About Kankakee Sands
The Efroymson Restoration at Kankakee Sands is 8,400 acres of prairies and wetlands, owned and managed by the Indiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC), that serve as a connecting piece between Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area, Beaver Lake Nature Preserve, Conrad Savanna Nature Preserve and TNC’s Conrad Station Savanna. Together these natural areas total over 20,000 acres of dry, mesic and wet sand prairies, sand blows, sedge meadows, wetlands, and black oak savannas in Northwest Indiana. These natural areas are home to more than 86 rare threatened and endangered species.
More than 600 species of native plants have been used to plant the prairies of Kankakee Sands and as a result, the land is teeming with native wildlife. Kankakee Sands provides habitat for more than 240 bird species, including such rare species as the Henslow’s sparrow, northern harrier and least bittern.
Kankakee Sands is also home to 70 species of butterflies, including the state-endangered regal fritillary butterfly, and more than 900 species of moths! Dragonflies, bees, frogs, lizards, snakes, badger, and bison all hover, slither and roam at Kankakee Sands.
History of Kankakee Sands
In December of 1996, The Nature Conservancy purchased 7,200 acres of agricultural ground in Newton County and began the process of converting these acres to the diverse prairies of today’s Kankakee Sands.
Even further back in history, the land that is now Kankakee Sands was once part of the Grand Kankakee Marsh system and the home of Beaver Lake, then the largest lake in Indiana – seven miles long and 5 miles wide. It was a shallow lake, only 10 feet at the deepest, filled with vegetation and wildlife. The historical area has been referred to as “the Everglades of the North”, and there is a documentary of the same name describing the rich history of the land and the draining of the lake which took place in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
About the Restoration
In 1997, the work to convert the agricultural ﬁelds to prairie began. Much historical research was done to understand the complicated prairie systems that would have historically existed and the plants that would have been a part of those prairies.
More than 600 species of plants are native to the area, and those species are used to revegetate the land of Kankakee Sands.
Successful prairie plantings require regular prescribed burns and decades of work managing invasive species. Invasive plant species, such as reed canary grass and phragmites, as well as woody plants threaten the open prairie. Prescribed ﬁre is used to recreate the effects of natural wildﬁres that historically occurred here. Fire beneﬁts include releasing nutrients into the soil, spurring seeds to germinate, prompting ﬂowers to bloom and controlling tree seedlings that encroach on the grassland.
Partners in the Project
The Efroymson Restoration at Kankakee Sands has been made possible through partnerships with the Division of Fish & Wildlife, Division of Nature Preserves, Indiana Department of Environmental Management, Indiana Heritage Trust, Indiana Grand Company, Lilly Endowment, National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, Natural Resources Conservation Services and the generous support of our donors.