Daily Egyptian

Climbing the spillway bluffs

By Sarah Niebrugge, @SNiebrugge_DE l Daily Egyptian

For the final location of our column, Jay Holland and I took a trip to a familiar spot to me, and a new one for him, the Kinkaid Lake Spillway.

The spillway is about 15 miles west of Carbondale off of Highway 149. Take a right on Spillway Road and follow it all the way to the end where the parking lot is located.

I discovered the spot about two years ago and have been back several times. It is the perfect place for an easy summer adventure, and a great day of fun in the water.


When you arrive at the entrance, you first must walk through a bit of water off the side of the large pool of water formed at the bottom of the spillway. We had tried to come here once before, but the water was too flooded to walk through.

This time, the water was not as high and we thought we could easily make it through without it passing our hips. Unfortunately for us, dressed in our day-to-day clothes, the water was a bit more than 4 feet high.

Once we passed through the murky water, it was a short hike to the top swimming area where the water was much clearer.

My favorite part of the spillway at Kinkaid Lake is the walk up, not as much the top swimming area. The entire route is on sandstone bluffs following the waterfalls produced by the spillway. The layers of waterfalls are gorgeous. When the water level is lower and has less pressure, they are perfect for standing under and soaking in the cold water on the hot summer days.

One week during our column, we covered Kinkaid Lake and our journey going around it. This time we were able to actually spend a decent amount of time at one distinct spot and it was well worth it.

We made it to the spillway Monday morning, so we were the only ones out exploring, but it made for a very peaceful environment.

One thing we noticed, however, that was different than many other areas we had visited, was the amount of trash along the trail heading to the top. Flip flops, cans and water bottles littered the area especially towards the bottom.

It is important when exploring the outdoors to always bring out everything you brought in with you.

Other than the trash, the view was gorgeous as always.

Once you hiked your way to the top, you can watch boats out on the lake as you swim around in the water lined by a string of buoys marking the safe area.

The boats on the lake have no motor restrictions but are limited to 50 mph during the day and 25 mph between sunset and sunrise, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. 

Picnic benches sit by the parking lot with a large view of the waterfalls and makes for a perfect spot for lunch.

Take the time to visit this gorgeous spot this summer and explore what the spillway has to offer. 

As our column comes to a conclusion, we implore you to use the rest of your summer exploring the hidden treasures of southern Illinois. We enjoyed the weekends we had to get out of town and see what the area had to offer, and we cannot wait to get back off the beaten path and continue our adventures. 


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