Kankakee River State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Located in an unspoiled setting that has been treasured for centuries, Kankakee River State Park is renowned for its RV camping facilities and water-based recreation. Before becoming a state park, the area was occupied by Illini and Miami Indians in the 1670s and 1680s. In the 1770s the Council of Three Fires dominated the area and in 1830 it was the site of the last great Indian Council. In the late 1800s an amusement park was open in the area until the 1920s. This led the way for the original 35 acres of land to be donated by Ethel Sturges Dummer for the creation of the state park in 1938. Another 1,715 acres were donated by Commonwealth Edison in 1956 and then the final parcel was added in 1989.

The naturally channeled Kankakee River is the focus of the park's popularity. Listed on the Federal Clean Streams Register, the river is a lovely place to relax at and it attracts fisherman and canoeists from all around the country. Hiking, biking and cross-country ski trails travel for miles on the north side of the river and on the south side you can find horse and snowmobile trails.

The camping options at Kankakee River State Park are extensive. There are 152 powered sites that have 30 or 50 amp connections, along with 53 non powered sites. Peak season at Kankakee River State Park runs from March until the end of October.

RV Rentals in Kankakee River State Park

Transportation in Kankakee River State Park

Driving

Kankakee River State Park is in a very central location. The park is just over an hour south of Chicago and the smaller city of Joilet is also only around 35 minutes from the park. Smaller towns can also be found within a few miles such as Kankakee, Manteno and Braidwood. Access to the park is provided by IL-102 or 5000 West Road. The area is not remote so you shouldn't have to stock up on any supplies on the way to the park.

During the winter time you may have trouble accessing the park if the weather conditions become bad. Blizzards can happen in this area, so make sure you check the weather forecast before you start your journey to the park.

The roads to the park are very well maintained. Since the area is very flat there are no real difficulties getting to the park since there are no mountains, windy roads or low flood level crossings.

Parking

There are lot of different parking spots in Kankakee River State Park. In total there are nine designated parking areas that are located along near the river on the eastern side of the park.

Public Transport

No direct public transport is available to Kankakee River State Park.

Campgrounds and parking in Kankakee River State Park

Campsites in Kankakee River State Park

Reservations camping

Kankakee South KOA

If you’re looking for a campground outside of Chicago, but still within close driving distance to the city, then Kankakee South is for you! Only an hour south of Chicago, bring your 75 foot big-rig and power up with 50-amp service underneath the shady oaks. Equipped with Wi-Fi and a community pavilion, you’ll for sure stay connected both on and offline. Unplug from it all and go to the nearby Kankakee River State Park for your favorite wilderness pastimes. Propane and firewood are on hand at the site to keep you in full supply.

Potawatomi Hawthorn Campground

Potawatomi Hawthorn is the larger of the two campgrounds at Kankakee River State Park that is suitable for RV camping. This campground is classified as Standard A and features 30 amp connections. Like Chippewa, Potawatomi Hawthorn is also pet friendly. We recommend this campground for those traveling with a smaller rig due to the narrower site pads. Unlike Chippewa, there are full restroom facilities at Potawatomi, so if you want showers this campground will be the best choice for you.

Other amenities in Potawatomi Hawthorn include toilets, dump station, and water collection points. You should be able to find mobile reception all throughout the campground. Reservations are available online, but check on the park website to see when the campground is open as times do vary seasonally.

Chippewa Campground

Chippewa is the smaller of the two campgrounds at Kankakee River State Park that is suitable for RV camping. This campground is classified as Class BE (electricity only, no showers) and Class C (no electricity, no showers). The electric connections vary between 30 and 50 amp and the campground is also pet friendly. Chippewa campground is recommended for those traveling with a bigger rig as it is easier to get in and out of.

Other amenities in Chippewa campground include toilets, dump station, and water collection points. You should be able to find mobile reception all throughout the campground. Reservations are available online, but check on the park website to see when the campground is open as times do vary due to what season it is.

First-come first-served

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Kankakee River State Park

In-Season

Hiking

A variety of hiking trails are readily available in Kankakee River State Park that will take you through diverse ecosystems and give you the chance to check out the park features. You have the option to hike along the Kankakee River, into the forests, or along Rock Creek. The three-mile route along Rock Creek will take you along gorgeous limestone canyons and to a lovely waterfall. If you are a fan of mushroom hunting, these trails will also be worth checking out.

Canoeing

The river's shallow water and very rocky bed are no problem for those heading out on a canoe. Canoeing is one of the most popular activities to do in the park during the summer time due to the long stretch of the river that is located within the park. Go for a paddle and check out the beautiful scenery and you may even spot some animals that call the park home. If you don't have a canoe there are some that are available to rent locally during the peak season.

Fishing

Kankakee River is very clean so it makes for some fantastic fishing. There are two boat ramps located within the park at the Warner Bridge Day Use Area and at the Area 9 parking lot. You can launch boats up to 10 horsepower or less, but be careful as the river is shallow and very rocky. Some of the more common fish species in the river are smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike and channel catfish.

Off-Season

Winter Recreation

Throughout the winter season the park transforms into a fantastic spot for winter recreation. The trails on the southern side of the river are reserved for snowmobiling while the northern trails are great for cross-country skiing. Ice fishing usually isn't possible due to the flowing river never icing over. During the winter there are no rentals available so make sure that you bring all your own gear if you want to do some outdoor activities.

Birding

The park is one of the top ten rated areas for birding in Illinois, so you must do some bird watching if you are into it. Since the park is right on the Kankakee River there are lots of different waterbirds to spot. These include Canada geese, mallard, common goldeneye and common merganser. The trails in Kankakee River State also double as fantastic birding sites. Birds spotted along the trails include sharp-shinned hawk, northern flicker, blue jays and even bald eagles!

Hunting

Are you a fan of hunting? If so, the park's abundant wildlife makes Kankakee River State Park a very popular spot for hunters. There are different hunting rules for different animals. Only bow hunting is allowed for deer, but firearm hunting is permitted for a range of different animals. These include pheasant, turkey, duck, rabbit, fox, and coyote. Check out the park website for season dates, shooting times and the exact areas that are open for hunting.

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