rims of the Upper and Lower DellsThe shelter at the top of the stairs leading down to the rims of the Upper and Lower Dells

The log cabin opposite the shelter at the top of the stairsThe log cabin opposite the shelter at the top of the stairs

Looking back towards the parking lot from the top floor of the shelterLooking back towards the parking lot from the top floor of the shelter

Descending the long series of steps leading down the bridge above Cascade FallsDescending the long series of steps leading down the bridge above Cascade Falls

Approaching the bridge right above Cascade FallsApproaching the bridge right above Cascade Falls

Looking upstream at the Upper Dell from the bridgeLooking upstream at the Upper Dell from the bridge

Looking downstream over the brink of Cascade Falls into the Lower DellLooking downstream over the brink of Cascade Falls into the Lower Dell

Julie and Tahia on the trail leading to Strawberry Rock before they changed their minds and left me to hike into the Lower Dell myselfJulie and Tahia on the trail leading to Strawberry Rock before they changed their minds and left me to hike into the Lower Dell myself

A horseshoe bend at the head of a dry gully near the formal descent into the Lower DellsA horseshoe bend at the head of a dry gully near the formal descent into the Lower Dells

Approaching the start of the descent into the Lower DellsApproaching the start of the descent into the Lower Dells

Descending past the bridge spanning the Lower Dells to go further down into the bottom of the gorgeDescending past the bridge spanning the Lower Dells to go further down into the bottom of the gorge

Looking back towards the bridge spanning the Lower Dells as well as the spiral steps taking me down to the bottomLooking back towards the bridge spanning the Lower Dells as well as the spiral steps taking me down to the bottom

The trail within the Lower Dells mostly hugged the right side of the gorge next to the overhanging gorge wallsThe trail within the Lower Dells mostly hugged the right side of the gorge next to the overhanging gorge walls

Looking back at the intriguing walls flanking the Lower DellsLooking back at the intriguing walls flanking the Lower Dells

This part of the trail had to cross the creek, which was basically a marshy bog during my Autumn visit. Some boards were placed here to make the crossing easierThis part of the trail had to cross the creek, which was basically a marshy bog during my Autumn visit. Some boards were placed here to make the crossing easier

Approaching the head of the Lower Dells and the full context of Cascade FallsApproaching the head of the Lower Dells and the full context of Cascade Falls

A closer look at Cascade Falls from next to an alcove by its plunge poolA closer look at Cascade Falls from next to an alcove by its plunge pool

Heading back to the stairs leading me out of the gorge as more people were going in the opposite direction coming towards the fallsHeading back to the stairs leading me out of the gorge as more people were going in the opposite direction coming towards the falls

Looking downstream from the bridge spanning the Lower DellsLooking downstream from the bridge spanning the Lower Dells


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


360 degree sweep from the plunge pool at Cascade Falls showing the impressive gorge scenery before examining some of the coves further then ending off with a direct look at where Cascade Falls should be


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

Even though we visited Cascade Falls as part of the very long drive from Indianapolis, Indiana to Chicago's O'Hare Airport, we'll describe the driving route as if you were coming from the Chicago O'Hare Airport, which was northwest of downtown Chicago.

From the O'Hare Airport, we would go onto the I-294 south (this is a toll road; if you don't have spare change on you like we didn't, it's possible to pay after the fact on the Illinois Tollways website). We'd then follow this freeway for about 17 miles to the I-55 south. Continuing just under 27 miles southwest on the I-55, we'd then continue west on the I-80 for the next 44.5 miles to the exit at East 8th Rd (Route 178). Going south on E 8th Rd (Route 178) for 5 miles, we then turned right onto North 25th Rd, and we followed this road to the car park after 0.7 miles.

This drive took us roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES




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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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