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  Kankakee River Interpretative Program  


Kankakee River State Park
5314 W. State Route 102
Bourbonnais, IL 60914
(815) 933-1813


Kankakee River State Park is located 6 miles northwest of Kankakee along the Kankakee River. The park consists of approximately 4,000-acres and is bordered on both sides by Rt. 102 on the north and 113 on the south. Activities available at Kankakee River include hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping, picnicking, hiking, and horseback riding.


Stacey Johnson - Interpreter

The Kankakee River State Park Interpretive Program offers many hikes and programs throughout the year. The park also has a small Visitors’ Center which contains numerous displays and hands-on activities pertaining to the history and wildlife of the park and Illinois.

School groups and other large groups should call ahead for reservation. If you have a church group, other organization or just a group of friends that would like to take advantage of these programs.



Campgound Programs | Events | Flora & Fauna of the Park | Jr. Naturalists’ Program | Kids’ Page | School/Homeschool Programs | Scout Programs | Seasonal Programs | Self-Guided Hikes | Visitors’ Center | Volunteer Opportunities

2013 SEASONAL PROGRAMS - 2013 Program Schedule
( Programs last approximately one hour and participants should meet at the park’s visitor center (across from main office), unless stated otherwise.


Leave No Child Inside Outdoor Experience 2010!

Leave No Child Inside ProgramLeave No Child Inside Program


Mothers’ Wildflower Walk & Crafts 2010 

Mothers and Daughters Planting Wildflowers
Mothers and Daughters doing craft projects


School Programs    


Student using a microscopeThe Kankakee River State Park Interpretive Program offers many programs to compliment the curriculum of the educator. Listed below are examples of some of the most popular programs (with the corresponding Illinois Learning Standards) that can be offered in your classroom.  Other topics for programs can be implemented to meet your lesson plans. Other topics can include trees, plants, geology, history, recycling, pollution, etc.

These one-hour programs are indoor introductions and activities that are especially effective if they are followed by a visit to the park in the spring.  Once at the park, students are able to see first-hand what the lesson in the classroom was all about.  A one-hour walk or activity is then led at the park for each class, as this allows the majority of the day for your activities, lunch, etc. 

The park also has a small nature center with displays and hands-on activities that the students can tour.  The park makes for an excellent field trip. 

Our state park is a wonderful asset for this community. If you are interested in these natural resources programs, please contact me at 815-933-1383, ext. 25 or email me at stacey.johnson@illinois.gov.  I look forward to hearing from you!


                Student in the river looking for water bugs                                       

OBJECTIVE: Students will understand the importance of water as a resource and the accessibility and pollution issues that accompany this resource. Students will identify macro-invertebrate insects and discover how they help us analyze the quality of our local water resource.
PARK VISIT: Students will participate in the stream monitoring of Rock Creek by catching and identifying macro-invertebrates and other plant and animal species of a clean stream habitat.

Late Elementary- 11.A.2b, 12.B.2a, 12.E.2a, 13.B.2e
Middle School- 11.A.3a, 12.B.3b, 12.E.3a, 13.B.3f



OBJECTIVE: Students will reach an understanding of how rocks are categorized as sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic types and through property analysis will classify and identify different samples of rocks and fossils.
PARK VISIT: Students will observe erosion and rock formations of Rock Creek Canyon and will have the opportunity to collect and identify the different types of rocks and fossils.

Early Elementary-11.A.1c, 12.E.1a, 12.E.1b
Late Elementary- 11.A.2b, 12.E.2a, 12.E.2b

Students planting treesSEEDS, ROOTS, & LEAVES…OH MY!                                   

OBJECTIVE: Students will distinguish between the different types of Illinois trees including their life cycles, parts, functions, and products.
PARK VISIT: Students will identify the different Illinois trees of the forest by their seeds, bark, and/or leaves.

Early Elementary:12.A.1a, 12.B.1a,12.E.1a, 13.B.1d
Late Elementary: 12.A.2a, 12.B.2b, 12.E.2a, 13.B.2c




CALLS OF THE WILD Family listening to interpreter                                   

OBJECTIVE: Knowing the characteristics of birds and amphibians, students will not only be able to physically identify different Illinois birds and frogs, but will be able to discover and decipher the calls of these vocal animals.
PARK VISIT: Students will be able to identify live birds and amphibians by their physical characteristics, vocal calls, and habitats.

Early Elementary-12.A.1a, 12.A.1b, 12.B.1a, 12.B.1b
Late Elementary- 12.A.2a, 12.B.2a, 12.B.2b
Middle School- 12.A.3c, 12.B.3b



OBJECTIVE: Through observations and group analysis of live animals and their anatomical parts, students will compare and contrast the adaptations of mammals and reptiles and will identify and describe these Illinois species and their habitats.
PARK VISIT: Students will be able to identify live Illinois reptiles and mammals of the forest and wetland habitat.

Early Elementary-12.A.1a, 12.A.1b, 12.B.1a, 12.B.1b
Late Elementary- 11.A.2e, 12.A.2a, 12.B.2a, 12.B.2b
Middle School- 11.A.3g, 12.A.3c, 12.B.3b

Student learning about reptiles


Scout Programs

Sometimes finding resources for meeting all those scout requirements can be difficult. Did you realize that the Kankakee River State Park is one of those resources? The following is list of Webelos Badge requirements with corresponding activities that our park offers to assist scout leaders and their scouts in earning their badges. These programs are free Many scout leaders take advantage of these programs but many are unaware of this asset. These programs are especially effective if they are conducted at the park for a hands-on learning experience. I do realize with everyone's busy schedules, a trip to the park is not always possible and I am willing to meet elsewhere and at scout meeting times to work on these requirements.

Please call in advance to schedule programs. Programs are available year round. There are less dates available in the month of May as many programs are being offered to school groups during their field trips to the park. Fall is a beautiful time for these programs as well as summer. And don't forget the winter months! This is a good time to get the scouts out of the indoors and on a hike through the woods discussing tree i.d. in winter, animal tracks, animal hibernation, etc.

Other topics for programs can also be implemented. The following programs are designed for the Webelos Badge Requirements, but any of these programs can be modified and broken down for Tiger Cubs, Wolf Cubs, and Bear Cubs. They may be enhanced for Boy Scouts and many trail maps are available to assist leaders in long-distance hike requirements. Also, many Eagle Scout projects are available. We enjoy working with the scouts on these projects, where we all work together toward a potential goal.

'The interpreter is also a merit badge counselor for the following badges: bird study, environmental science, fish and wildlife mgmt., forestry, geology, hiking, Indian lore, dog care, insect study, mammal study, nature, pets, plant science, reptile and amphibian study, and wilderness survival

If you've already participated in these programs with your scouts, please pass this information on to other leaders and I hope to see you again soon. If you haven't, I look forward to meeting you in the future.

Naturalist Badge

  1. Visit a museum if natural history, nature center, or zoo with your family, den, or pack. Tell what you saw.
    A tour of the nature center can be provided. The center contains displays, hands-on activities, and live animals of Illinois.
  2. Be able to identify the poisonous plants and reptiles found in your area.
    These are best identified on a hands-on walk but may also be pointed out in reference books in the nature center.
  3. Watch six wild animals (snakes, turtles, fish, birds, or mammals) in the wild. Describe the kind of place (forest, field, marsh, yard, or park) where you saw them. Tell what they were doing.
    On a guided walk, many wild animals can be observed along with the different types of habitat.

Forester Badge

  1. Identify six forest trees. Tell what useful things come from them.
  2. Using a tree key, scouts will be able to identify the different types of trees on a guided walk. Their products and identification methods will be discussed. There are also several reference books, activity books, and posters for the children to use in the nature center.
  3. Identify six forest plants that are useful to wildlife. Tell what animals use them and for what.
  4. Will be easily identified on a guided walk and/or with reference materials in the nature center.
  5. Make a poster showing the life history of a forest tree.
  6. Make a chart showing how water and minerals in the soil help a tree grow.
  7. Collect pieces of three kinds of wood used for building houses.*
  8. Describe the harm caused by wildfires. Tell how you may help prevent wildfire.
  9. Wildfire prevention, and Smokey Bear will be discussed. Scouts will also learn why rangers conduct controlled burns and will be able to identify some of the non-natives that are eliminated during those burns.

Outdoorsman Badge

  1. Help with a camp-out 5 nights away from home with your family. (It doesn't need to be all at one time.)
    Assistance with tent set-up or any other camping related projects.
  2. With your family or den, plan and take part in an evening outdoor activity which has a campfire.
    Many campground activities can be offered including animal presentations, s'mores, sensory activities, animal calling, or even a night hike.
  3. Help cook your own lunch or supper outdoors with your parents or another grown-up. Clean up afterward.
    Assistance with campfire recipes and cooking offered.
  4. Visit your Scout camp with your den.
    The park has a campground specifically designated for scouts and other organizations.

Sportsman Badge

  1. Individual Sport: Be familiar with the skills or techniques.
    Know the rules, the courtesies, and how to score.
    Know the equipment used and how to care for it.
    Know the safety rules.
    Demonstrate or take part to a reasonable degree.
    Archery: Scouts will learn the basic terminology, etiquette, proper equipment and its handling, safety, and will be able to shoot targets by the end of the demonstration.

Engineer Badge
  1. Make drawings of three kinds of bridges. Explain them.
    Visit, discuss, and sketch the 50ft. suspension bridge over Rock Creek, a wooden bridge, and a road bridge in the park.

Artist Badge

  1. Draw or paint an original picture. Use watercolor, crayons, or oil. Frame it for your room or home.
    Where would be a better place to inspire that out in nature!?!? Sitting by Rock Creek canyon drawing a waterfall, the trees in the pine grove, spring wildflowers, fall colors, etc. This can also be done on t-shirts with fabric paint and leaf prints, animal tracks, etc. too!
  2. Use plastic or clay and sculpture a simple object.
    Using clay or plaster of paris sculpt your own animal tracks, fossils, acorns or anything else out of nature that we find interesting.

Citizen Badge

  1. Alone or with your Webelos den do a special Good Turn. Help your church, synagoue, school, neighborhood, or town. Tell what you did.
    Scouts can do a River/Creek clean-up at the park where they will also earn patches and pins! Scouts can assist in "RiverWatch" where they will help to collect & identify critters out of the creek which are water quality indicators. Scouts can do bird house/nest box building, prairie plantings, minor painting projects, etc.

Geologist Badge

  1. Rocks and/or minerals are used in metals, glass, jewelry, road-building products, and fertilizer. Examples?*
  2. Collect five geologic specimens that have important uses to man.*
  3. Explain one way in which mountains are formed.*

*All of these requirements will be enhanced by hiking along Rock Creek Canyon and the Kankakee River to actually view & discuss examples of each

If children don’t know about it, they won't understand it. If they don't understand it, they won't appreciate it. If they don't appreciate it, they won't take care of it.

Children are our future!


Jr. Naturalist Program

Kids, sign up to become a Kankakee River State Park Jr. Naturalist. What is a Jr. Naturalist? To become a Jr. Naturalist a child must complete certain activities pertaining to Illinois and the park. Children will receive various prizes showing that they have become an Illinois Junior Naturalist. There are 3 levels of this program at this park.

Children sign up at park and upon signing up, they receive a statewide activity book and an activity book for the park. They must complete 10 activities between the two books, return them to the park interpreter to bo checked, and then they receive awards. The Kankakee River State Park has extended this program to two more levels. After children complete the first level they may go on to another at this park. There are reference materials and displays in the visitor center to assist them with their activities.So, once the child completes one level and receives the prize, they can then proceed to the next level if they wish. To join just ask the park interpreter for the activity books and details. There is no time limit on the activities so the child can work on earning their prizes at their own pace. Children must join individually-not as a group or organization.

Self-Guided Hikes

The interpretive program also offers self-guided hikes. When a “guided hike” is not available, hikers can take the self-guided brochures and maps with them for an interpretation of the trail. Obtain the brochures to accompany the trails from the park’s visitor center or office. These can also be mailed. Two self-guided trails are available.


Rock Creek Canyon - Self-Guided Nature Trail

Rock Creek Rock Creek Canyon.......
.....Home to the beautiful outcrops of Limestone rock which are rare to Northeastern Illinois. Did you know that 400 million years ago Illinois was covered with shallow seas? These Silurian seas had many ancient sea animals living in them. These creatures settled to bottom of the seas along with other sediments and became fossilized forming the rock formations we see today........

.......as you walk along this 2-mile self-guided trail, you’ll have an opportunity to enjoy more of the beauty and history of Rock Creek Canyon.

Remember......take only memories, leave only footprints



“The Prairie” A Trail Guide

The Prairie State
Did you know that in 1820, 22 million acres of prairie covered the state of Illinois? When the settlers first arrived in Illinois, many believed that the prairie soil was poor since no trees grew on it. It didn't take long for settlers to realize that the soil was in fact rich in nutrients which plants needed for growth.Prairie Grass

By 1900, most of the Illinois prairie had been turned into farmland and by 1978, less than 2,300 acres of prairie emained……………

…….take a short walk through a prairie restoration area to get a feel of what the land of Illinois use to be.

Before heading out on your walk through the prairie restoration area, you may want to take a walk through the wildflower identification gardens on the north side of the park's visitor center to see some of the prairie plants and/or obtain a guide containing color photos of Illinois prairie grasses and forbes which can be checked out at the park's visitor center.


blue birdCome to the Kankakee River State Park and do a little bird watching! See over forty-one different species of birds that are here year-round. Species ranging from Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks, to Cardinals, Goldfinches and Blue Jays. So it doesn't matter what time of the year you visit, these birds will be waiting for you! Stop in at the visitor center and pick up key to the Birds of the Kankakee River State Park, which will show you what birds are here year-round, during the summer, during the winter and which ones migrate through during the spring and fall.

Lists for the following can also be obtained from the park’s visitor center:

Mammals of the Kankakee River State Park
Trees of the Kankakee River State Park



pink wildflower Before heading out on your walks, you may want to take a walk through the wildflower identification gardens on the north side of the park's visitor center to see some of the prairie plants or spring wildflowers and/or obtain a guide containing color photos of Illinois prairie grasses and forbes or spring woodland wildflowers which can be checked out at the park's visitor center.

Note: The Kankakee River State Park is home to the Kankakee Mallow which is endangered in Illinois. This beautiful flower is found only on a small dolomite bedrock island in the Kankakee River. The site is protected as a state nature preserve.

Visitor Center

The park’s visitor center contains numerous displays and hands-on activities pertaining to the park and Illinois’ natural resources.

If children don’t know about it, they won't understand it. If they don't understand it, they won't appreciate it. If they don't appreciate it, they won't take care of it. Children are our future!


Campground Programs

What does a snake feel like? What sound does an owl make? Come to our campground programs to find out. These programs are offered in the summer and fall. See Summer/Fall schedule at the campground on Saturdays. Bring the family to enjoy a variety of presentations some of which include “Illinois’ Critters” slide show and “Wildlife Trivia”.


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