Kankakee River State Park: Rock Creek Trail

When an adventurous Midwesterner hears the word waterfall, a trickle of involuntary saliva collects at the corner of the mouth, wondering how long it will take to get to it and whether or not it’s worthwhile. Such was the case recently when I read that there was a small (8 foot) waterfall in Kankakee River State Park.

About an hour south of my home, Kankakee River State Park straddles the river and encompasses around 4,000 acres. It is a linear park and its main claim to fame is a paved path of around 11 miles, popular with cyclists and runners alike. Equestrian trails and additional hiking trails are also available, along with snowmobile access in Winter.

Kankakee River State Park: Rock Creek Trail

My goal was to hike the roughly 3 mile Rock Creek Self-Guided Trail to see the waterfall. Less a trail and more a fire road, this is a wide, sometimes-paved, dirt and grass trail that runs more or less alongside Rock Creek. I hiked on the South side of the Creek, but would do the North side next time, as one side seems to offer better access to the Creek than the other.

Views of the Creek are accessed via short, steep trails – not sure I’d recommend this for those with small children. Again, the North side appeared more open and accessible to the Creek. I’ll try that side next time and report back.

While it is called a self-guided trail, I’m not sure where the information is, if there is any information. The Visitor’s Center (along with the park’s campground) was closed due to budget cuts, a sad reminder of how poorly Illinois has been governed over the last few decades.

Kankakee River State Park: Rock Creek Trail

The actual waterfall turned out to be more cascade than cataract, but still beautiful and there is always something about moving water that stirs something deep within. Not a difficult hike and not far from Chicago – this should be on everybody’s short-list of hikes to do in the Chicagoland area.

There are a lot of activities to partake of at Kankakee River State Park: hiking, cycling, horseback riding, angling, canoeing and just enjoying nature (viewing platforms along the Kankakee River revealed how beautiful this area is). If the campground reopens, I could easily see spending an entire weekend here and never being bored.


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