About Cascade Falls
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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