Click to enlarge
The Indiana portion of the Kankakee Watershed drains about 1.37 million acres in the northwestern part of our state. It drains large portions of Lake County, Newton County, Jasper County, Starke County, LaPorte County, Saint Joseph County, and Marshall County, and small parts of five other counties.
At one time the area drained by the Kankakee River was referred to as the Grand Kankakee Marsh, and sometimes as the Everglades of the North. The Grand Kankakee Marsh once covered more than 1,500 square miles and was one of the largest inland wetlands in North America. Ducks were so numerous that the Marsh was referred to as "Chicago's Pantry", and hunters travelled from as far away as Europe to shoot waterfowl.
Beginning in the early 1900s, most of the Kankakee River was channelized to promote drainage and enable agricultural use of surrounding land. Most of its tributaries are also channelized and referred to as ditches; even tributaries that aren't called ditches, like the Yellow River and the Little Kankakee River, are highly channelized. Less than five percent of the Grand Kankakee Marsh remains, though there have been some tentative steps toward restoration.
The Kankakee River joins the Illinois River, which then runs into the Mississippi River before discharging into the Gulf of Mexico.