Matthiessen State Park – Lower Dells – Intermittent Waterfall

Matthiessen State Park is located in central LaSalle County, approximately 4 miles south of Utica and 3 miles east of Oglesby.

Feature Image Details

I do not believe that waterfall has a name. It normally is dry or a trickle at best.

Following a big rain, there is water everywhere. The water was deep, up to my waist in spots that would normally be dry. I could not get the precise angle I wanted because of the water.

The Lower Dells area is often wet and muddy. But I like the high water conditions. Just be prepared to get a little wet for the best compositions.

A little wet does not describe the conditions for venturing further on that day. I took it right at the bottom of the steps down. The park closed the Lower Dells area completely the next day.

The feature image is a blend of a couple of exposures, a long to capture the water motion and a shorter one for the land.

The long exposure was for 10 seconds and the short one was 1 second.

I used a Canon 24-105MM F4 L Lens at 99 mm with a circular polarizer filter for both shots.

Flooded Trees

Those images were taken with the same lens. Exposures were 10 seconds at a focal length of 65mm.

Pay attention to the opportunities and take them as they present themselves. This flood created a unique opportunity even though I could venture no further.


I have a B+W XS-Pro Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer and a set of B+W Neutral Density Filters. My B+W ND filters are of strength 3.0 (10 stops),  1.8 (6 stops), and 0.6 (2 stops).

I did not need the neutral Density filter. I liked the results of the movement at 10 seconds.


  1. Waterfalls and stream scenes almost always photograph better on cloudy day.
  2. A polarizer reduces glare and increases exposure times to make for smoother-looking water. I nearly always use a filter when photographing these scenes.
  3. The standard advice is to use polarizers to deepen a blue sky, but I almost never use them that way. Instead, I routinely use them to saturate colors and remove glare on cloudy days.
  4. Use neutral density filters to get the even longer exposure times as needed.
  5. The Canon 16-35 MM F4 L lens can accommodate two filters without vignetting. The 24-105 L lens is not as forgiving.
  6. Get wet

The Upper Dells is less prone to impassible flooding but after a big rainfall you will still get a bit wet.

The Lower Dells images below were after the waters receded a bit, but the water was at still least up to my knees.

Other Matthiessen State Park Images

  1. Matthiessen State Park – Giant’s Bathtub – Upper Dells
  2. Matthiessen State Park – Lake Falls – Upper Dells
  3. Matthiessen State Park – Cascade Falls – Lower Dells
  4. Matthiessen State Park – Lower Dells – Autumn


Starved Rock State Park is close by. Matthiessen State Park is actually a nice side attraction.

Both parks are in a bit of disrepair with closed trails and at least one rotted bridge making one of the waterfalls in Starved Rock inaccessible.

Illinois does not have the funds for park maintenance.

It’s a sad state of affairs but these parks are very much worth visiting.

Starved Rock State Park Articles

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Mike “Mish” Shedlock

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