Looking for waterfalls in Indiana? Thistlethwaite Falls is just a short drive from Richmond, Indiana and is well worth the stop. Keep reading to learn more.
Despite living an hour from Thistlethwaite Falls my entire life, I had never heard of it before. In fact, I probably would have never become aware of this beautiful waterfall in Indiana if it weren’t for a trip to Marengo Cave.
Anytime we take a road trip, I have a habit of picking up a lot of tourist brochures at visitor’s centers and rest stops, as they give me ideas for future adventures. I keep them in a file box, organized by state. At a rest stop on our way back from Marengo Cave, I picked up an Indiana guidebook with a gorgeous cascading waterfall on the cover. After doing some research, I discovered that the waterfall was Thistlethwaite Falls and it was just an hour away in Richmond, Indiana. After discovering that it was located so close to us, I immediately made plans for a day trip to see the falls.
About Thistlethwaite Falls in Richmond Indiana
You could drive right by Thistlethwaite Falls and never know it was there. The only clue that a waterfall is close by is the fact that the road you are driving on is named Waterfall Road. Fortunately we had good directions and found the falls with no problems. (If you are interested in visiting, I have directions further down in this post.)
Thistlethwaite Falls is a cascading waterfall with a drop of 47 feet. Located on a tributary of the East Fork of the White River, this pretty waterfall is a popular hangout for locals when the weather is nice. The water at the base is shallow, making it a great place to wade to cool off from the oppressive summer heat.
It is just a short walk from the parking area across the street to the falls themselves. Be sure to stop and read the historical marker at the start of the trail to learn more of the history of this beautiful spot.
The day we visited the falls, we had the area all to ourselves and we were grateful for the chance to soak in the tranquility and photograph the falls.
Thistlethwaite Falls History
Although you can’t tell by looking at them, Thistlethwaite Falls is man-made. Back in 1854, Timothy Thistlethwaite and his brother-in-law dammed the river and changed its course to flow over a rocky ledge.
Water supplied the power for Timothy’s saw mill, as well as several other mills in the Richmond area. These mills are long gone, but the waterfall endures.
Text from the Thistlethwaite Falls Historical Marker
On this site in 1854 Timothy Thistlethwaite and his brother-in-law Joseph Ratliff dammed the water of the river with the use of farm teams, placing large boulders at the bottom of an earth and stone fill in the river channel; this changing the course of the river to flow into a new channel over a rocky ledge forming Thistlethwaite Falls. It has withstood a century of floods of the season.
Timothy Thistlethwaite’s wife’s grandfather, Cornelius Ratliff, Sr., came to this site in 1810 when impressed with the heavy growth of timber and the mass of building stone lying loosely in the bed of the river.
Mr. Thistlethwaite’s saw mill at this site was placed at the edge of the falls over a shoulder of rock and near the bull wheel. A lock was installed above the falls to regulate the volume of water used in turning the water wheel. The 47′ fall from the falls allowed Timothy’s development of several mills (a grist mill, a flour mill, paper mill, and a lumber sawing mill) in the Happy Hollow district of early Richmond.
After 80 years, nothing remained as a reminder of these mills except the pit in the falls which ran the bull wheels of the up and down saw and a portion of the continuation of a raceway from the paper mill site downstream.
Directions to Thistlethwaite Falls in Richmond Indiana
- From I-70, take US-27 south (Chester Boulevard). Follow Chester Blvd for about a mile and a half.
- Turn right on Waterfall Road and follow for about a half a mile. (Waterfall road is really narrow and curvy.)
- After you cross the bridge above the falls, look for parking across the street in Springwood Lake Park. Take care crossing back over the road.
- There is a trail leading to the top of the Thistlethwaite Falls and an old stone staircase leading to the base.
- For a different vantage point, you can also cross the bridge and walk to the base of the falls on the opposite side of the river. Just be aware the bridge is extremely narrow and there is no shoulder. So watch for traffic before crossing the bridge.
GPS Coordinates for Thistlethwaite Falls – N 39° 50.835 W 084° 53.878
Tips for photographing Thistlethwaite Falls
If you are planning to visit Thistlethwaite Falls to take pictures, go early in the day. This is a popular wading spot for locals during the summer. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a bunch of kids in my waterfall photos. If you go early, you can take your time and set up a tripod to get those dreamy waterfall photos.
When we were there, the sun was harsh on the side you access from the main trail. When we crossed the bridge and took pictures from the other side of the river, we got much better photos without sun glare. So definitely visit both sides of the waterfall to see where the lighting is best.
Hiking at Thistlethwaite Falls
The short trail to Thistlethwaite Falls is part of the larger 3.5 mile Whitewater Gorge Trail. See the trail map here. The Whitewater Gorge Trail is a fairly easy one, but be aware that you will have to traverse 8 sets of stairs and cross 9 bridges.
In addition to Thistlethwaite Falls, there are plenty of other scenic locations along the Whitewater Gorge Trail. Trail highlights include
- Vertical Cliffs
- Weir Dam
- National Road Bridge
- Quarry remnants
- Wayne County Courthouse
- Bird Sanctuary
If you enjoy geocaching, there is an earthcache at the falls as well as several regular caches at Springwood Park across the street. We have found geocaching is an excellent way to encourage kids to hike more!
Tips for visiting Thistlethwaite Falls with kids
If you are visiting Thistlethwaite Falls with kids, you need to be aware of a few things to keep your children safe.
- The parking for the falls is across the street, so watch for traffic when crossing.
- The steps down to the base of the falls have seen better days, so use caution.
- Bring a swimsuit and towel so your kids can wade. The water at the base is shallow and slow moving, but definitely keep an eye on them as they play.
- The rocks at the base of the falls are moss covered, so bring along water shoes for better traction while they are playing in the water.
- Fossils abound in this area. The loose rock piles at the base of the falls are a great place to hunt.
Other things to do near Thistlethwaite Falls
Springwood Lake Park is located just across the street from the falls. This 104 acre park has a nature trail, playground, restrooms, and several picnic areas.
If you love to hike, then I definitely recommend checking out Hayes Arboretum. Located on 466 acres, Hayes Arboretum features old growth forest, meadows, ponds, and even an Indian Mound. While you are there, be sure to check out the nature center.
Another great place to explore in Richmond is Glen Miller Park. Glen Miller Park was a favorite picnic destination of my family. I have been visiting since I was a little kid! Glen Miller Park features nice playgrounds, a band shell, fishing, a skate park, tennis courts, a nature area, and plenty of picnic tables.
Camping near Thistlethwaite Falls
- Richmond KOA
- Grandpa’s Farm Campground & RV Park
- Deer Ridge Camping Resort
Pin this Indiana day trip idea for later:
Quick Links to Info on This Page
- About Thistlethwaite Falls in Richmond Indiana
- Thistlethwaite Falls History
- Text from the Thistlethwaite Falls Historical Marker
- Directions to Thistlethwaite Falls in Richmond Indiana
- Tips for photographing Thistlethwaite Falls
- Hiking at Thistlethwaite Falls
- Tips for visiting Thistlethwaite Falls with kids
- Other things to do near Thistlethwaite Falls
- Camping near Thistlethwaite Falls
Love waterfalling? While you are here, be sure to check out the rest of the US waterfalls we have visited.
If you are passing through Richmond, Indiana, I definitely recommend making a stop to see Thistlethwaite Falls. So tell me… What are your favorite waterfalls in Indiana? I would love to hear your recommendations for our next adventure. Be sure to leave me a comment below and let me know if you have any ideas for Indiana waterfalls we should check out.
Until next time… Keep on exploring!