Northwest Indiana Birding Opportunities - Kankakee Sands Nature Conservancy
The Efroymson Restoration at Kankakee Sands in Newton County is a birder and wildflower enthusiast's paradise.
The 7,000+ acres are home to an amazing array of birds, wildflowers, plants, and animals that fills the prairie with song and sights to behold. The restored grasslands, wet prairies, and wetlands have proven a hotspot for both migrating and breeding prairie species that are generally hard to find throughout the state. This includes Bell’s Vireo, Blue Grosbeak, Western Meadowlark, Bobolink, Lark Sparrow, and state endangered Henslow’s Sparrow.
Early morning visitors can hear Northern Bobwhite throughout the property from the many roadsides, and various parking lots allow for ventures into the prairies to explore. Areas to the east of US 41 harbor the most Grasshopper and Henslow’s Sparrows, and areas with recent burns are the best to search for Lark Sparrow. Early morning visits near any wetland or wet ditch can often harbor American Bittern in the appropriate season. Recent restoration work in Unit J is providing excellent waterfowl habitat, and flooded field on County Road 225 N usually harbors migrating shorebirds.
For animal lovers, the recently introduced bison are usually the show stealers, which works out well as Bell’s Vireo and Blue Grosbeaks have been seen in recent years right at the viewing area. If you visit in the off-season, the bison are feeding in the north prairies and more easily viewable. Visits from fall through spring are also notable as a healthy wintering population of Short-eared Owls hunt the property at dusk. Driving the various roads will often encounter multiple birds throughout the prairie. Visitors should be careful not to block local vehicular traffic, however. An added spring bonus has been the reliable Smith’s Longspurs that migrate through this part of the state each April. Check eBird sightings for updates and specific locations.
eBird Hotspot Link:
Total Birding Time:
Best Times to Bird: Winter can be excellent for wintering owls and Rough-legged Hawks. March through June is when Kankakee Sands is at its best with migrating and breeding prairie birds.
3294 N US 41
Morocco, IN 47963
The preserve spans several miles of local roads, but the main office is at the address listed above. Most visitors will access via US 41, whether coming from the north or south. From I-65, the Fair Oaks exit 220 on State Road 14 is the most common route. The bison viewing area is located one mile west on 400 W. Signs point visitors to this lot.
Hours: Regular visiting hours are dawn to dusk.
Ownership: The Nature Conservancy
Restrictions: Parking should only be done in designated lots. Unit restrictions take place seasonally, depending on where the bison are feeding. Roadside parking is generally prohibited.
Parking: Multiple parking lots exist throughout the property.
Nearby Amenities: Portable restrooms are available at both the bison viewing area and main office. Nearby Fair Oaks Farm approximately ten miles away has modern facilities, café dining options, and lodging.
Accessibility: One established trail exists at the main office. Other hiking is done off trail.
Written by: Brad Bumgardner
Photo by: Lisa and Randy Vanderbilt