• By Kirk Gaw

"Grand Kankakee Marsh" The Serengeti Plain West Of Walkerton

The Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area is a protected ecosystem that covers 7,120 acres of plentiful, endangered species. It's grasses, riparian woodlands, wetlands, and crop fields are dedicated to providing hunting and fishing opportunities only a few miles west of Walkerton. The reserve has been in existence since the US Army kept it as a military arsenal going back to the 1940's.

The photography of Kankakee Marsh wildlife up close by Dave Bannwart. His experience capturing the animals of the refuge is breathtaking. His pictures are intimate and up close in nature.

After the base closed in the 1960s, the Grand Kankakee Marsh land was transferred to the State of Indiana for wildlife preservation. The park was established in 1965 by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources covering 11.2 square miles along the Kankakee River Valley. Unlike, the Tanzanian Serengeti National Park in Africa it is much smaller in comparison landwise, but not in amount of wild species!

While, the Serengeti has 70 large mammal and 500 bird species our Grand Kankakee Marsh area has an estimated 249 bird species alone! Then, there is the mammalian species at Kingsbury State Park; 55 types of fish, and 37 animal species. The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania was successfully established in 1951, but the attempt for the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues to be a struggle.

A bald eagle captured at the Kankakee Marsh area by photographer Dave Bannwart.

Back in 1996 the proposal for the Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge was denied by the Indiana and Illinois Congressional Delegations at the U.S. Department of the Interior hearings. The Grand Kankakee Marsh National Wildlife Refuge could have meant 33,000 acres of preserve. The endangered species today crave for this to be re-examined.

It is estimated that when 5,600,000 acres of wetlands that existed in Indiana prior to European settlement, a mere l3 percent now remain. Historically, about 85 percent of the wetland loss in Indiana has been for agricultural proposes with the remainder attributable to urban and industrial development (lndiana DNR, 1988). Currently, the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife and the Service estimate an annual loss of 5 percent of remaining wetlands.

A blue heron swallows a snake as observed in the nearby Kankakee wilds of Walkerton taken by Dave Bannwart.

That hasn't stopped residents from witnessing a resurgence of wildlife? We see an abundance of creature photographs from area photographers like Kelly Bussie, Nancy and Chad Addie, Carl Galloway, Anita Shipley, Steve Jacobs, Carrie Cobb, Phil Whitmer, Todd Back, Zachary Heck, and Dave Bannwart. Without their perspectives on the outdoors we would be at a loss of variety of pictures depicting the struggles of the wilds of the region.

Mary and husband photographer Dave Bannwart today, live in LaPorte County.

I spoke with Dave Bannwart, about his experiences at the Kankakee Marshlands since his first visit 4 years ago. He said, "I read an article about some hunters who found an injured bald eagle there and with the help of the DNR they transported the bird to a rehab center."

"I went once and have been going back weekly ever since." Dave Bannwart added, "I'm not sure I have a favorite part because the entire wildlife area is simply fascinating. Of course, the Grand Marsh is a major wildlife attraction. When it comes to wildlife there the word that stands out is DIVERSITY. Kingsbury has it all! What ever bird/animal is native to this area can be found at KWA."

These candid pictures of the Kingsbury Wildlife Area by Dave Bannwart epitomize the struggles of the wild.

Dave has witnessed a multitude of wildlife. He went on, "bald eagles, blue herons, green herons, ospreys, turkey vultures, turkeys, and every kind of hawk imaginable!"

"American kestrels (the smallest Falcon in North America), northern harriers, peregrin falcons, multiple species of owls, white egrets, trumpeter swans and mute swans."

The US Department of Fish and Wildlife would be impressed with Dave's interactions? "Sandhill cranes, pheasants, every songbird imaginable, and of course eastern blue birds, cardinals, redwing blackbirds, kingfishers, many types of warblers, every duck imaginable in this area, numerous types of sparrows. And on and on and on."

Also, Dave witnessed "american mink, muskrats, beavers, skunks, fox, coyotes, deer snakes and turtles." I asked him about if he saw anything rare? He exclaimed, "The rarest thing I have seen there, last year about 8 pelicans hung out on the Grand Marsh for about a week!" Then I asked what his favorite find is? "My favorite? Gosh, several. Bald eagles, blue and green herons, yellow warblers and prothonotary warblers, and belted kingfishers. I also like the gigantic turkey vultures. These are all on my list of favorite!"

Variety photographed by Dave Bannwart at the Kingsbury Wildlife Area.

And Dave Bannwart is only one person randomly spoken about the wildlife here! Not much is delivered on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Kingsbury or Kankakee Marsh Wildlife websites as far as a collective list of known species there today? But, the 1996 study from the US Fish & Wildlife Service for US Department of the Interior is relative.

Someday, experts will get back to the drawing board to reestablish this important study recognizing the escape of endangered species here in the Kankakee Valley! Including Oak Tree Savannah's once also plentiful in Indiana but only a small percentage remains today.

From the lense of Dave Bannwart photography precious endangered wildlife at the Kingsbury Wildlife Area.

Animals, birds, fish, tree's, insects, flora and fauna! It's all waiting to be rediscovered! Thankfully, The Walkerton Page has made our readers aware of private attempts by JF Cardno who has a regional office headquartered right here in Walkerton with a professional perspective to restore natural resources. That is something also, to be discovered.

* US Department Of The Interior

* US Fish & Wildlife Service

* Indiana Department Of Natural Resources

#FurBabiesForever #FeatherFestival #Aquaman #KankakeeValleyAmphibians #BirdsOfAFeather

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