Kaskaskia River
The Kaskaskia River is a tributary of the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

, approximately 325 miles (523 km) long, in central and southern Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The second largest river system within Illinois, it drains a rural area of farms, as well as rolling hills along river bottoms of hardwood forests in its lower reaches.

"Cascasquia" is an alternative, supposedly more French, spelling of "Kaskaskia" that is sometimes encountered. It was named after a clan of the Illiniwek
The Illinois Confederation, sometimes referred to as the Illiniwek or Illini, were a group of twelve to thirteen Native American tribes in the upper Mississippi River valley of North America...

 encountered by the early French
French people
The French are a nation that share a common French culture and speak the French language as a mother tongue. Historically, the French population are descended from peoples of Celtic, Latin and Germanic origin, and are today a mixture of several ethnic groups...

 Jesuits and other settlers. "Okaw River" was an alternative name for the Kaskaskia that persists in place names along the river, including Okawville
Okawville, Illinois
Okawville is a village in Washington County, Illinois, United States. The population was 1,434 at the 2010 census.-Geography:Okawville is located at...

, and in a major tributary, the West Okaw River
West Okaw River
thumb|rightThe West Okaw River is a tributary of the Kaskaskia River, which it joins in Moultrie County, Illinois. The West Okaw forms an arm of Lake Shelbyville where the natural rivers used to meet....



The Kaskaskia rises in east central Illinois in several farm ditches along the west side of Champaign
Champaign, Illinois
Champaign is a city in Champaign County, Illinois, in the United States. The city is located south of Chicago, west of Indianapolis, Indiana, and 178 miles northeast of St. Louis, Missouri. Though surrounded by farm communities, Champaign is notable for sharing the campus of the University of...

. The headwaters of the river is just north of Interstate 74
Interstate 74
Interstate 74 is an Interstate Highway in the Midwestern and Southeastern United States. Its western end is at an intersection with Interstate 80 in Davenport, Iowa; the eastern end of its Midwest segment is at an intersection with Interstate 75 in Cincinnati, Ohio...

, where it is marked with a sign. The river flows south across rural Champaign
Champaign County, Illinois
Champaign County is a county located in the U.S. state of Illinois. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 201,081, which is an increase of 11.9% from 179,669 in 2000.. It is the 10th most populous county in Illinois...

 and Douglas counties, then southwest across southern Illinois, past Vandalia
Vandalia, Illinois
Vandalia is a city in Fayette County, Illinois, United States, northeast of St. Louis, on the Kaskaskia River. From 1819 to 1839 it served as the state capital of Illinois. Vandalia was the western terminus of the National Road. Today it is the county seat of Fayette County and the home of the...

. It joins the Mississippi from the north approximately 10 miles (16.1 km) northwest of Chester
Chester, Illinois
Chester is a city located on the bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley in Randolph County, Illinois, United States. The population was 8,400 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Randolph County and is located south of St. Louis, Missouri.-History:...

 and 40 miles (64.4 km) south-southeast of St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

. The watershed of the river encompasses approximately 5746 square miles (14,882.1 km²), approximately 10.2% of the state of Illinois.
The Kaskaskia is impounded in Shelby County to form Lake Shelbyville
Lake Shelbyville
Lake Shelbyville is a reservoir located in Shelby County, Illinois and Moultrie County, Illinois created by damming the Kaskaskia River at Shelbyville, Illinois. The lake's normal surface pool is at an elevation of . The area that surrounds the lake is the Shelbyville State Fish and Wildlife Area...

. It is also impounded in Clinton County
Clinton County, Illinois
-Demographics: As of the census of 2000, there were 35,535 people, 12,754 households, and 9,221 families residing in the county. The population density was 75 people per square mile . There were 13,805 housing units at an average density of 29 per square mile...

 southwest of Vandalia to form Carlyle Lake
Carlyle Lake
Carlyle Lake is a reservoir largely located in Clinton County, Illinois, with smaller portions of the lake within Bond and Fayette counties. It is the largest man-made lake in Illinois, and the largest lake wholly contained within the state.-History:...


For most of the 19th century, the river joined the Mississippi at Chester. Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 of river banks of the Mississippi and tributaries to fuel the hundreds of steamboat
A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...

s that plied the river had several significant environmental effects: destabilizing the banks, causing the Mississippi to become wider and more shallow, causing more severe flooding and leading to lateral channel changes in the American Bottoms area. In the aftermath of a major 1881 flood, the Mississippi changed its channel and moved east to flow along the lower 10 miles (16.1 km) of the channel of the Kaskaskia, shifting the confluence 10 miles north. As a result, a small portion of Illinois, including the former capital, Kaskaskia
Kaskaskia, Illinois
Kaskaskia is a village in Randolph County, Illinois, United States. In the 2010 census the population was 14, making it the second-smallest incorporated community in the State of Illinois in terms of population. A major French colonial town of the Illinois Country, its peak population was about...

, was cut off from Illinois when the river moved to its east side. It is now located on the west side of the Mississippi. The community of Kaskaskia can now only be reached from the Missouri shore. The Kaskaskia River State Fish & Wildlife Area is located along the lower river in southern Illinois.

Fort Kaskaskia was located near the mouth of the river in Randolph County
Randolph County, Illinois
Randolph County is a county located in the U.S. state of Illinois. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 33,476, which is a decrease of 1.2% from 33,893 in 2000. Its county seat is Chester....


External links

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