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.
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