Cascade Falls

Hot Springs / Black Hills National Forest, South Dakota, USA

About Cascade Falls


Hiking Distance: less than 1/4-mile round-trip
Suggested Time: 15-30 minutes

Date first visited: 2020-07-29
Date last visited: 2020-07-29

Waterfall Latitude: 43.31944
Waterfall Longitude: -103.56359

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Cascade Falls was a popular swimming hole in one of the more unexpected places to find a waterfall in the southwestern part of South Dakota near the town of Hot Springs.

It was really where Cascade Creek dropped over a series of travertine formations, where the main drop was probably on the order of about 10-15ft.

Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_023_07292020 - People having fun at the main drop of Cascade Falls
People having fun at the main drop of Cascade Falls

So these cascades could barely count as waterfalls, but considering how popular they were when we showed up in late July 2020 (even in the face of a threatening thunderstorm), it seemed to deserve a mention on this website.

In fact, I’ve read that there was a bit of a boom-and-bust history with this waterfall where a combination of a greedy businessman and an economic collapse in the early 1900s ensured its eventual demise.

When we drove through the historical town of Hot Springs, it seemed like there were parts of the town where time stood still while there were other parts signifying to us that it’s still around to serve tourists as well as the local community.

We also noticed this place was formally called the Keith Memorial Cascade Falls since the Keiths were the landowners and donors of Cascade Falls to the National Forest Service thereby making this place public.

Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_051_07292020 - Tahia standing in Cascade Creek further upstream from the waterfall's main drop and confirming that the creek was definitely not geothermally heated
Tahia standing in Cascade Creek further upstream from the waterfall’s main drop and confirming that the creek was definitely not geothermally heated

Nevertheless, from looking at the presence of pipes in the vicinity of Cascade Falls, there could be some degree of water diversion or intervention so it may be arguable whether these waterfalls are natural or adversely impacted by man-made activities.

I also came in thinking that the water in Cascade Creek might be geothermally heated (considering it was near a town called Hot Springs), but upon on our visit, we felt the water and debunked this notion as it was definitely cold.

As for experiencing this place, we showed up at the well-signed Cascade Falls Parking Lot (see directions below), which featured a nice picnic area with some restroom facilities.

Then, we followed a walkway leading right down to Cascade Creek where there were the travertine cascades.

Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_059_07292020 - This was the uppermost of the waterfalls on Cascade Creek that we saw though no one seemed interested in wading or swimming this far upstream during our visit
This was the uppermost of the waterfalls on Cascade Creek that we saw though no one seemed interested in wading or swimming this far upstream during our visit

Although most of the people spent their time in the lowermost drop and the somewhat deep pools immediately upstream of there, we also did a little exploring up to one of the uppermost cascades visible by the muddy use trails around here.

Those uppermost cascades didn’t look like they got any attention from the people already here since the pools there seemed a bit less inviting.

In any case, that was pretty much all there was to see and do concerning our visit here, and we wound up spending less than a half-hour in total away from the car.

Authorities

Cascade Falls resides in the Black Hills National Forest near the town of Hot Springs in Fall River County, South Dakota. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

South_Dakota_004_iPhone_07292020 - During our drive through the plains and grasslands as we went from Eastern Wyoming to Southwest South Dakota, such prairies made us least expect to find a waterfall in this type of terrain
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_002_07292020 - The walkway leading from the parking lot and picnic area to the Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_003_07292020 - Looking back towards the Cascade Falls picnic area and parking lot from further down the short walkway to Cascade Creek
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_005_07292020 - The walkway descending towards this lookout above Cascade Creek before continuing its descent down to the banks of the creek itself
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_064_07292020 - This was the view of the main drop of Cascade Falls as seen from the overlook before the final descent to Cascade Creek
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_063_07292020 - The final descent leading to the banks of Cascade Creek and the Cascade Falls Swimming Hole
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_008_07292020 - Downstream look at the main drop of Cascade Falls and the deep plunge pool just below of it
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_009_07292020 - Looking further downstream at the context of the continuation of Cascade Creek well below Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_014_07292020 - Looking across the main drop of Cascade Falls with some people enjoying themselves on the travertine
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_032_07292020 - This was as low as I went to get this profile view of the main drop of Cascade Falls just when people momentarily vacated
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_049_07292020 - Looking at some small travertine dams upstream from the main drop of Cascade Falls
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_056_07292020 - Looking across one of the intermediate upstream waterfalls on Cascade Creek
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_061_07292020 - Another look across the main drop of Cascade Falls just as more people showed up to go for a dip
Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_062_07292020 - This fellow was chilling out and watching people enjoy themselves at Cascade Falls while also having a smoke (clearly not caring about the mix of COVID-19 and firsthand or secondhand smoke)

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The Keith Memorial Cascade Falls site was located about 11 miles southwest of the town of Hot Springs.

Starting from the intersection between the Hwy 18 Bypass (Indianapolis Ave) and Highway 71 (Galveston Ave) on the southern outskirts of town, we then headed west on the Hwy 71.

Cascade_Falls_Hot_Springs_067_07292020 - Looking back at the context of the Cascade Falls Picnic Area and Parking Lot under some threatening-looking thunderstorm clouds
Looking back at the context of the Cascade Falls Picnic Area and Parking Lot under some threatening-looking thunderstorm clouds

We pretty much followed this road for just under 10 miles before spotting the the Keith Memorial Cascade Falls Parking Lot on the right.

Note that at 8 miles from leaving the Hwy 18 Bypass (or nearly 2 miles before the Keith Memorial Cascade Falls Parking Lot), there was also the J.H. Keith Cascade Springs Picnic Area, but we didn’t stop here so we can’t say more about it.

In any case, this drive between Hot Springs and the falls would take roughly 15 minutes.

For context, Hot Springs was 32 miles (under an hour drive) south of Custer, 57 miles (under an hour drive) south of Rapid City, 106 miles (under 2 hours drive) south of Spearfish, 111 miles (about 2 hours drive) southeast of Sundance, Wyoming, and 232 miles (over 3.5 hours drive) northeast of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Downstream to upstream sweep of Cascade Falls' main drop before doing a zoomed in pan along its flow


Long video starting with the uppermost tier of Cascade Falls before making my way all the way down to the lowermost and main drop

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Tagged with: hot springs, south dakota, black hills national forest, fall river county, travertine, swimming hole, waterfall



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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