After our road trip from Nevada to Michigan, I started teaching and didn’t get to write about some of the other waterfalls we stopped to visit along the way. So now it’s time to catch up a bit! We stopped at waterfalls in Utah and Colorado, and then drove into Kansas. Kansas doesn’t have many waterfalls on the west side of the state, but there are definitely a few on the east side of the state.
One that is relatively easy to visit off of the interstate is Geary Lake Falls, which is found in the Geary State Fishing Lake and Wildlife Area. Once you find the parking area, which isn’t difficult, it’s an easy hike to the falls. From other articles, it seemed like it was steep hike to the falls, but it was more of just slippery as you approached the falls.
The falls were definitely flowing when we arrived, and the falls were surprisingly pretty. (I wasn’t sure what to expect.) The one thing that you’ll find in other waterfall seekers’ descriptions of Geary Lake Falls is the snakes…There are definitely water snakes found in the ponds and stream below the falls. While I’m not a big fan of snakes, they don’t bother me so much and I went on photographing the falls. My partner, on the other hand, is not a big fan of snakes and it bothered him.
From I-70 near Junction City, take exit 295 for US-77.
Head south on US-77 for just over 7 miles to Geary Lake.
The waterfall is located in the northwest part of the wildlife area, so to get closer to the falls, you want to turn left on the first road that leads into Geary Lake. On Google Maps, this is named State Lake Road.
Take State Lake Road to its end. You should find a parking area here. If you look downhill, you’ll see a path that leads you along the northern edge of the lake. This path leads you to the waterfall.
Follow that path along the lake. When you reach the end of that specific path, you’ll see another path heading downhill. Go downhill and follow that, and you’ll arrive at the falls!
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy) Height: 35′ Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip
Kansas isn’t necessarily known for it’s wildly interesting waterfalls, but there are a few that exist. Bourbon Lake Falls is one of the taller waterfalls in Kansas that I could find, and Rock Creek Lake Falls (sometimes just referred to as Rock Creek Falls) is not terribly far away (about 17 miles apart). Neither of them are particularly busy at any point in time.
I found Rock Creek Lake Falls to be the most interesting of the four waterfalls I visited in Kansas. One of the waterfalls seemed wildly man-made, but I still counted it. The other two falls at least seemed more realistic, while this one seemed the most authentic. I could be terribly wrong, but I found it to be the most enjoyable to visit. (Bourbon Lake Falls was a close second.)
I visited in mid-April before the trees had leaves, and when comparing it to other photos, it definitely has a different feel to it then. April might be one of the better times to view it due to water flow, but then again, in the photo with green leaves, there’s way more water…
From Fort Scott (and US-69), figure out how to head west on W 18th Street, which then changes names to just 18th Street, then to Kansas Road, and then to 195th Street.
When it’s 195th Street, it veers to the left, heading south. Continue on this road for a short distance.
As you’re approaching Rock Creek Lake, you’ll pass Justice Lane on your left, and then shortly after that, you’ll see a road on your right that hugs the north edge of Rock Creek Lake, turn on this road and head to the end. There’s parking there, and then it’s a short hike to the falls.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.3 miles round-trip
Kansas is another one of those states that you don’t expect to find many waterfalls. And there aren’t a whole lot of extremely exciting waterfalls here. Of the four waterfalls I visited in April 2014, I would say Bourbon Lake Falls was probably the most interesting.
At 30′ tall, it’s a relatively nice waterfall, and it had some water flowing over it, enough to make the visit worthwhile. From what I understand, there’s only a few months of the year (April to June) where it will be a worthwhile visit. It dries up later in the year as the lake level lowers. I have seen pictures of the falls in higher flow times. The other waterfalls I visited didn’t have a large amount of water flowing either, so I’m guessing it was just a low water year.
There are numerous ways to arrive at the falls, so I’ll describe one way that’s not particularly difficult. From US-59 south of Moran, turn at the junction of US-59 and KS-203, which at different points in time will be called First Street, Delaware Road, and Indian Road. If you’re headed south on US-59, it would be a left turn.
Continue on First/Delaware/Indian and then turn left on 20th Street after a few miles. (You’ll be extremely close to Bourbon Lake.)
Drive to the end of 20th Street and turn right on Ivory Road. It’s a gravel road, but you’ll be traveling a short distance just past a little area where you can tell cars have parked before (just past the small bridge over the spillway-related creek).
Park your car and follow the trail to the falls. (You’ll be following the stream/creek upstream toward the falls.)
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: 0.1 miles round-trip
It’s hard to say how many waterfalls in Kansas are truly natural. Many of them seem to be formed by dams, and so the question goes…”Did this exist before somebody altered the landscape?” In the case of Cedar Creek Falls, I’m pretty sure humans had some say in how the water flows, so I’m not sure whether it’s “natural.” It still looks more like a waterfall than some of the other falls I’ve seen on websites.
Cedar Creek Falls is in the same vicinity as Cedar Lake Falls, and are somewhat related. Cedar Creek starts at Cedar Lake and flows into Lake Olathe. This particular waterfall is only 4 or 5′ tall, and isn’t extremely exciting. If you’re looking for Kansas waterfalls, though, it is easy to visit, and isn’t very far from Kansas City. It also isn’t difficult to find, though it can be difficult to park near the falls. There is a pullout, but it has space for 1.5 cars! There was another car there, so I parked as far off the road as I could. Luckily, the lane was very wide, so I had some breathing room.
From I-35/US-50, take exit 217 and continue west along E Old 56 Highway.
Continue straight along this road, which will turn into KS-7.
KS-7 starts heading north. Turn right, continuing on KS-7 (also known as S Parker Street) for a very short distance.
By short, I mean short. Almost immediately after turning right, turn left onto W 143rd Street.
Continue along W 143rd Street (aka W Dennis Ave) for what might be a mile or so…Pay attention closely. When you see S Wardcliff Drive on your right (with a sign indicating Lake Olathe), the falls will be almost directly on the other side of the road (on the left). You’ll see a smaller gravel “parking area”, an old building, and the creek. It’s pretty easy to turn around on the side-roads. (If you come to S Palmer Drive, you’ve gone too far. Turn around, and the falls will now be to your right.)
Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: roadside
I’m getting closer to visiting waterfalls in most of the states, and I’ve just added Kansas to the list. Kansas is complicated, since many of the waterfalls there seem to be man-made, while others haven’t been reported because somebody just doesn’t seem to think they’re significant. As I searched even further, I found there may be a number of other smaller waterfalls that aren’t being advertised.
Cedar Lake Falls is advertised fairly well, at least on the website I found it on. It’s relatively easy to get to, though the Access Road to the falls is rather narrow (not as narrow as one of the other roads I was on!). It’s also relatively close to Kansas City, so it would make a great day trip. Cedar Lake is very popular for fishing, especially on a beautiful day, as was this past Saturday.
Cedar Lake Falls isn’t particularly tall, only about 5 or 6′. I’m guessing it probably dries up when the lake is not as full, as it is fed by overflow from Cedar Lake. There is a man-made structure above this falls, though it seems this is a legitimate drop created by nature (though I could be completely wrong). I’m not sure that I would go out of my way to visit just this one waterfall (even though it was very peaceful just to sit there and watch the water flow), but Cedar Creek Falls is nearby, and there might be another waterfall in Waterfall Park in Merriam. The same link previously posted indicates there may be another waterfall in Olathe at the Ernie Miller Nature Center. (As with many of these, it’s difficult to determine whether they’re natural.) In the vicinity on the Missouri side, you might also be able to visit some waterfalls at the Parkville Nature Sanctuary in Parkville, MO. I didn’t have a chance to visit many of these falls, since time was limited and I hadn’t even stumbled upon the link provided.
From Kansas City, you could enter into Kansas and head south along I-35. Take exit 214, which might only be available if you’re headed southwest.
You should end up on S Lone Elm Street, which is very near the entrance to the park.
Turn left onto S Lone Elm Street.
Turn right onto W 159th Street.
Go maybe 0.5 miles to the Access Road to the park, which will have a gate indicating the times the park is open.
Turn right onto the Access Road and follow it to the fork. Take the left fork, which seems narrow at first, but widens. Go to the very end of the access road, where you’ll find a loop. Park here.
At the end of the loop, look for a narrow but somewhat obvious trail that leads past the spillway. Keep walking along this trail until you find the falls. If water is flowing, it’s not difficult to miss.
Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Length of Hike: negligible