The Waterfall Chaser: Rocky Bluff Falls

This series focuses on photos and videos from our local waterfalls in the Shawnee Hills of Southern Illinois.  If you haven’t read our previous posts in this series click the following link:  The Waterfall Chaser Archives.

Rocky Bluff FallsRain?  Let’s Go!

That’s right once again the area was inundated with water from above.  I knew what time it was.  It was time to grab the photo and video gear and jump in the 4 wheel-drive and head back out to re-visit some of my favorite areas in the Shawnee Hills.  I made a loop taking in Bork’s Falls, which I have previously described, then to the main Ferne Clyffe Falls, then finally to the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (Crab Orchard NWF).

Where is it?

The wildlife refuge encompasses 43,890 acres.  What the Crab Orchard NWF lacks in hiking trails it makes up in sheer amount of water.  Upon this land there consists three man-made lakes, Crab Orchard, Little Grassy, and Devils Kitchen.  Crab Orchard is the largest at 6,695 acres.  Little Grassy Lake is the next in line with 1,000 acres.  Our interest though is near the smallest lake at 810 acres, Devils Kitchen.

Nestled in the southeastern corner of Williamson County about 15 miles away from Marion is where Devils Kitchen resides. It is here just a short distance from the spillway where the lake overflows into Grassy Creek.  A small tributary funnels into Grassy Creek and this is where a very impatient intermittent waterfall tumbles, called Rocky Bluff Falls.

Rocky Bluff Trail

Rocky Bluff FallsHow many people have left Grassy Rd and driven .5 miles on Tacoma Lake Road  and have never taken the time to see why a parking lot is there.  Just a few feet from the trailhead lies one of Illinois secrets, Rocky Bluff Falls.

Rocky Bluff Trail is a 1.8 mile loop trail. To the left of the trailhead sign is an overlook.  It is here on can gaze down upon a two tier fall that drops approximately 44 feet.  The first tier is around 18 feet, leaving the second tier around 26 feet.  During high flow the water can miss this second tier.

The trail continues to the left and has a viewpoint at the second tier.  When the water is running good, the noise of falling water reverberates off the side walls of the bluff.  A rocky staircase with a handrail leads near the base.  The trail crosses the creek and continues on to where it intersects a shortcut trail that bisects the loop.  The trail heads uphill and off to the right is a cascades.  This cascades slides 50 feet down slick sandstone.  I will post the photos of this cascade in an upcoming Waterfall Chaser.

Impatient Falls?

That is the name this falls should be called, Impatient Falls.  The watershed area for this creek is small, thus making it hard to capture at a high flow rate. To see this fall in action one must come here shortly after a rain event.  Usually the ground will have to be fully saturated, before it will start to roll.  The elusive nature of this fall makes it a joy to see at its height.  So the next time it rains all day put this one on this list as a must see.

US Fee Area

As a note, this is a US Fee Area, which means you must purchase a pass or sticker, before parking at the trailhead or any other area at the Crab Orchard NWF.  For updated pricing go to the Visitors Service Section of the Crab Orchard NWF website.  As of this post the daily fee is $2 per vehicle or $5 a week.  One can also purchase a yearly sticker for $15 for the first vehicle.  To pick up your pass go to the Visitor’s Center located south of the Marion Airport at 8858 Route 148, Marion, Il.  For any questions, regarding the refugee call their office at 618-697-3344.

E-Mail Subscription & facebook Like

Make sure to sign up for our instant e-mail updates below to keep up with what is going on at Shawnee Hills Outdoors.  If you are a facebook follower, please click the like button at the bottom of this article so we can get the word out to more people.  Thanks!


Check out below the video for Rocky Bluff Falls

Map It

Click on the red tab inside the map and get directions to here.

Disclaimer:  The author and Shawnee Hills Outdoors disclaim any liability or loss incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, of the use and application on any information contained in this blog.  Please check ranger stations and park superintendents for latest information regarding these areas.


  1. Sara says

    Gorgeous photos. How’s the rain down there lately? Hoping to see some waterfalls down there this spring!

  2. Gary Marks says

    Thanks Sara for the comment. The accelerated spring along with the last couple of days rain, should make for some good creek and waterfall photos. I’ve not personally been out since the rains, but I’m hoping to head out this weekend. Hope you do get the chance to come down and enjoy the area. Thanks again for the kind words.