Burden Falls – Illinois Waterfalls

Burden Falls Wilderness in the Shawnee National Forest

Need some vacation shots of a truly unique waterfall or would you rather go hunting for wildlife in an area with as little human impact as possible? Experience Burden Falls Wilderness Area! This 3,775 acre state designated wilderness area is comprised mainly of second-growth hardwood forests with a variety of tree species including blackjack oak, post oak, and white oak interspersed with various pine forest plantations and hosts stunning waterfalls at its southern border.

Picturesque Waterfalls

The Upper Falls, a wide curtain fall flowing off a 5 to 10 foot ledge, can be easily seen from the car since parking is near the top of the falls. However, Twin Falls, located on the western edge of the canyon, are two separate thin free-falling waterfalls one of which descends a whopping 48 feet to the canyon floor. No bridges, footpaths, or rails are available in order to maintain the uniquely pristine wilderness environment.

To safely view the falls from below, follow the switchback trail that runs along the top of the western edge of the bluff until the bluffs level off. Then, follow the trail and trek alongside the bottom of the bluff to circle back to Twin Falls, and finally to the ruggedly majestic cliff faces of Burden Falls.

Burden Falls’ Hiking Trails

Peek into past settlements in the area! Trails for hiking and equestrian use pass by abandoned homesteads, fruit trees, cemeteries, and decommissioned roads. The main trail is 3.5 miles long, but many side trails branch off to go deeper into the wilderness. Hunting is popular in this area during Illinois designated hunting seasons. Horseback riding and backpacking during peak hunting seasons are not recommended.

Though prior human impact cannot be erased, the 1990 designation of this area as a wilderness area helps to maintain the untouched natural beauty of this piece of Shawnee National Forest. Please practice “leave no trace” environmental ethics in order to “secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness … an area where man himself is a visitor who does not remain” (The Wilderness Act of 1964).

Geologic History

Seasonally, Burden Creek falls 20 feet over a sandstone ledge then descends another 80 feet in a series of cascades and cataracts, small steep drop offs, creating one of the highest waterfalls in Illinois, Burden Falls. The steep slopes recount years of erosion from Ice Ages past. The southern tip of Illinois escaped the grinding power of the glacier that once covered most of Illinois, but was carved through years of wear as the melt water tore through what is now a lush canyon.

The rocks and boulders that make up this unique natural setting create visually appealing shapes and patterns smoothed by the water’s flow over time while the horseshoe-shaped canyon offers a uniquely intimate setting for viewing or photographing this little gem of picturesque natural scenery.

Where is Burden Falls located?

Burden falls is located in Pope County Illinois and is part of the  Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois. The closest town with services is Eddyville, Illinois.  From Illinois Route 145, continue toward the west through the town of Eddyville on Ozark Road. Then turn right onto Forest Service Road 402 also called Burden Falls Road or McCormick Road. Travel down this gravel road until just before the creek crossing. You will see the small, gravel parking area on the left side of the road.

What options are there for camping near Burden Falls?

If you want to turn your day into a weekend, explore the cabin rental options in the local area. Though towns are few and far between, there are miles and miles of trails in Shawnee National Forest for you to explore. If you want to make Garden of the Gods the highlight of your trip, check out Shawnee Forest Cabins. As one of the closest cabin rentals to Garden of the Gods, these cabins also are within a short drive of Burden Falls and have hot tubs perfect for relaxing your sore muscles after a day of taking in the sites.

Is boating a better option for your family? Willowbrook Cabins has hiking right in its backyard and is just minutes away from the Golconda Marina on the Ohio River. Rent a boat and spend your day catching sport fish in the Ohio then, spend your night in the comfort of your home away from home. With full kitchens, multiple bedrooms, living area, dining area, and private laundry; Willowbrook Cabins is perfect for any extended stay.

Would you rather get down and dirty living off of only what the land provides? Dispersed camping is allowed in all National Forest Wilderness Areas unless otherwise specified. Follow a forest access road and pitch a tent at least 100-200 feet away from any roadway, trail, or water source to enjoy a weekend relaxing in public untouched wilderness.

What is the best time of year to visit Burden Falls?

Spring time is the best time of year for visiting Burden Falls. During that time there is less foliage on the trees and better views. The spring rains help make the waterfalls breathtaking! However, people visit Burden Falls in the Shawnee National Forest all throughout the year. Anytime after a rain, the water will be flowing. Photogs have been known to capture beautiful frozen falls through the winter months as well. And being so close to the road, makes the waterfall easy to reach.

Burden Falls Wilderness Hike Map

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