Kankakee Sands

In pre-settlement times, the Beaver Lake region of northwest Indiana was the largest wetland complex in the U.S. outside of the Everglades.

Converted to drained and tiled farmland over the decades, the immense landscape was acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 1998 – to become the largest wetland and prairie restoration of its kind ever undertaken.

AES ecologists who designed the restoration first studied site histories, aerial photos, technical literature and early settlers written reports. Hydrologists studied drainage and runoff modeling. Engineers developed construction plans and specifications, and labor and cost analyses.

Ultimately, the AES staff and TNC team collaboration produced a comprehensive restoration and management plan for the 7,300 property. All maps and data were supported in an ArcInfo GIS platform with high-resolution topographic mapping, soils, drainage and other data sets.

The final design, which AES was subsequently hired to install, included 5,200 acres of wetland habitat, including 1,200 acres of emergent wetland, along with 2,000 acres of mesic prairie and savanna ecosystems.

Today, the regional wetland preserve is home and habitat for over 600 native plants, insects and animals, many who have colonized the restored areas from neighboring state preserves.  Visitors can find more than 100 rare, threatened or endangered species at Kankakee Sands, including several important bird species.

Project Highlights:

  • Seeded initial 2,000 acres with innovative, agricultural-inspired restoration techniques
  • Established 200-acre on-site nursery for propagation of native-species seed and plants for the project
  • Trained TNC personnel in restoration, management and nursery skills to continue project
  • Revised original plans to allow for over 200 native species  rather than only a few, then provided the species through the on-site nursery
  • Efficient execution of restoration and management plans allowed project to be turned over to TNC management six years ahead of schedule

Newton County, Indiana
7,300 acres
1998-2003 | Ongoing


appliedecoKankakee Sands