What to do in Kankakee River State Park

*This information was provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources*

On land treasured for centuries - first by Native Americans, later by traders and farmers, and as early as the 1890's by recreation seekers - Kankakee River State Park offers you its proud heritage in an unspoiled setting. Anglers, canoeists, hunters, campers, hikers, bicyclers and other outdoor enthusiasts find the park's recreational opportunities unsurpassed. The naturally channeled Kankakee River, listed on the Federal Clean Streams Register, is the focus of the park's popularity.

Enveloping both sides of the Kankakee River for 11 miles, in an area 6 miles northwest of Kankakee, the park consists of approximately 4,000 acres. Illinois Routes 102 on the north and 113 on the south frame the park, with Interstates 55 and 57 both providing convenient access.

History-Several prehistoric sites are documented within Kankakee River State Park. The park is within a region used by Illini and Miami Indians at the time of the first European contact in the 1670s and 1680s. By 1685 the Miami were sufficiently numerous that the Kankakee River was called the River of the Miami. Kickapoo and Mascouten also were in the region from 1679 until the 1760s. Potawatomi Indians hunted along the Kankakee River in the 1760s, and by the 1770s, the Potawatomi, Ottawa and Chippewa nations - "The Three Fires" - dominated the area. The most extensive village was "Rock Village" or "Little Rock Village" inside the present-day park near the mouth of Rock Creek. In 1830 it was the site of the last great Indian Council. Following the Black Hawk War in 1832, the Potawatomi ceded all of their land along the Kankakee and Illinois rivers to the United States. Most Potawatomi left the area by the end of the decade, except for Chief Shaw-waw-nas-see, whose grave is commemorated by a boulder along the nature trail at Rock Creek.

Noel Le Vasseur and other fur traders, including Hubbard Chabare and Bourbonnais, traded with the Potawatomi along the Kankakee and Iroquois rivers in the 1820s. When the Potawatomi left the area in 1838, Le Vasseur persuaded a number of his fellow French Canadians to emigrate from Quebec to the Bourbonnais Township area. Because of his settlement efforts, he is called "the father of Kankakee."

A Marker on the west bank of Rock Creek Bridge commemorates the log cabin village of Rockville. It was begun in 1840, nine years after William Baker and other Euro-Americans first began farming along the Kankakee River.

The Kankakee & Iroquois Navigation Company - later known as the Kankakee Company - was chartered in 1847 to provide water power and a navigable waterway from the Illinois & Michigan Canal to Warner's Landing, along the site of the present-day Warner Bridge Road. The company failed in the early 1880s, shortly after the Wabash Railroad came through. At the Chippewa Campground, hand-cut limestone pillars mark where a railway bridge was to have been built before financiers ran out of money.

Just inside the park's main entrance is the Smith Cemetery with the graves of several family members, most of whom died of yellow fever at the turn of the century.

A major industry in the area in the 1890s was the Custer Bowery Amusement Park, which frequently drew crowds from Chicago. The park was gone by the 1920s, but by then the river had become a popular spot for summer cottages. The area became more accessible to vacationers in 1928 when concrete roads were built along both sides of the river. In 1938 Chicago resident Ethel Sturges Dummer donated 35 acres of land for a state park. Commonwealth Edison turned over another 1,715 acres to the state in 1956. With the company's additional grants in 1989, the park now roughly totals 4,000 acres.

Camping-Pleasant sites at reasonable prices make Kankakee River State Park a great place to pitch camp. Potawatomi Campground, a Class A area, has 110 sites and two Rent-a-Cabins in a wooded setting. More than 150 sites are offered at Chippewa Campground, which has Class B electric and C facilities. No reservations will be taken for Kankakee River Class A, B, or C campgrounds. The Park closes at 10pm and all campgrounds observe quiet hours from 10pm - 7am. No vehicular traffic is allowed during this time. You must be 18 years old to rent a campsite and you must be able to establish your camp at the time you obtain a permit. All campsites share a picnic table and a campgrill. Camping is only allowed in the campgrounds.

Recreation
Hunting- The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for providing outdoor recreation opportunity for the residents of the State. Of particular concern is providing safe hunting areas on public lands throughout the State.

This Hunter Fact Sheet contains information relating to most of the hunting programs at Kankakee River State Park. The furbearer hunting is only allowed on the south side of the Kankakee River. One of the highest quality rivers in the entire state, the Kankakee River basin boasts a long tradition of hunting dating back to pre-settlement times. Rich mature hardwoods bordering the river mark this linear park.

Fishing-The Kankakee is a clean river, great for landing smallmouth bass, channel catfish, walleye and northern pike. Rock Creek is also a good spot. The park has two boat ramps for launching craft with motors of 10 horsepower or less - there's a launch at the Chippewa Campground and a launch at Area 9 parking lot on the south side of the river. However, please realize boating can be hazardous because the river is shallow and rocky.

Canoeing-The river's shallow water and rocks are no problem for canoeists. Bring your canoe and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Picnicking-For a light lunch or a large get-together, check out the park's picnic areas. Shelters and tables are placed in pleasant settings throughout the park, and you'll also find playgrounds in several locations. Shelters are available on a first-come first-served basis. All shelters have campgrills. Three shelters may be reserved by calling the park office for reservation forms. Groups of 25 or more are asked to obtain a permit, which is free, at least two weeks before planning to visit the park.

TrailsThe park's trail system stretches for miles along both sides of the river. Hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails are on the river's north side, while horse and snowmobile trails can be found on the south. A 3-mile route along Rock Creek lets hikers take in the beauty of limestone canyons and a frothy waterfall. A bicycle trail begins at Davis Creek Area and travels 10.5 miles of trails in the form of a linear trail along the river and a loop in the west end of the park.

Riding Stables-Rent a horse at the park's riding stables on Deselm Road, 0.75 mile north of Route 102. Guided horse rides, pony rides and cookouts all can be arranged at the stables. Stop by or call 815/939-0309.

Location
From North or South on Interstate 57, Take I 57 to Exit 315 (Bradley-Bourbonnais) Take Rte. 50 south to the first stop light which is Armour Rd. Turn right on Armour Rd. and go to the 3rd stop light which is Rte. 102. Turn right (west) on Rte.102. The park is located 7 miles west on Rte. 102.

From the North on Interstate 55, Take I 55 to exit 238 (Braidwood). Take Rte. 129 south until coming to Strip Mine Rd. Turn left (east) on Strip Mine Rd. Follow this road until coming to a small town called Wilmington. In Wilmington, turn right on Water Street. Water Street becomes Rte 102. The park is located 10 miles east of Wilmington on Rte. 102.

From the South on Interstate 55, Take I-55 north to Dwight Exit (Rte.17). Take Rte. 17 east. Go approximately 20 miles to Warner Bridge Rd. Turn left (north) on Warner Bridge Rd. Follow this road approximately 10 miles until coming to Rte. 102. Turn right (east) on Rte. 102. The park office is located 1 1/2 miles east of Warner Bridge Rd.

Climate
Illinois experiences four distinct seasons with varying weather throughout the year. Winter can be very cold. The highest humidity of the year occurs during this season averaging 70 to 75 percent. Average low temperatures in January dip to 20 degrees F with highs near 35 degrees F. Spring temperatures are mild with humidity below 70 percent. Temperatures during this season average between 32 and 50 degrees F. Summer is usually hot and humid in this Midwest state. Low temperatures remain in the low sixties with high temperatures near 90 degrees F. The highest rainfall of the year occurs during the summer months. Fall is an excellent time to visit the state with low humidity and rainfall and moderate temperatures.

Address
5314 West Rt. 102
Bourbonnais, IL 60914

Phone: 815.933.1383

Email: kpangle@dnrmail.state.il.us
  • Kankakee River State Park Travel Q&A

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