Kankakee River State Park - Paddling

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This shallow, clean river in the state park makes for a great paddling trip.

Written by

Jeff Banowetz


0.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

50.4 miles


1 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

6 hours


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




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.

What Makes It Great

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. With several camping facilities and two boat launches, the park is a destination point for paddlers looking for a short trip or a base of operations for fishing and other outdoor activities.

The river starts near South Bend, Ind., and meanders across Indiana and Illinois until it joins the Des Plaines River, becoming the Illinois River.

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. In Indiana the river travels primarily through rural farmland in a straight, channelized course. In northern Indiana, the river forms the southern border of LaPorte, Porter and Lake counties, as well as the northern border of Starke, Jasper and Newton counties. It enters Kankakee County in northwest Illinois just southeast of the city of Kankakee.

Who is Going to Love It

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

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. 

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Kankakee River State Park

5314 West Rt. 102
Bourbonnais, IL, 60914
41.201522, -87.972883

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