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Kankakee, Illinois

City of Kankakee
Kankakee County Courthouse
City of Restaurants
Location of Kankakee in Illinois
Location of Kankakee in Illinois
Country United States
State  Illinois
County Kankakee
Established 1853
Incorporated (city) 1865
 • Type Mayor-Council
 • Total 15.62 sq mi (40.44 km2)
 • Land 15.14 sq mi (39.20 km2)
 • Water 0.48 sq mi (1.24 km2)
656 ft (200 m)
 • Total 24,052
 • Density 1,588.95/sq mi (613.51/km2)
Demonym(s) Kankakeean
Time zone UTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code
Area codes 815, 779
FIPS code 17-38934
GNIS feature ID 411300

Kankakee is a city in and the county seat of Kankakee County, Illinois, United States. As of 2020, the city's population was 24,052. The city's name is probably derived from the Miami-Illinois word teeyaahkiki, meaning: "Open country/exposed land/land in open/land exposed to view", in reference to the area's prior status as a marsh. Kankakee is a principal city of the Kankakee-Bourbonnais-Bradley Metropolitan Statistical Area. It serves as an anchor city in the rural plains outside Chicago, similar to Aurora and Joliet.


The area of Kankakee was inhabited by the Potawatami beginning sometime in the 18th century. In 1833 the Potawatami signed a treaty with the United States government, agreeing to leave the region and move west. Kankakee was founded in 1854.


Kankakee is located at 41°7′12″N 87°51′36″W / 41.12000°N 87.86000°W / 41.12000; -87.86000 (41.12, −87.86).

According to the 2010 census, Kankakee has a total area of 14.62 square miles (37.87 km2), of which 14.14 square miles (36.62 km2) (or 96.72%) is land and 0.48 square miles (1.24 km2) (or 3.28%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 5,651
1890 9,025 59.7%
1900 13,595 50.6%
1910 13,986 2.9%
1920 16,753 19.8%
1930 20,620 23.1%
1940 22,241 7.9%
1950 25,856 16.3%
1960 27,666 7.0%
1970 27,575 −0.3%
1980 29,633 7.5%
1990 30,944 4.4%
2000 27,491 −11.2%
2010 27,537 0.2%
2020 24,052 −12.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
2010 2020

2020 census

Kankakee city, Illinois - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 10,432 8,096 37.88% 33.66%
Black or African American alone (NH) 11,128 9,233 40.41% 38.39%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 54 62 0.20% 0.26%
Asian alone (NH) 175 116 0.64% 0.48%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 3 3 0.01% 0.01%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 39 107 0.14% 0.44%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 599 916 2.18% 3.81%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 5,107 5,519 18.55% 22.95%
Total 27,537 24,052 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.

2019 United States Census Bureau American Community Survey estimates

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Racial Makeup of Kankakee (2019)      White alone (51.70%)     Black alone (41.33%)     Native American alone (0.55%)     Asian alone (0.51%)     Pacific Islander alone (0.01%)     Some other race alone (4.44%)     Two or more races (1.47%)

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Racial Makeup of Kankakee excluding Hispanics from Racial Categories (2019)
NH=Non-Hispanic      White NH (38.42%)     Black NH (41.29%)     Native American NH (0.53%)     Asian NH (0.51%)     Pacific Islander NH (0.01%)     Other race NH (0.01%)     Two or more races NH (0.75%)     Hispanic Any Race (18.50%)

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Racial Makeup of Hispanics in Kankakee (2019)      White alone (71.79%)     Black alone (0.21%)     Native American alone (0.08%)     Asian alone (0.01%)     Pacific Islander alone (0.01%)     Other race alone (24.02%)     Two or more races (3.89%)


Kankakee aerial
Aerial view of Kankakee. The confluence of Iroquois River and Kankakee River is visible on the left edge of the frame.


Kankakee is served by the Greater Kankakee Airport, a general aviation facility located in the southern portion of Kankakee.

The Kankakee Valley Airport Authority was formed in 1957. The location of the airport was chosen South of Kankakee in 1959. The Greater Kankakee Airport has been officially serving the Kankakee community since 1962. It is located 50 miles south of downtown Chicago and 70 miles north of Champaign, directly along Interstate 57 at the 308 exit. In 1966 the main runway was expanded, successfully attracting a commercial carrier. Air Wisconsin, Inc. began operating in 1967. Due to the commercial operations the Airport was able to build the terminal building in 1968, which is still standing today. The airport continues to serve the community though general aviation and is home to over 100 private hangars housing helicopter, single-engine aircraft, ultralights, and turbine powered aircraft.

The Greater Kankakee Airport was featured in The Hunter.

The Greater Kankakee Airport has received recognition over the years for its outstanding service to Kankakee County. The airport was awarded the "General Aviation – Publicly Owned Airport Of The Year" award by the Illinois Division of Aeronautics in 2001 and 2012.

In September 2013, the Army National Guard broke ground on the Army Aviation Support Facility, which was completed in 2017. The facility houses 13 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters.

Greater Kankakee Airport covers an area of 950 acres (380 ha) (384 ha) at an elevation of 629 feet (192 m) above mean sea level. It has two runways with asphalt surfaces: 4/22 is 5,981 by 100 feet (1,823 x 30 m) and 16/34 is 4,398 by 75 feet (1,341 x 23 m).


Amtrak provides service to Kankakee from the Kankakee Amtrak Station. Amtrak operates the City of New Orleans, the Illini, and the Saluki with each train running once daily in both directions.


Interstate 57 runs east–west in the southern part of the city and turns north–south in the eastern part of Kankakee. United States Highways US 45 and US 52 run concurrently forming, along with Illinois Route IL 50, the major north–south thoroughfares through Kankakee. Illinois Route IL 17 is the major east–west road that bisects the city.

Public transportation

The River Valley Metro Mass Transit District (RVMMTD; River Valley Metro or METRO, for short) operates the region's transit bus system. Service runs seven days a week to locations in Kankakee as well as the nearby cities of Aroma Park, Bradley, Bourbonnais, and Manteno. All of the Kankakee routes are stationed out of the Chestnut & North Schuyler Transfer Station. River Valley Metro operates 12 fixed-regular bus routes and 2 commuter routes. The Midway and University Park commuter routes were added January 5, 2014, and in August 2015 River Valley Metro added a second Midway route to its schedule. In January 2016, a second University Park route was added.

Kankakee Valley Park District

Kankakee Valley Park District has 37 parks, comprising a total of 600 acres (2.4 km2). Facilities include an outdoor aquatic park, indoor ice skating rink, 1000 seat recreation center, dog park, campground and a 72 boat slip marina on the beautiful Kankakee River. Fishing is plentiful as the district has 13 riverfront parks as well as a 5-acre stocked quarry. The district also features 2 softball complexes that have both been recently inducted into the Softball Hall of Fame. The KVPD is home to annual State and World Series tournaments drawing nearly 50,000 spectators throughout the year. The KVPD also hosts one of the biggest BBQ Festivals in the Midwest every July. The KVPD is the proud home to our area youth baseball leagues as several teams throughout the system have gone on not only to win State Championships but to advance to the Little League World Series.

In popular culture

  • David Letterman donated two gazebos to Kankakee in 1999 after the city was rated the 354th best metropolitan area in the country to live out of 354 metropolitan areas. The Kankakee, IL Metropolitan Statistical Area is also one of the smallest Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the United States and rates #338 in population.
  • The movie The Unborn (2009) was partially filmed in Samuel H. Shapiro Developmental Center in Kankakee. Other movies to have been filmed in Kankakee County are The Hunter (1980), Child's Play (1988), Chain Reaction (1996), Road to Perdition (2002), Adia (2006, short film), The Missing Peace (2006, short film), The Merry Gentleman (2008), and Demon Joe (2009).
  • Kankakee is mentioned in several songs, including:
    • "Innocent Bessie Brown", words and music by Irving Berlin, written in 1910, sung by the Broadway performer Ethel Green
    • "They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back from the Dead!! Ahhhh!", words and music by Sufjan Stevens, from his 2005 album "Illinois".
    • "City of New Orleans", words and music by Steve Goodman.
  • This American Life on April 10, 2015, analysed Kankakee and its title of the worst city in America.

Local architecture

  • Frank Lloyd Wright designed two houses in the Riverview section of the city, located on South Harrison Ave. The B. Harley Bradley House and the Warren Hickox House both still stand today.
  • The current Kankakee courthouse was built from 1909 to 1912 in the Neo-classical Revivalist style in the wake of the 1893 Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World's Fair) as part of the City Beautiful movement. The architect was Zachary Taylor Davis who had previously worked with Frank Lloyd Wright when both worked as draftsmen for Louis Sullivan.

Kankakee River

Phone photos 944
Kankakee River

The Kankakee River is a river that runs through Kankakee. It is approximately 133 miles long and is a major attraction and is viewed as a defining landmark of Kankakee. The Kankakee River provides the town vital resources and an economic boost. The river water is refined at the Kankakee water company, and electricity is generated at the Kankakee River Dam. The fishing also provides a tourist attraction for outdoors men and women alike.

Kankakee River in Flood (Kankakee, IL)
US 45 & 52 – South Washington Street crossing the Kankakee River in flood.


Higher education

Organized in 1966 by a group of citizens, Kankakee Community College was established to provide a post-secondary educational resource for the people of the Kankakee area. The college offered its first classes in September 1968. It serves as an educational, vocational, and recreational center for residents of Community College District 520, an area encompassing all or part of Kankakee County, Iroquois County, Ford County, Grundy County, Livingston County, and Will County and serving a population of approximately 150,000. In its College Credit Division, KCC awards associate degrees, associate in Applied Science degrees and certificates of completion. Students attend KCC both to prepare to transfer to four-year institutions and complete bachelor's degrees and to prepare to enter the job market directly from KCC. Kankakee Community College serves over 6,000 students annually and the average class size is 16. The ratio of part-time to full-time students at Kankakee Community College is 3 to 1.

Primary and secondary education

Public schools are part of the Kankakee School District 111. In Kankakee, there are Five elementary schools (Edison, Mark Twain, Lincoln Cultural Center Montessori, Steuben, and Taft), two middle schools (Kennedy and King), one junior high school (Kankakee Junior High), and one high school (Kankakee High) in the district, the latter from 1966 to 1983 having been separated to two separate high schools, Eastridge and Westview. Kankakee is also home to three private high schools: Bishop McNamara Catholic School (Catholic), Grace Christian Academy (non-denominational), and Kankakee Trinity Academy (inter-denominational).

See also

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