Matthiessen S.P.: Canyons, Creeks, & Waterfalls

This Memorial Weekend, we had too much going on for a camping trip, but we still set aside a day to get out into nature.  Instead of visiting one of our usual destinations in Indiana, we drove 3 hours northwest to Utica, Illinois, where the Illinois and Vermilion rivers have cut into sandstone creating multiple state parks in the area.  Our destination was Matthiessen State Park, which features a mile long canyon system with an upper and lower dells, several waterfalls, caves, and a man-made lake.  It did not disappoint!  Our only complaint was the lack of trail maps, and the trails not being marked clearly.  It created a lot of confusion for us first timers to the park, but we figured it out.

We ventured around the upper rim of the lower dells until we found a concrete bridge and stairway down.

Bridge over the lower dells.
Bridge over the lower dells.
Bridge & stairs from below.
Bridge & stairs from below.

Once to the bottom, it’s like stepping into a different world.  Canyon walls 100 feet high, it’s sides pocked with nooks, crannies, & small caves.  A shallow stream flowed through it’s center, with sides that were extremely muddy in some areas.  Off to the side was the Devil’s Paint Box, a circular canyon with a small waterfall.  Further down the main canyon we found Cascade Falls, caves we could walk through, and lots of interesting carvings in the rock faces.

[Click on Pics to Enlarge]

The Lower Dells
The Lower Dells
Inside the Devil's Paint Box
Inside the Devil’s Paint Box
Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls
Cascade Falls
Inside one of the caves
Inside one of the caves
Looking out from inside a cave
Looking out from inside a cave
Stone face carving
Stone face carving
Muddy creek (close to the Vermilion River)
Muddy creek (close to the Vermilion River)
View of Cascade Falls & the lower dells from above.
View of Cascade Falls & the lower dells from above.

After getting our feet wet, we headed back up the stairs and across the bridge to hike the upper dells.  Though the canyon walls in this section aren’t quite as high, they are equally spectacular, if not more so, for all the formations from erosion.

Entrance to the upper dells involves some rock hopping.
Entrance to the upper dells involves some rock hopping.
Robin & Kaden creekside in the upper dells.
Robin & Kaden creekside in the upper dells.
Kaden balances across the creek.
Kaden balances across the creek.
Robin *might* be getting a little tired of me taking pictures ;)
Robin *might* be getting a little tired of me taking pictures 😉
Playing in the small waterfall
Playing in the small waterfall
An interesting formation that is a little tight to get around (trail follows the lip of the canyon on the left)
An interesting formation that is a little tight to get around (trail follows the lip of the canyon on the left)
Inside a tunnel under the trail.
Inside a tunnel under the trail.

Matthiessen Lake is a man-made lake.  The original resident of this land in the early 20th century had a dam built at the end of the upper dells, and went to great lengths to make it look natural.  The upper half of the waterfall is concrete, but it blends in seamlessly with the canyon walls.

Matthiessen Lake
Matthiessen Lake
Lake Falls, from above
Lake Falls, from above
Walking around a swimming hole heading towards the falls.
Walking around a swimming hole heading towards the falls.
Playing below Lake Falls
Playing below Lake Falls
Me and the boy in front of the falls
Me and the boy in front of the falls
"Giant's Bathtub"
“Giant’s Bathtub”
Roots!
Roots!
Love the erosion on the rocks, but look closer and you can see lots of carvings as well.
Love the erosion on the rocks, but look closer and you can see lots of carvings as well.

This isn’t even half of the photos I took, it’s just an awesome park for people (such as myself) who love geology featuring canyons.  Being Memorial Weekend, it was overcrowded, which was really our only complaint.  If you really want the full experience, the next best thing to going there yourself is to watch the video of our experience.  Enjoy!

Advertisements

One thought on “Matthiessen S.P.: Canyons, Creeks, & Waterfalls

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s