The Kankakee River Valley is known for both the splendor and tranquil beauty of the Historic Kankakee River. Winding its way through Kankakee County, it passes through many of our small and large communities. This section provides both historical and current information about the Kankakee River and also provides historical and current information about many of the towns, cities and key people who have played a part in the historical past of Kankakee County.
History and Heritage...The Kankakee River
The Kankakee River runs 57 miles through Kankakee County and is one of our most precious resources. Water sports, excellent fishing and a beautiful State Park are available for all to enjoy, but there is a special history about why the Kankakee River played such an important part of our heritage and what Kankakee County is today...
The Potawatomi Indians lived in the area now known as the Kankakee River, which was once thought to be the upper Illinois River. The Potawatomi called this river the Theatiki. Through variations in the pronunciation of Theatiki, Kankakee evolved. Some of the meanings of Theatiki are "Wolf", "Swampy Place" and "Wonderful Land." The Kankakee River Valley's beautiful land and rich natural resources are a result of debris and minerals left by three massive glaciers that came down from Canada thousands of years ago, accounting for the beautiful area that tourists, relocators and community members now enjoy.
A Few Facts About Kankakee County
Kankakee County was considered the perfect place to live by the Potawatomi Indians long before the ever-increasing westward migration of white settlers replaced them. For here was a rolling landscape with a beautiful river thickly bordered with groves of oak, hickory, maple, cedar and black walnut. With the land sloping in places gently to the water's edge and in others rising in sheer limestone bluffs many feet above the river, and the abundant wildlife that inhabited the area, no more beautiful or varied scenery could be found in the Middle West than in Kankakee County.
Settlers came to Kankakee County in 1834, after the federal government signed the treaty of Camp Tippecanoe in 1832. As word spread about the government acquiring the land, many immigrants from New York and Vermont moved their way west, mostly locating in Momence, IL. An act of the Illinois Legislature created Kankakee County out of the northern part of Iroquois County and the southern part of Will County on February 11, 1853. The six original townships were: Yellowhead, Rockville, Bourbonnais, Momence, Aroma and Limestone. The population of the new county was about 8,000. It wasn't until 1855 that the two western townships of Norton and Essex were taken from Vermilion County and added to Kankakee County.
In the mid 1800s David Bradley started Bradley Plow Works, later called the Bradley Factory. He manufactured farm implements and is known for the Bradley Plan. In early 1900's, David Bradley's grandson B. Harley Bradley, built a home designed by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1891, North Kankakee was incorporated and named Bradley.
The City of Kankakee grew in the shadow of Bourbonnais, a French settlement nearby. Kankakee nonetheless became the eventual seat of government for Kankakee County, and in 1855 became the site of a depot on the Illinois Central Railroad. By 1900 its population had grown to about 13,500. Kankakee County's population is currently 105,290 and growing.
Three Illinois governors (Len Small, Samuel Shapiro and George Ryan) are from Kankakee.
The Kankakee River runs 57 miles through Kankakee County and is a clean river, great for landing Small Mouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Walleye and Northern Pike. 12 boat launches, 8 campgrounds and 18 riverfront parks are only a small part of the fun on the Kankakee River.
History, Heritage and facts about Kankakee County provided by Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau for more information visit www.visitkankakeecounty.com
Greater Kankakee Airport
Located off of I-57, Greater Kankakee Airport is the largest airport serving the south Chicagoland area. The airport supports two runways, the longest at 6000 feet, an instrumental landing system, and over 120 hangers. The airport is not part of Chicago airspace, which gives it an advantage in avoiding congestion. Annual operations are approximately 50,000 (25,000 arrivals and 25,000 departures) and generates an annual economic impact of over $22 million.
Kankakee County is in close proximity to Midway Airport, which is drivable in 50 minutes and O’Hare International Airport in 90 minutes.
Kankakee County’s proximity to national interstate is ideal for any industrial company and provides excellent accessibility to all major markets in the Midwest. It has direct access to I-57 and is about 25 minutes driving time to I-80. This provides an advantage for businesses serving all major markets in the United States.
The River Valley METRO Mass Transit District, whose mission is to provide safe and efficient transportation within its service area, has provided public transportation in the area since July 1999. The District’s member communities include Aroma Park, Bourbonnais, Bradley, Kankakee, Kankakee County and Manteno.
Service is provided from 5:30 AM to 10:30 PM six days per week. Nine routes are operated within the area and service is provided to the Metra station at University Park. ADA accessible service is also provided on METRO Plus service. River Valley Metro Mass Transit District has now provided more than 10 million rides for the people of Kankakee County, surpassing the 10 million ride mark in June 2017.
River Valley METRO was designated the “Fastest Growing Transit System” in North America in 2001 by Metro Magazine. In 2002, River Valley METRO was presented the Outstanding Achievement Award from the American Public Transit Association. Metro Magazine also designated River Valley METRO one of the “10 Most Improved Transit Systems in North America.
Kankakee County is well served by a number of railroads, including Canadian National providing access north and south, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern and others. The Chicago area is a center for activity in the Midwest, and Kankakee County provides quick access to railroads for many businesses that rely on bulk commodities.
One will never run out of things to do in Kankakee County. Area park districts offer programs and events available to people of all ages and interests. The County has over sixty outdoor public parks with a wide range of activities available for families. Perry Farm Park offers 170 acres of dynamic recreation including natural prairie trails, woods, canyons and Indian Caves for a wonderful day outdoors.
The Kankakee River State Park encompasses both sides of the Kankakee River for 11 miles and consists of approximately 4,000 acres. The park offers you its proud heritage in an unspoiled setting. Anglers, canoeists, hunters, campers, hikers, bicyclers and other outdoor enthusiasts find the park’s recreational opportunities unsurpassed.
The area also offers Splash Valley Aquatic Park, a swimming facility and Water Park and Oak Orthopedic Sports Arena, an indoor ice rink. Nine golf clubs provide hours of relaxation and distraction for golfers of all levels.
Source: Alliance of Kankakee County, August, 2009, www.kankakeecountyed.org
Number of Persons per Household
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2005 American Community Survey; Economic Modeling Specialists, Inc. March 2007