Kankakee Sands

Why You Should Visit
Kankakee Sands takes its name from its sandy soils, which support globally significant oak barrens, prairies and sedge meadows. This region offers rich habitat for birds and small animals. The Mskoda Sands preserve contains some of the best examples of black oak barrens in the Midwest. Unspoiled sand dunes and swales stretch as far as the eye can see.

The Kankakee Sands region presents an unequaled opportunity to protect a naturally functioning landscape, which remains almost unchanged since pre-settlement times.

St. Anne and Pembroke Townships in Kankakee County, northeastern Illinois

Open sunrise to sunset

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Before European settlement, oak savanna covered about 27 to 32 million acres of the Midwest. By 1985, only 113 sites remained. Development has dramatically impacted the natural processes needed to maintain quality oak savanna ecosystems, making all the more important the preservation of what remains.

At nearly 1,800 acres of oak savanna, this preserve is part of a cross-state Conservancy project, on the border between Illinois and Indiana an hour south of Chicago. The project supports one of the greatest concentrations of black oak savannas remaining in the United States.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing
The Conservancy continually works to increase the protected acres of savanna in the Kankakee Sands project area and restore this land to help protect the natural functions of this unique and fragile ecosystem.

Working across borders with the Conservancy in Indiana, Illinois land stewards have restored nearly 200 acres of agricultural land to native prairie and constructed shallow wetlands at the Conservancy's Mskoda Sands Preserve. Conservancy staff performs prescribed burns at two of the largest protected tracts, and stewards worked to control invasive species. Additionally, the Conservancy is working with local officials to reduce the damage caused by trespassers riding all-terrain vehicles.


Turtle Dog Man

John Rucker walks through the Kankakee Sands Preserve with his trained dogs to help track and monitor ornate box turtles.

What to See: Plants
Barrens of stunted oak trees are scattered among a rich matrix of prairie grasses and wildflowers. The quality and extent of these barrens provide a rare opportunity to protect and restore a naturally functioning landscape. The Kankakee Sands area is home to a number of state-listed plant species, including the crowned-oval sedge, a species that was once thought to be extinct from the state.

What to See: Animals
Some of the animals you might see at Kankakee Sands include the Great Plains pocket gopher, six-lined race runner, glass lizard and bull snake. If bird watching is what you’re looking for, a few of the many species found here are the red-headed woodpecker, northern bobwhite, Henslow’s sparrow and green heron.

Map of Kankakee Sands Preserve

  • Hiking
  • Bird Watching

Volunteer Opportunities
For volunteer opportunities, please contact Rob Littiken at

While visiting, staff recommends wearing hiking boots, sunscreen and insect repellent.

For information on ADA accessibility and use of OPDMDs, click here.


From Chicago and points North, East and West:

  • Take I-57 S out of Chicago
  • To IL-17, exit (Exit 312) left/east toward Momence
  • Turn right/south onto IL-1
  • Turn left/east onto 4000S Rd.
  • Turn left/north onto 11000E Rd.
  • Proceed ¾ mile north on 11000E to parking area on left/west side of road.

From the South of Kankakee:

  • Take I-57 N
  • To IL-17, exit (Exit 312) right/east toward Momence
  • Turn right/south onto IL-1
  • Turn left/east onto 4000S Rd.
  • Turn left/north onto 11000E Rd.
  • Proceed ¾ mile north on 11000E to parking area on left/west side of road.

Have you been to this preserve? Are you thinking of visiting? See what others are saying about their experiences and add your comments below.

Add Your Comments

Time for you to join the discussion. Tell us about your experience at this preserve. What plants and animals did you see? When did you go? You can help others plan their visit when you share your thoughts. And thank you for visiting one of our nature preserves!

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