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Ferne Clyffe Bork’s Falls

Ferne Clyffe Bork’s Falls

 “There is a hidden message in every waterfall. It says, if you are flexible, falling will not hurt you!”  – Mehmet Murat Ildan

Ferne Clyffe is a lot bigger state park than I originally thought. There are in fact 3 separate parts of Ferne Clyffe as shown on the map from the Department of Natural Resources website.

Ferne Clyffe Map

On previous trips (like here and here) I had always focused on the right section of Ferne Clyffe, as I think most visitors do. There’s not even a sign saying “Ferne Clyffe ->” for the middle section. But I was determined to go water fall hunting as all the snow was melting. After poking around online, I found some talk of Bork’s Falls, another waterfall in Ferne Clyffe located in the middle section.

It was not easy to get to. The melting snow made Regent Lane a hilly one lane road of mud and ice. Bork’s Falls actually flows straight across Regent Lane. I’m sure at times it’s much lower, but all the melting snow made it about half a foot deep in some sections. We parked on Regent Lane, on the East side of Bork’s Falls and rock hopped across the stream.

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After exploring on top of the waterfall for a little bit, we kept walking west on Regent Ln, in hopes of finding Trail 18, our original destination. If I had one piece of feedback for the Illinois DNR about Ferne Clyffe, it’s put up signs. If the trails on the map are numbered, put some numbers up on the trails! Basically nothing but the main area is labeled in the park and everywhere we go we say “I guess it’s this one.” So for this trip we are assuming we found Trail 18. The trail head is just around the curve on Regent Lane with signs talking about native trees and cleaning your boots before entering.
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The trail itself wasn’t a bad hike and it would be easy if not for the slick snow and mud. We walked down the trail for about quarter of a mile before it crosses a large opening. Instead of continuing across the side of the opening, which is heading away from the Falls, we double backed this time following the canyon floor and the river. After all, the point of our trip was waterfall hunting.

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The walk along the river was also pretty easy, until the trail we were following ended. Then we had to cross the river and pick up on the other side. More rock hopping! Luckily no one fell in.

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The trail on the east side of the river took us past some gorgeous frozen waterfalls. I love them just as much as I love flowing waterfalls.

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I heard the waterfall before I saw it again. Bork’s Falls is 30-40 feet high with a wading pool beneath it.

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Finally we crossed the river again and hiked up the side of the ridge to get out. It was a great hike! A perfect cure for my wonderlust that has been building over our snowy cold past few weeks. I can’t wait to go back when the trees have leaves.

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Ferne Clyffe Happy Hollow

Ferne Clyffe Happy Hollow

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Looks can be deceiving and maps can be hard to read. For our three-year anniversary, Donovan and I rented a cabin nearby Carbondale. It was “dog-friendly” but we wanted to tired Chiba out a bit before going there. We drove to nearby Ferne Clyffe and decided to try out some of the trails we’d never been on before.

Ferne Clyffe Wanted To Do blue

Here’s part of the Ferne Clyffe map. The red line is the trail I thought we were going to do, but it turns out that where the green circle is, the trails aren’t connected! So we ended up doing something more like the blue trail. This involved walking through the woods instead of on paths multiple times and several more miles and hours than we estimated. The trails we were on are called Happy Hollows trails and make up an 8 mile horse trail. We probably only did 6-7 of the 8 miles, thanks to some “short-cuts.” I wouldn’t recommend this during summer. Horse trails are awful for bugs! But the pine trees and mossy bluffs made the scenery interesting for a long winter hike.

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We hiked through a lot of forest and pine forest.

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Eventually coming to a gorgeous area with mossy bluffs and frozen water drippings.

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THEN! We stumbled upon the hidden Natural Bridge of Ferne Clyffe. It’s not actually hidden, but it’s in a very remote area of the park on the horse trail. I had read about it, but even the two blogs that brought it up, didn’t say where it was located in the park. Honestly, I can’t tell you where exactly either (we were super lost when we found it), but somewhere right around this yellow star on the map:

Ferne Clyffe Natural Bridge

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Right around the bridge is where we started to realize we were a lot more lost than originally realized and had gone a lot further than originally planned. Donovan turned google maps on his phone and it showed us WAY FAR AWAY from the Ferne Clyffe road. So we abandoned the trail and walked down hill toward the road. Eventually we found the other side of the trail loop and followed it almost back. Except google maps showed us right down the hill from the road back to our car, so we once again abandoned trail to take a short cut back.

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It wasn’t what we planned for our anniversary, but we spent time doing something we love with the people we love. I told Donovan he could be the map reader next time 😉