About Us

The Kankakee River Basin has long been known as a premier area for wildlife. People settled here and engage in conservation practices because of it. We recognize the past, current and future contributions of local, private landowners to wildlife and habitat conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, dedicated to the conservation of important places for wildlife conservation, joins the dedicated citizens in this area to support their conservation legacy. 

The refuge was formally authorized as the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in 2000. At the time of authorization, the refuge was intended as a place for habitat restoration and wildlife management of migratory birds, threatened and endangered species and aquatic resources within the Kankakee River Basin in Illinois and Indiana.  

Before the Service could officially establish the refuge by acquisition of the first land parcel, other priorities focused Service staff resources elsewhere. The Service turned attention back to the refuge at the request of the Governor of Illinois in 2012. The refuge was officially established in 2016 with the acceptance of a donation of land in Iroquois County from the Friends of Kankakee. At the same time, the Service renamed the refuge to its current name, Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area, as part of a process to modernize the original refuge concept. 

Our Mission

The mission of Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area is to protect, restore and manage ecological processes within the Kankakee River Basin. These lands benefit threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, native fish and diverse flora and fauna populations. The refuge also provides the public, to the extent possible, with high quality wildlife-dependent environmental education, interpretation and recreation experiences that build an understanding and appreciation for these resources and the role humankind plays in their stewardship. Refuge staff are working hard to achieve this mission, as well as to increase existing recreation opportunities for the continued enjoyment of all visitors.

Every national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

Learn more about national wildlife refuge
was created for a special purpose. Some were created to protect migratory birds, others to protect threatened or endangered species or unique habitats, while others fulfill another special purpose. All activities allowed on refuges must be evaluated to make sure each activity will not conflict with the reason the refuge was founded. 

Our Purpose

The purposes of Kankakee National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area are:  

  • For the development, advancement, management, conservation and protection of fish and wildlife resources (Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956)
  • For the conservation of the wetlands of the nation in order to maintain the public benefits they provide and to help fulfill international obligations contained in various migratory bird treaties and conventions (Emergency Wetlands Conservation Act of 1986)

The refuge serves as an avenue to restore, preserve and enhance grassland and wetland-dependent populations of fish and wildlife in the Kankakee River Basin. 

Our History

June 23, 2000 - The refuge was formally authorized. 

May 25, 2016 - The refuge was established with the donation of a 66-acre parcel of land from the Friends of the Kankakee.