Malanaphy Springs Falls, Iowa

The upper portion of Malanaphy Spring Falls (that magically appears) in July 2014

I really don’t know where to start. Based on all of the research I had done, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of waterfalls in Iowa. I was hoping that there would be waterfalls considering it’s mid-July. In many other similar places, the waterfalls would be dry by now. And yet, Iowa has some very unique waterfalls. Of the few that are more widely known, they’re all spring fed. That means that in the middle of July, you have a much greater chance of finding the waterfall flowing.

Now, even being spring fed, one of the waterfalls I visited, Bridal Veil Falls in Pikes Peak State Park, didn’t have much flow. I was expecting the same to be true for the two falls near Decorah, Malanaphy Springs and Dunnings Springs Falls. I was really wrong.

Malanaphy Springs Falls was impressive, and that surprised me. I was expecting some dinky little waterfall, and what I saw instead was really interesting. The one report of height I’ve seen put the waterfall at about 30′, but this reveals the issue with measuring waterfall height. In this case, parts of it might be classified more as cascades, but in total, I’m guessing the total drop from the start of the spring opening to the point where it meets the Upper Iowa River is closer to 60′ or 70′ (maybe more?). You don’t see this drop all at once, and that might make you think the drops are less impressive.

When you see the upper portion of the waterfall, you’ll be baffled. It seems like it should have started at the cliffs above you, but instead it’s starting from this cave. And as you look around, you’ll realize that this waterfall has to reach the Upper Iowa River, and it does in beautiful fashion. (You have to go back to where there was a fork in the trail and cross the spring to get to this vantage point.)  I honestly had a great time photographing all of the different pieces of this very unexpected waterfall.

Directions:

  1. From the intersection of IA-9 and US-52, head north on US-52.
  2. After a mile or so (give or take), you’ll turn left onto Pole Line Road.
  3. Drive on Pole Line Road for just over 2 miles to Bluffton Road.
  4. Turn right onto Bluffton Road, and drive about 0.7 miles to a parking area on your right. It’s 100′ or so off the road. (If you’ve crossed the bridge over the Upper Iowa River, you’ve gone too far.)
  5. From the parking area, take the trail to the falls. It’s not clearly marked, but there’s no other trail. You’ll be following the Upper Iowa River going upstream. It’s almost impossible to miss the falls, or at least I would think.

Accessibility: 7/10 (easy/moderate)
Length of Hike: ~2 miles roundtrip
Height: 60-70′ (total)

The lower portion of Malanaphy Springs Falls that meets the Upper Iowa River

Where in the World is Malanaphy Springs Falls?

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7 thoughts on “Malanaphy Springs Falls, Iowa

  1. I was confused too, didn’t find it today. But reading directions again, I think I should have turned on Bluffton Rd and then after a bit , found the parking area. I’ll try again. There is a parking area just beyond Bluffton Rd, so that was misleading.
    I just read the directions wrong, thinking I was to stay on Pole Line instead of turn onto Bluffton Rd.

    • There are people named Malanaphy here, though I don’t personally know them. I assumed the falls were named that because they were on or near Malanaphy land, but I don’t really know. Maybe you will have to visit! Decorah Is a beautiful small town with much to offer, and you might find some family!

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