Exploring Lake Kinkaid Spillway

Lindsay + Tim Stockhecke


After weeks of dry weather, the forecast promised a day full of rain, and a mild 73 degrees provided the perfect opportunity to visit Kinkaid Lake Spillway. Offering a multi-level cascading waterfall leading to a deep pool at the base, the spillway is a popular known swimming spot in Jackson County, Illinois.

Upon our arrival, and despite knowing most local waterfalls had been without water for weeks, we were surprised at how low the spillway was. There wasn’t a soul in sight and we knew we had made the perfect destination choice for the day. Due to how low the water was we were able to easily explore the rocks, and while there were still slippery spots as to always be expected, we found we were able to access areas of the falls that have always been far too dangerous under normal circumstances.

Hugging the side of the spillway is a well-forged trail from decades of visitors hiking up the falls. While un-marked it is clear where to go and fairly easy with the right footwear and conditions. Under good conditions, you could make this trek in under fifteen minutes without stopping along the way. Atop the falls you come upon breathtaking views and swimming access to Lake Kinkaid. Due to the cascading nature of the falls each ‘level’ provides its own landscape to enjoy.

Know before you go

  1. Directions | Lake Kinkaid Spillway is located about eight miles west of Murphsyboro Mainstreet. Head west on Hwy 149 turning right onto Spillway Rd followed by another right on N. Spillway Rd after driving 1.3 miles.
  2. Amenities | At the base of the spillway there is a large gravel parking lot, picnic benches, trash receptacles, and a restroom.
  3. Recreational Activities | Swimming, hiking, fishing and picnicking are great options for this area.
  4. Conditions | The conditions at the spillway are very contingent on weather and recent weather. There are times when the road and parking lot are inaccessible due to flooding. Alternately, there are times when the pool is very low and the water is murkier and less inviting. Plan accordingly.
  5. Alcohol ban | While we have heard rumors that this area can draw a rowdier crowd we have yet to experience this during a visit. There is an alcohol ban in place which may be helping to reduce some of this. Also, I would imagine visiting on a weekday may help with this.

Southern Illinois is home to unending hidden gems waiting to be explored. Sometimes they beg to be visited under unusual circumstances, perhaps at sunrise when the rest of the world is still in bed. The trick is seizing the opportunity when it presents itself.

Whether visiting for the views or to spend a full day, the Lake Kinkaid Spillway is a great place to discover while in Jackson County, Illinois.

Here is another great breakdown of all the Lake Kinkaid Spillway has to offer visitors.

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