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Monday, October 18, 2021

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A Naturalist’s Guide to Kankakee in the Spring

April Showers

Kankakee County is home to dozens of places where area residents can enjoy native wildflowers in full bloom during the early Spring. Though many will wait for violets and sunflowers to come up in their garden, the real treasures of the season are found a bit farther from home. For native wildflower viewing, nowhere in the county quite measures up to Pembroke Savanna.

This preserve, managed by The Nature Conservancy, contains 84 acres of the endangered black oak savanna habitat. Visitors can expect to see a wide variety of native wildflowers including phlox, asters, and the rare bird’s foot violet. This preserve makes for a great destination to revisit throughout the warm months, as the flowers in bloom are always changing with the seasons.

For the Birds

Kankakee County residents may have already noticed the return of some early spring migrants such as the red-winged blackbird and the common grackle. These species are just the very beginning, as more and more bird species will be moving through the area as the season gets warmer. Ducks, shorebirds, and brilliantly-colored warblers will all make their way north over the coming months.

For experienced birders, try Perry Farms or Willowhaven Park in Bourbonnais for the best warbler migration viewing. If you are new to birdwatching, the Kankakee Valley Audubon Club offers weekly spring bird walks to help introduce you to the world of ornithology. Their Spring trips begin on April 28th at the Kankakee River State Park.

Tight Lines

It’s no secret that the Kankakee River offers some of the best fishing in Illinois throughout the year. Anglers hoping to throw out a line as temperatures rise can find excellent bank fishing at the Kankakee River State Park, as well as the Momence, Kankakee, and Wilmington dams.

Try erratic hard plastics like crankbaits and spinnerbaits for pre-spawn smallmouth bass. If you prefer walleye, brightly-colored grubs thrown into current breaks should do the trick. If you’re looking for a good place to fish with kids, Willowhaven has two easy-access fishing docks and a pond full of bass and bluegill for catch-and-release.

Educational Events

With area schools on Spring Break in a couple weeks, kids can look forward to a few fun events held at the Willowhaven Nature Center. From Tuesday-Thursday (March 24-26), parents are encouraged to bring their kids out for a Nature Scavenger Hunt each day at 10 am.

Willowhaven will also be hosting a Live Animal Presentation on Friday, March 27, at 3 pm. Events are open to the public, with a suggested donation of $2.

Get Outside, and Enjoy!

Kankakee County is a great place to go out and enjoy the warming weather and experience nature as springtime welcomes new life all around the area. Whether you search for bass, birds, or bird’s foot violets, I hope you enjoy the great outdoors this season.

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