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Kankakee River History


Mike Clifford
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As a compliment to a recent ISA newsletter article I wrote in the "Rivers of Time" series on the Kankakee River, I compiled some interesting photos and thought I'd share them here.

In your next issue, the series returns for an article on the Fox River through the ages.

 

If you have a favorite IL river you'd like to see profiled, let me know for future newsletters.

I have a tremendous databse of information from which to research for these.

Hope you enjoy them!

 

Historic photo of a group of Kankakee River Valley hunters:

 

 

Original equipment used to dredge the channel in Indiana:

 

 

Looking east from the state line bridge into Indiana:

 

 

A view of the Wilmington Dam as it used to look (the mill building and RR bridge no longer exist):

 

 

The watercraft used to navigate the rivers of the Midwest (including the Kankakee) by La Salle's team.

Note the flat shelf on the front of the canoe- this is where they cooked their meals, as it was often too dangerous to camp on land for long periods of time. They literally lived in these boats for months at a time....

 

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Well Gary, there were lots of Indians around at the time. Couple that with some rather large buffalo and other beasts. Prairies were often burning, to facilitate hunting by the Indians. The Illinois were known to kill members of other tribes, such as the Miami from time to time, so you can imagine what they thought of the white man.

LaSalle, at the wishes of his King, Louis XIV of France, explored the area of the Kankakee in 1679, when the territory belonged to the Potawatomi- his party including the first white men to paddle their canoes in its current.

 

Tough conditions for these men.

Hennepin wrote:

"For more than forty leagues of the way, we could not find a camping ground, except for some frozen hummocks of earth on which we slept and lit our fire. Our provisions ran out and we could find no game after passing these marshes....for more than sixty leagues journey, they killed only a lean stag (goat), a small deer, some swans and two wild geese for the subsistance of thirty-two men."

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I believe at one time the area was filled with wild beasts including Grizzly Bear and many more Black Bears as well as Wolves. The Indians were not the friendly types either. Good story Mike keep up the good work.

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