Kankakee River State Park: “A Very Musical Stroll Thru the Woods”

Park 17 on our journey was Kankakee River State Park, about an hour and a half south of us. While this one is actually fairly close compared to some other places, we kept overlooking it in favor of the parks that are clustered together. For example, there are several along the Illinois River which meant that we needed to plan several trips along I80. But after taking another look at our maps and finally plotting a course down there, we were really happy with our entire day.

The park includes 11 miles of both sides of the Kankakee River and is about 4000 acres total, making it one of the larger northern parks. The whole area has a very long native American history, involving the movement of many different tribes, until the Blackhawk War in 1832, when the land was ceded to the United States. About 100 years later, the first 35 acres was donated to Illinois to become a state park, with more land being acquired in 1956 and 1989.

We knew that we would not be able to hike the entirety of the river trail, and planned to hike the Chief Shaw trail instead. However, we couldn’t go to Kankakee River State Park without walking at least a little bit around the Kankakee River, so that’s where we started our day.

After stopping by a river overlook, crossing a small covered bridge, and getting a little turned around while trying to drive to the trailhead, we found the small suspension bridge that crosses the Rock Creek.

Once we finally started hiking, we had to cross a little creek without slipping into the water, navigate thru mud left from rain the day before, and keep an eye out for areas where the trail ran across some steep drops down to the water below. But despite this, we were having a really fun time. We were in such good spirits that we would randomly sing snippets of songs, replacing words to reference things we saw while hiking.

Aside from the main trail being beyond our skill level, we wanted to do the smaller loop trail for several points of interest including the grave of Chief Shaw-waw-nas-see. A large boulder noting his name and the year, with a nearby sign indicating that he really was buried near this spot.

Moving on from there, the last major sight we saw on the trail was a small waterfall. The overlook is partially obscured, and you may not notice if if you were not looking for it. While it didn’t have the grandeur of ones at Starved Rock or Matthiessen, its still cool to see and a good way to finish the trail.

The local brewery we picked for that day was Brickstone Brewing. We both LOVED this brewery. With good food and fantastic beer, we would absolutely recommend going here after a hike thru the park. We think that this day was probably the best park/brewery combination, we’ve had so far.

We both really enjoyed our hike thru this park. We’ve found time and time again that the best experiences are in the places you least expect, and this park was no exception. The trails on the north end were not too difficult, even with more mud than normal. The combination of good weather, unique landmarks to look forward to, not being overly crowded, and being energized enough to sing off key made the whole experience extra special.

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