As you can probably guess from its name, Kankakee River State Park has become a destination for paddlers to explore the Kankakee River, considered to be one of the cleanest in the state and an easy, shallow river for beginning paddlers. But it’s also a fine camping destination, particularly for car campers looking for a quick getaway from Chicago with lots of family-style activities to do along the river.
What Makes It Great
The Kankakee River once drained one of the largest wetlands in North America, but beginning in the mid 19th century it was significantly altered as the wetlands were turned into arable land. The park started with a donation of 35 acres from Ethel Sturges Drummer in 1935. Commonwealth Edison donated another 1,715 acres in 1956, and additional land in 1989. In the 1890s, many Chicagoans were drawn to the area by the Custer Bowery Amusement Park, but that had closed up shop by the 1920s. But the river was still a popular spot for summer vacation cottages. Since then the river has been a destination for canoe and kayak enthusiasts.
The state park sits on 4,000 acres in Kankakee and Will counties, basically covering both sides of the river with some additional acreage along the Rock Creek. In addition to the camping facilities, the park features two boat launches as a destination point for paddlers looking for a short trip or a base of operations for fishing and other outdoor activities.
The Potawatomi campground in the park features showers and electricity, with 110 sites and two cabins that are available for rent during the park’s camping season, which runs from late spring to early fall. The Chippewa campground sites feature no showers, and some sites with electricity, and are available year-round.
An equestrian campground is open from April to October, and the Davis Creek Campground is available for chaperoned groups.
Who is Going to Love It
Campers and hikers looking for a quick getaway. The park features trails for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. Paddlers looking for a place to get back to nature will enjoy the clean river and scenic surroundings at the Kankakee River State Park. For those who like to fish, the park is known for its smallmouth bass, as well as channel catfish, Walleye and Northern pike.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
The park is located at 5314 W. Rt. 102, Bourbonnais, IL 60914. Parking at the Kankakee River State Park is easy, with entrances and parking lots at several places along the park.
The state park is open from sunrise to sunset.
You’ll find two boat ramps at the park: one at the Warner Bridge Day Use Area and a second at the Area 9 parking lot on the south side of the river. Only boats with motors of 10 horsepower or less are permitted to be launched in the park.
If you don’t have your own boat, Reed’s Canoe Trips offer two to six hour options on the river with transportation to the starting point upstream.