The Hidden Waterfall at Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve in South Elgin

Outdoor Places to GoNature

Blackhawk Waterfall in South Elgin, known as the hidden waterfall, is located right off Route 31 and McLean Boulevard and part of Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve. It’s a natural waterfall as opposed to waterfalls made from dams, which seem to be more the norm in the Chicago area.

There isn’t a lot of information about how to find this waterfall and there are a few options for where to park, so we thought it would be helpful to outline the different approaches depending on what you are looking for.

Parking Options for a One Mile Walk

The main entrance to Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve is off Route 31 and Bonnie Street. If you drive straight down, you will see a large parking lot facing the Fox River. There is a covered structure with picnic tables and restrooms (which are currently closed, as this is being written during the coronavirus pandemic). It’s about a 1 mile walk on River Bend Bike Trail to Blackhawk Waterfall from this point. If you are facing Fox River, head to the right and follow the path. You will pass Elgin Street and Scott Avenue. When you reach a fork in the path, stay left and when you cross the small bridge look to the left. There is a grassy area with a path worn in it. Turn left and walk across that grassy area and you will see the waterfall.

The other parking option, if you would like to incorporate a walk or bike ride before encountering the waterfall, is to park near the intersection of Route 31 and Silver Glen Road. It’s a little over a mile down the River Bend Bike Trail and a straight shot to reach Blackhawk Waterfall from the parking lot. Again, when you come to the small wood bridge, the waterfall will be to your left. If you reach the fork in the path, you have gone too far.

Where to Park: Closest to Blackhawk Waterfall

There is a small parking lot off Route 31, a little East of McLean Boulevard, with seven parking spots and one handicap spot. This is the closest place to park near the waterfall. Blackhawk Waterfall is approximately 30 yards from that parking lot. Walk down the path and veer to your right. You’ll come to the small wooden bridge fairly quickly and notice a large boulder and path worn into the grass to the right. And you’re there!

Although this parking lot is the closest, it’s a bit anticlimactic to discover the waterfall so soon after getting out of the car. After looking at maps and trying to find all the information I could before going, I realized that the journey to the waterfall contributes to the joy in finding it and there is such a thing as planning for convenience to a fault. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have parked here. However, if you have small children or are not able to take long walks, this parking lot is a good option.

Map for Blackhawk Waterfall

Click on the map below to view the pdf. The thin green line is River Bend Trail.


  • Bring bug spray. The area around the waterfall is heavily wooded and there are quite a few mosquitos.
  • River Bend Bike Trail is paved, but the waterfall is a bit off the trail. Because It’s muddy, rocky and has protruding tree roots, I don’t think it would be easy or safe to take a stroller to the bank of the waterfall.
  • Wear suitable shoes. The rocks surrounding the waterfall are slippery and the ground is muddy. Your kids also might want to ford the creek, so keep that in mind.
  • Don’t have high expectations. Although this is a hidden gem, the waterfall is not huge.

Want to find more waterfalls? Click here to see the locations and photos for other waterfalls in Chicagoland. If you are looking to take a hike with beautiful scenery, we recommend Starved Rock State Park or Matthiessen State Park.

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2 Comments. Leave new

    October 31, 2020 1:33 pm

    We are moving to South Elgin soon and I am looking forward to walking my dog in Duerr Forest Preserve. Is it a safe place for a woman alone with a little dog to walk? The pics I see on your post are amazing and beautiful.

  • Paul Stephens
    January 22, 2023 2:15 pm

    Found the waterfall thanks to you. Appreciate it!!!


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