South Central Kansas Waterfall Road Trip

Posted on September 9, 2016 by Mickey

With all of the recent rain, I thought a nice South Central Kansas waterfall road trip would be just the trick for a great weekend adventure! I’ve picked some of my favorite waterfalls as part of a circular trip that starts and ends in Wichita. Check them out below!

Direct link to the map

The Keeper of the Plains Falls

Wichita, Kansas

Keeper of the Plains Fiery Sunset
Keeper of the Plains Fiery SunsetPrints Available
A fiery sunset explodes behind the Keeper of the Plains and it’s waterfall

While the main attraction in downtown Wichita is undoubtedly the iconic Keeper of the Plains, the waterfall that sits below it as the Little Arkansas River meets the Arkansas River is impressive in it’s own right! I’ve made this the first stop, as the Keeper of the Plains is a wonderful place to enjoy the sunrise.

Bonus: Just upstream from the Keeper of the Plains from lies another waterfall that dams up the Little Arkansas River before it reaches the statue.

Optional: A few miles downstream from the Keeper of the Plains is the relatively new Lincoln Street Bridge falls. They are quite impressive, as you can see below.

Lincoln Street Bridge Falls
Lincoln Street Bridge FallsPrints Available
The waterfall at Lincoln Street Bridge in Wichita

Optional #2: Slate Creek Dam Falls is located in Wellington. It’s one of the more beautiful man-made waterfalls in all of Kansas! If you have a few extra minutes on your waterfall road trip, it’s a worthy stop!

Slate Creek Dam Falls
Slate Creek Dam FallsPrints Available
The waterfall at Slate Creek Dam in Wellington

Drury Dam Falls

Near Caldwell, Kansas

Flooded Drury Dam Falls
Flooded Drury Dam FallsPrints Available
Flood waters spill over the waterfall at Drury Dam

After getting your fill of the Keeper of the Plains (and possible side excursions), head south to Caldwell and the Drury Dam Falls. Drury has a pretty amazing history as a tourism locations. The spot I shot this photo at was once a large hotel where people all over Kansas and Oklahoma would visit. A massive flood in the 1900s swept the hotel away. By the 1950s, a fire destroyed the mill across the bank. All that remains is the ruins of the mill and the waterfall you see here.

Cowley Falls

Cowley State Fishing Lake, Kansas

Cowley Falls
Cowley FallsPrints Available
Cowley Falls in the spillway of Cowley State Fishing Lake

Cowley Falls are some of the biggest and most famous of waterfalls in Kansas. Dropping 25-30 feet in the spillway of Cowley State Fishing Lake makes for a sight to behold when rains run heavy. The sight you see above is what happens in the spring after heavy rainfall! Even in other seasons, a good rain can get the falls flowing a bit. Once you’ve had your fill of Cowley Falls, it’s time to head east towards the Chautauqua Hills and more awesome waterfalls!

Optional: Osro Falls is just a little further to east of Cowley Falls and somewhat on the way to our next stop. Located along the Caney River, Osro Falls can be a bit difficult to get to after lots of rain. You have to trek it across a farmer’s field on an unimproved road to get to the low water crossing waterfall.

Osro Falls
Osro FallsPrints Available
Osro Falls along the Caney River

Butcher Falls

Near Sedan, Kansas

Spring at Butcher Falls
Spring at Butcher FallsPrints Available
Spring rains spill over Butcher Falls

Arriving east into the Chautauqua Hills, we come upon the Red Buffalo Ranch, near Sedan, Kansas. One of the highlights of the ranch is Butcher Falls, which is a large punchbowl waterfall. Various cascades begin the drop to the main waterfall before plunging 20 feet into the pool below. It makes for a great swimming spot and is almost always flowing year-round!

Optional (but absolutely worth it!): One of my favorite waterfalls in Kansas is Chautauqua Falls. Located at the Old Sedan Lake’s spillway, Chautauqua Falls makes a drop of at least two levels. Both drops are impressive in their own right. The first drops 10-20 feet depending on which side of the falls you’re viewing from (there are multiple parts of the waterfall here, splitting off before coming back together). The second is a much shorter five or so feet, but very beautiful.

Surging Chautauqua Falls
Surging Chautauqua FallsPrints Available
Chautauqua Falls flows with spring rainfall
Lower Chautauqua Falls
Lower Chautauqua FallsPrints Available
Lower Chautauqua Falls drops from it’s ledge into the pool below

Elk Falls

Elk Falls, Kansas

Elk Falls
Elk FallsPrints Available
Spring starts to show it’s colors at Elk Falls in southeast Kansas.

After visiting Butcher Falls (and Chautauqua Falls if you took the optional side trip), your next stop should be Elk Falls, in the town of the same name. Elk Falls is a popular swimming and fishing hole. The drop of 5-10 feet into a large pool makes a great summer swimming spot. Lots of fisherman also make use of the area. It’s a great stop as you make your way back north and west towards Wichita and our final waterfalls on this road trip.

Butler Falls

Near Latham, Kansas

Butler Falls
Butler FallsPrints Available
Butler Falls swollen with rain

On the southwest side of Butler State Fishing Lake is a spillway waterfall named Butler Falls. The main drops are showcased in the above picture. if you hike downstream, various cascades also make for interesting scenery. It can be rough terrain, especially in high waters, but totally worth it!

Santa Fe Lake Falls

Augusta, Kansas

Santa Fe Lake Falls
Santa Fe Lake FallsPrints Available
The waterfall in the spillway of Santa Fe Lake Falls

Our final stop is Santa Fe Lake Falls. Santa Fe Lake itself is a hidden gem in south central Kansas completely worth a stop in it’s own right. The lake has great swimming, hiking, camping, boating and fishing. But we’re here for the waterfall! I’ve been here in multiple seasons, and have never seen it dry (not that it can’t run dry). After a good rain, it can be absolutely ferocious! The drop is maybe 15 feet high, but quite wide. Park next to the dam on the east side of the lake to find it and walk along the dam. If water is flowing at all, you’ll hear it before you see it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this south central Kansas waterfall road trip!

Posted under: Kansas