A Little Time and a Keyboard: Water Views, Cliffs, Forest Trails and a Waterfall Charm at Kankakee River State Park

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Water Views, Cliffs, Forest Trails and a Waterfall Charm at Kankakee River State Park

Water Views, Cliffs, Forest Trails and a Waterfall Charm at Kankakee River State Park
Water Views, Cliffs, Forest Trails and a Waterfall Charm at Kankakee River State Park

The striking natural features of Kankakee River State Park in Bourbonnais, Illinois have long been celebrated. Evidence of several different prehistoric sites have been located within the preserve. Both the Illini and Miami inhabited the area during first contact with Europeans in the 1670's and 1680's.

A moss covered bridge crosses a ravine full of crunchy leaves at Kankakee River State Park.
A moss covered bridge crosses a ravine full of crunchy leaves.

.During our visit, we enjoyed wandering the Rock Creek and Chief Shaw trails. Immediately, we noted the magic of the preserve upon encountering a moss-kissed bridge traversing a ravine full of crunchy fall leaves. Kankakee River State Park encompasses over 4,000 acres. So, we barely scratched the surface on our first visit! No doubt, Kankakee River State Park has presented a plethora of  unique nature experiences for many visitors.

Peering into Rock Creek Gorge at Kankakee River State Park.
Peering into Rock Creek Gorge Dazzled by a meandering creek and rock formations

We hiked along the treelined Rock Creek Trail taking advantage of various overlooks treating us to the absolutely incredible gorge! The rock layers along the limestone cliffsides add an interesting fringe to the cliffs along the creek.

The Rock Creek waterfall dazzles framed with subtle remnants of fall color.
The Rock Creek waterfall dazzles framed with subtle remnants of fall color.

From up above, we enjoyed a splendid view of a waterfall. I just loved how water gracefully tumbled over the rock layers. Different perches offered a variety of perspectives. While most foliage has fallen away, some rusty, yellow and pine green did add subtle color bursts into the scene. 

Different perches treat to unique perspectives of the waterfall at Kankakee River State Park.

Hiking, we noticed that the trails were a mix of rocky, paved, gravelly, muddy and leaf covered. Hiking this time of year, you do need to be aware that leaves can be slippery as can rocks hidden below. So, bringing along hiking sticks may be helpful especially if you would like to check out various lookout spots.

Golden fall sun warms the forest.
Golden fall sun warms the forest.

Exploring the Chief Shaw Trail:

After soaking in waterfall views, we headed to Chief Shaw Trail. The Potawatomi once hunted along the Kankakee River and lived in a village at the mouth of Rock Creek, a tributary of the river. Along the Chief Shaw Trail, we discovered a boulder marking the gravesite of Chief Shaw-waw-nas-see. When the Potawatomi left in 1832 following the Black Hawk War, the chief remained. When Chief Shaw-waw-nas-see died, his body was placed in a cabin as he had asked. Sadly, his remains and accompanying relics may have been removed by vandals. No one is really sure about what happened to his remains. However, the boulder serves as a memorial in the approximate spot where his remains were laid to rest. If you do take this trail, I encourage you to take a moment of pause at this moment to reflect on history and how we can all learn from each other moving forward together.


The Chief Shaw trail treated us to fantastic forest bathing and included many bird sightings. During our adventure, the Rock Creek Trail appeared more traveled. So, the Chief Shaw trail afforded much needed tranquility! Combining the trails, we enjoyed a full afternoon of hiking. Kankakee River State Park provides a picturesque and tranquil nature destination. We look forward to ambling new trails in the future!

To Know about Kankakee River State Park:
  • Seasonal Camping is available.
  • Biking, cross country skiing and horse riding are permitted. Check website for rules and appropriate trails.
  • Snow mobiling is permitted at certain times on certain trails. See website for details.
  • Fishing is permitted.
  • Canoeing is available.
  • Hunting is permitted in season in certain areas. See website for information.
  • During hunting season, please be aware that some trails may be closed.
Water Views, Cliffs, Forest Trails and a Waterfall Charm at Kankakee River State Park
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