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The Kankakee Region

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THERE never was anything quite like the old Kankakee marsh in northwestern Indiana. ...The superabundance of its feathered game and fur and fish was next to unbelievable. I have heard old men recall the mighty rush of wings as clouds of ducks rose before the guns of the market hunters, listened to their description of creaking wagons hauling hundred-pound bales of mink and otter and 'coon and muskrat skins into the railroad towns, and pictured through their memory the flatbottom boats that sometimes sank under loads of bass and perch and pickerel.
-William Bridges, New York Zoological Society, Nov-Dec, 1935

The massive glacial moraines just north of the Kankakee Region figured prominently in shaping this region. As the Wisconsin Glacier melted 16,000 years ago, these moraines acted as dams, trapping the immense volume of melting water and forming glacial Lake Chicago.

Those meltwaters finally overtopped the moraines, unleashing the Kankakee Torrent, a huge flood that left enormous sand deposits here in the Kankakee Region. In this sandy soil, black oak savannas and sand prairies flourished. The Kankakee River meandered through these flatlands, flanked on either side by wetlands that spanned hundreds of thousands of acres. A scarcely imaginable abundance of wildlife lived in these marshes, grasslands, and woodlands.

That landscape changed dramatically in the early 1900s as the marshlands were drained and converted to agriculture, the Kankakee channelized, and the prairies plowed under. Several sites within the Kankakee Region conserve precious remnants of this native landscape-from the Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area, where tens of thousands of sandhill cranes gather during fall migration, to Kankakee Sands, where The Nature Conservancy has restored 5,000 acres of wetlands and prairie.

Among the 8 sites within the Kankakee Region of the Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail, you'll also find cultural sites like Dunn's Bridge, believed to have been constructed of steel salvaged from the original Ferris Wheel exhibited in Chicago in 1893.

Read more about the Kankakee Region sites here, and start planning your next adventure on the Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail. For the Kankakee Region itinerary suggestions, click here.

Aukiki Wetland Conservation Area

Aukiki Wetland Conservation Area

This 650-acre parcel, donated by NiSource, conserves a mix of wetlands, black oak barrens, and sand prairie, offering wildlife viewing, hiking, and hunting. Now jointly owned by The Nature Conservancy and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Aukiki is part of the Indiana Grand Kankakee ... More

T: 219-285-2184 | W: View Website

Dunn's Bridge County Park

Dunn's Bridge County Park

Legend has it that this beautiful and unusual bridge was built with steel salvaged from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Local lore has it that the metal arches came from the world&&s first Ferris Wheel, which debuted at that exposition. Whatever the source of its ... More

T: 219-465-3586 | W: View Website

Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park

Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park

This 2,069-acre park, located along the historic Kankakee River, floods seasonally, providing ideal wetland habitat for a variety of wildlife. Acquired by Lake County Parks in 1977 with assistance from The Nature Conservancy, Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park&&s densely wooded areas and remnants ... More

T: 219-769-7275 | W: View Website

Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area

Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area

This gem of a wildlife area conserves 8,062 acres of wetland, upland, and woodland habitat, providing an ideal stopover for migratory birds. Beginning in August, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, ducks, and occasionally even federally endangered whooping cranes gather here. By mid-November—peak ... More

T: 219-843-4841 | W: View Website

Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area

Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area

Designated an Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society, 4,199-acre Kankakee Fish and Wildlife Area is part of the Grand Kankakee Marsh region (see sidebar, page 39). A single-lane gravel road follows the levee along the south side of the Yellow River and offers excellent wildlife ... More

T: 574-896-3522 | W: View Website

Kankakee Sands

Kankakee Sands

Kankakee Sands conserves more than 7,000 acres of prairie, savanna, and wetlands—habitat for some of the fastest declining bird species in North America, including northern bobwhite, grasshopper sparrow, and American bittern. Kankakee Sands is also home to several bird species that are ... More

T: 219-285-2184 | W: View Website

LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area

LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area

LaSalle Fish & Wildlife Area conserves 3,797 acres of hardwood forests, cropland and fallow fields, marshes, brush, and open water. Bisected by the Kankakee River, LaSalle is an ideal stopover for migratory birds. State Line Road and the drive to Parking Area 3 offers excellent roadside wildlife ... More

T: 219-992-3019 | W: View Website