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Kankakee Marsh

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About the Kankakee Marsh

The Kankakee Marsh region is a low-lying, historically swampy region along the Kankakee river, oriented mostly east-west and curving to the northeast at its east end. The region is mostly located within Indiana, extending barely into Illinois at its western end. This region has been drained and severely altered from its natural state, and is now mostly farmland.

This region is flat to gently sloping. The soil is mostly formed on a mix of glacial outwash, alluvial deposits, and accumulated organic material in low-lying depressions. There are some scattered sand dunes, although much less than the sand area to the south. The bedrock, covered in most of the region, consists of shale, limestone, and dolomite. The region has a hot-summer, humid continental climate. Precipitation is somewhat seasonal, peaking in May-June and being lowest in winter.

This region was historically covered in a mix of northern swamp forests, wet prairies, and bulrush-cattail marshes. Pin oak (Quercus palustris) was the dominant tree in the swamp forests.

This region has been extensively drained, through a network of ditches and channelization and dredging of the Kankakee river, which now flows in unnaturally straight lines through the portion of this region in Indiana. All but a small portion of the river at the far west of this region has been channelized. However, in Illinois, the river was dammed to create reservoirs, so no portion of the river exists in its natural state.

The region is used mostly for corn and soybean production, livestock farming, and some hay. There is a small wooded corridor along the Kankakee river, but it is severely altered from its natural state: some artificially-originating oxbow lakes remain where the river's original path was, and the forest is mostly located between these and the current path of the river. There are several wetland conservation areas and public protected lands along the river, but they represent a small portion of the original extent of wetlands in this region, and none of them represent the natural state of this region prior to draining and channelization.

This region borders the Sand Area to the south, and is also surrounded by this region at its westernmost end. In the west half of this region, it is bordered to the north by the Valparaiso-Wheaton Morainal Complex. In the east, it is bordered to the north and northeast by the Battle Creek/Elkhart Outwash Plain. All of these areas are more topographically-diverse.


1. Woods, A.J, Omernik, J.M., Brockman, C.S., Gerber, T.D., Hosteter, W.D., Azevedo, S.H. "Ecoregions of Indiana and Ohio (Poster)", US Geological Survey (1998) Web.

2. Woods, A.J., Omernik, J.M., Pederson, C.L., Moran, B.C. "Level III and Level IV Ecoregions of Illinois", U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC (2006) Web.