Our first stop is Kanopolis State Park, just northwest of Marquette, Kansas. Kanopolis is a wonderful place to spend the sunrise. Take a hike on the Horsethief Canyon trail, visit the spillway waterfall and make sure to check out the actual lake!
Mushroom Rock State Park
Mushroom Rock State Park is just north of Kanopolis State Park by a few miles. It’s down a small dirt road. While the main rock that the park is named after is accessed via a quick 2-3 minute walk down the trail to the south of the road, make sure to check out some of the other rock formations in the area!
Wilson State Park
Wilson State Park is one of my favorites in all of Kansas! Wilson Lake is known for it’s amazing clear, blue waters! In fact, it’s known to be the clearest lake in Kansas! A plethora of activities await here, from boating and kayaking, to mountain biking and hiking. The cliffs that jut inward along the rim of the lake make for great kayaking, while the trail above these same cliffs belongs to the Switchgrass Mountain Bike Trail.
Cedar Bluff State Park
To the west of Wilson State Park lies Cedar Bluff State Park. Cedar Bluff State Park is the main attraction of the Smoky Valley Scenic Byway. The most interesting feature about the reservoir is the giant 100 foot bluffs that line parts of the south side of the lake.
Lake Scott State Park
Our final stop is Lake Scott State Park, along the Western Vistas Historic Byway. You’ll want to leave a lot of time to work with at Lake Scott, as there’s plenty to do! Lake Scott is located inside of a canyon. Surrounding the lake are the walls of the canyon, with spring waters from springs like the Big Spring feeding into the lake. While the beauty of the lake is stunning, it’s history is equally amazing! Within the park’s boundaries is the only known pueblo in Kansas, El Quartelejo. It was built by Native American’s who entered the region after fleeing Spanish rule in New Mexico in the 1600’s. To the south of Lake Scott is the beautiful Battle Canyon. At first glance, Battle Canyon appears to be a scenic canyon that cuts through the prairie. Digging deeper into the history of the region presents even more though. Battle Canyon was the site of the last Native American battle in Kansas. Today, a monument stands at the spot where many of the Northern Cheyenne women and children hid during the battle. When visited Lake Scott, make sure to visit all of these areas, as they are truly remarkable! If you have a little time, the hiking trails make a great way to finish off the day. Feel free to stay and camp as well. Lake Scott has some wonderful camping grounds to spend the night at!
Optional side trips: Many of the best side trips are located near Lake Scott. The absolute must are the giant 70 foot tall chalk pyramids called Monument Rocks! In addition, just to the north of the lake lies the Little Pyramids and the badlands of Little Jerusalem. Castle Rock can also be found between Cedar Bluff State Park and Lake Scott State Park.
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!
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.
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!
Drury Dam Falls
Near Caldwell, Kansas
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 State Fishing Lake, Kansas
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.
Near Sedan, Kansas
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.
Elk Falls, 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.
Near Latham, Kansas
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
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!
After traveling the state of Kansas for the past few years, hitting up as many waterfalls as possible, I thought it was time to make a fun little Kansas waterfall list! This year, I’ve made it a point, with all the rain, to try and hit most of the ones I’ve yet to visit. I’m up to over 60 of nearly 80 waterfalls that I have on my list. That’s a lot, considering most people don’t even realize there are waterfalls in the state of Kansas! I recently published my map of Kansas waterfalls on my new website, Kansas is Beautiful.
Before I begin, if you just want to view all the Kansas waterfall photography, I’ve set up a gallery of all the waterfalls I’ve visited in Kansas located on my Kansas waterfalls photo gallery!
With that said, here are my current top 10 Kansas waterfalls:
1. Geary Falls
Geary Falls are located just south of Junction City. I’ve now visited this waterfall three times and it’s become my favorite after the most recent trip. In late April, I visited when early morning fog and heavy rains had a very mystical feeling to the falls. The only downside to Geary Falls, like most spillway falls in Kansas, is when the water is running low, they nearly dry up. But when they’re flowing, they’re really flowing! The main viewpoint is from the top of the falls, but if you follow a little path down through the trees and do a bit of rock-hopping on the creek, it leads you to the vantage point from below the falls where this was shot. This was also one of the first Kansas waterfall I ever visited.
2. Prather Creek Falls (Chase Lake Falls)
Prather Creek Falls, also known as Chase Lake Falls, may not be the tallest of all the waterfalls in Kansas, but it’s become one of my absolute favorites! There are three tiers to this waterfall. The middle being my favorite, is pictured above. Prather Creek Falls are pretty easy to find. Just head out to Chase State Fishing Lake to the east of Cottonwood Falls and park at the dam. Walk across and follow the spillway down the creek to stop at each layer of falls. Each of the three tiers seem to offer a new angle to photograph them, and depending on the day of the year and time of day, sunlight can hit these falls just perfectly to light them up! If you’re driving the Flint Hills Scenic Byway, this is one stop that’s absolutely worth the extra couple of miles to visit Chase State Fishing Lake!
3. Santa Fe Lake Falls
Santa Fe Lake Falls might be the best kept secret in the Wichita area! While most lake-goers head towards Cheney and El Dorado for their lake fun, there’s a smaller lake between Augusta and Andover called Santa Fe Lake that offers some really beautiful Kansas beauty. Growing up, I visited this lake on many occasions, as my grandparents lived a mile or two down the road, but I never knew the lake harbored this beautiful waterfall until more recent times. Located in the spillway of Santa Fe Lake, this waterfall is awesome when the water is flowing! These falls shouldn’t be confused with the waterfall of the same name of Santa Fe Lake Falls that are located in the spillway of Santa Fe Lake in Edgerton, Kansas near Kansas City.
4. Cowley Falls
Cowley Falls are my go-to falls when I know there’s been some rain. They almost never disappoint (other than a visit in drought conditions), and when they are in full flow, like the above photo, there’s some great angles to view them from! The typical lookout point is above the falls to the west, near the parking lot. But a sketchy path can take you down towards the base of the falls. It’s worth the hike down, as you get views like the above photo! I would almost consider moving Cowley Falls up above Santa Fe Falls or even Prather Creek Falls, but the amount of littering people have done here has left a lot of broken glass and trash at the site. Still, if you can overlook that negative, Cowley Falls can be extremely impressive! Just be careful of the broken glass if you trek down to the base of the falls.
5. Chautauqua Falls
I found Chautauqua Falls by accident while Google Mapping one day. And they sure don’t disappoint! Located near Sedan, Kansas, these beautiful falls are similar to Prather Creek Falls, as there are numerous drops along the creek. The photo above showcases part of the upper falls during high rainfall. Depending on rainfall amounts, this waterfall has multiple drops, sometimes including a twin or triple set of falls at the top. Below these is a smaller drop that can provide a more intimate waterfall to view, as it drops off a flat shelf and gets wider as more water flows over.
6. Rock Creek Falls
Rock Creek Falls are another set of falls like Prather Creek Falls that have multiple drops within a hundred yards of each other. At the top is the spillway. It’s man-made, but still pretty. But below that are the falls pictured above. And further below that are a number of smaller shelf-like falls that are equally as pretty! Rock Creek Falls can be found by visited Rock Creek Lake west of Fort Scott in eastern Kansas, and following the creek between the lake spillway and Marmaton River. These falls are just a few miles west of the Frontier Military Byway.
7. Swissvale Falls
Located along the Landon Nature Trail, southeast of Topeka, Swissvale Falls are a true natural gem. They’re not the tallest waterfall in Kansas, but they have a certain charm that makes them beautiful! The drop is probably only 4 feet or so, but spans the entirety of Camp Creek. They can be found just north of the small town of Overbrook, Kansas. If you’re trying to visit from the road, it’s a good quarter to half mile walk up the Landon Nature Trail to Camp Creek. Just use the map in the link above to find the location.
8. Butcher Falls
Butcher Falls are located on Red Buffalo Ranch, which is owned by Bill Kurtis, a native Kansan famous for broadcasting. It’s located to the northwest of Sedan, Kansas is some beautiful Chautauqua Hills country! The falls drop a good 10-15 feet between boulders into the pool below. You can even stay on the ranch in the Butcher Falls Bunkhouse! This is one of the few non-spillway natural waterfalls in the state!
9. Angel Falls
Angel Falls are actually located inside the city limits of Lansing, Kansas in northeast Kansas. They make a great stop on the south end of the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway or north end of the Frontier Military Historic Byway. You can find them along the nature trail south of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Lansing. Angel Falls makes for great photography in the fall when autumn leaves swirl around in the pool below.
10. Pillsbury Crossing (Deep Creek Falls)
Pillsbury Crossing, also known as Deep Creek Falls, are probably the most famous of all waterfalls in Kansas. They certainly deserve their fame, as they are gorgeous in any season of the year! Located to the southeast of Manhattan, Pillsbury Crossing can also be a favorite hang-out spot of folks from Manhattan and surrounding areas. If you visit on a nice day, it’s quite likely you will not have these gorgeous falls to yourself!
Because of how difficult it is to narrow down a top 10 (and the fact that they change on a whim depending on what kind of light conditions I have for photos when I revisit each waterfall), here’s a few more to check out that rival the ones above:
Keep in mind, there are also a few waterfalls I haven’t visited yet that might make moves on this list in the future. When I do, I’ll revisit this list once again to see if they can knock some of the beautiful waterfalls above out of the top 10! For a full list of waterfalls, visit the Kansas is Beautiful waterfall map and don’t forget to visit the Kansas waterfall gallery to view all my Kansas waterfall images!