The highest waterfall in the state of Illinois is an impressive site after a rain. In the afternoon the sun strikes the falling water and makes small rainbows that come and goes as the clouds pass overhead. The water falls at least 50 feet over a large stone house or overhang. This falls goes by two different names depending upon who you talk to, Cedar Falls or Pakentuck. The area is textbook Shawnee National Forest with rocky creeks, boulders, cliffs and waterfalls. The area around the falls has many areas to explore including a large overhang with an old well in the back, numerous boulders with one wedged between two larger ones to make an arch, and our favorite the “Fat Man Squeeze."
Following the cliff line about 400 ft east of the falls, you can find a crack in the rock that can be squeezed through by most people. The trick is to place your back against to cliff wall and your feet into a large crack in the rock. Then shuffle your way through the crack. At the end step down off the crack in the rock and lower yourself out of the squeeze. This spot can be difficult to find and shimming through the crack will seem impossible, but it is not. Our advice would be to find a local guide or someone who has tackled this squeeze before attempting it yourself. It is a lot of fun to work through the squeeze and we have done it several times each time we visit the area.
This area is near Shawnee National Forest, but is on Camp Ondessonk property. Camp Ondessonk is an extremely popular camp in Southern Illinois and they commonly will grant permission to hike on their property when they are not using it for their programs. Call and ask for permission, sign in, make a small donation, and enjoy your hiking. They may be able to help with some general maps of the area and advice on the “squeeze” as they commonly hike in the area.
Thank you, Camp Ondessonk, for sharing some awesome hiking trails with the Hoosier Hikers. If you choose to visit this area, be sure to get permission first and be mindful of the cliff edges.