Places We Protect

Kankakee Sands


Closeup of a blue butterfly in native habitat at Kankakee Sands.
Kankakee Sands Eastern tailed blue butterfly at Kankakee Sands, Newton County, Indiana. © Carol Freeman

The Kankakee Sands preserve supports one of the greatest concentrations of black oak savannas remaining in the United States.



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.

Why TNC Selected This Site

Oak savanna once 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 TNC 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.



Kankakee Sands is located in St. Anne and Pembroke Townships in Kankakee County.


Open sunrise to sunset


Kankakee Sands visitors can enjoy hiking and birdwatching in one of the greatest concentrations of black oak savannas remaining in the United States.

Explore our work in Illinois

Photos from Kankakee Sands

At 1,800 acres, Kankakee Sands sees a number of state-listed plant species and many bird species.

A barren tree in a grassy field at sunset.
Rattlesnake master flowers in a grassy field.
Light blue wildflowers.
A grasshopper sparrow standing on a branch.
Trees in a grassy field at Kankakee Sands.
A regal fritillary butterfly sitting on a wildflower.
A hoary puccoon insect sitting on a yellow flower.
Wildflowers in a grassy field.
A snow-covered field of grass.
A grassy field at Kankakee Sands.




    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.


    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.

  • Visitors can enjoy hiking and bird watching at the Kankakee Sands Preserve. Staff recommends wearing hiking boots, sunscreen and insect repellent.

    Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs) are not allowed.

  • For volunteer opportunities, please contact Rob Littiken at

Support Our Work in Illinois

You can help us do important conservation work at Kankakee Sands and beyond.

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Current Conservation Work

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

Find More Places We Protect

The Nature Conservancy owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

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