Need some vacation shots of a truly unique waterfall or would you rather go hunting for a week 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.
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 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 small 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).
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.
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.
To enjoy the serenity of this untouched woodland environment, take IL-145 to Eddyville Blacktop. Continue on Ozark Road. Turn onto Forest Service Road 402 also called Burden Falls Road or McCormick Road. Park off the gravel road just before the creek crossing.