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Aukiki River Festival


Go here to view 2011 Aukiki River Festival video 

Go here to view 2011 Aukiki River Festival slide show 

Go here to view 2010 Aukiki River Festival video 

Go here to view 2009 Aukiki River Festival video   

Go here to view video of 2008 Aukiki River Festival

August 25 & 26, 2012

Aukiki River Festival celebrates the Kankakee River

Step back in time Aug. 25 & 26, 2012

Awarded 2011 "Festival of the Year" by Indiana Dunes Tourism

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Aukiki River Festival site map

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Participant List

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 List of activities and demonstrators  

Susan and Gary Brown

More information about Susan and Gary Brown

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Listen to Susan and Gary


Quilting Party

View Susan and Gary Brown

View Susan and Gary Brown video at the 2009 Aukiki River Festival.  

Trios Canards

more information about Trios Canards

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Listen to Trois Canards

Le Vent Frivolent

Ah Si Mon Moine

View Trois Canards

View Trois Canards video at the 2009 Aukiki River Festival.  


View Trois Canards and Susan & Gary Brown performing The Paddle Dance. 


20th Indiana Co. B

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42nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry

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42nd Indiana video snippet  


 As seen in Public Enemies.  Jim Lambert and his 1934 Ford 

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View Jim Lambert's 1934 Ford snippet video  

1934 Ford at 2010 Aukiki River Festival snippet video


Porter County Sheriff David Lain will display the John Dillinger Thompson "Tommy" gun

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Sheriff David Lain and Dillinger "Tommy" gun at 2010 Aukiki River Festival


Country Singer Trilly Cole

Trilly Cole's website link

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Trilly Cole 

Country star Trilly Cole at 2010 Aukiki River Festival video snippet


Perry McLemore-BlacksmithsWright 

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Blacksmith demonstration at 2010 Aukiki River Festival snippet video

Sunbury Merchant

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Keith Ryder- Early trap & skeet demonstration

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View Keith Ryder and his antique shotgun display snippet video.  


Ogden's  Company of Rogers' Rangers and Young's Rangers  

website link

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Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War recruitment encampment

website link

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Isle a la Cache Brigade

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Isle a la Cache Brigade website


The Kankakee Alliance French Voyager encampment

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Cindy Deardorff & Judy Judge - Native-American encampment

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Ruth Bicknese Native-American flute demonstration

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View Native-American encampment video snippet

Native-American encampment at 2010 Aukiki River Festival video snippet


Fur Trapper encampment

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View Black powder muzzle loading snippet video

View tomahawk demonstration snippet video   

View tomahawk throw demonstration from 2010 Aukiki River Festival 

View reenactor encampment snippet video

Fire starting demonstration at 2010 Aukiki River Festival


Art Willing-Storyteller & Toymaker

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View Art Willing snippet video.

Aukiki River Festival participant page

Food Vendor

B & J Specialties 


Celebrating history, promoting restoration

Aukiki River Festival brings Kankakee River history to life


By CHERI SHELHART editor@kvpost.net

August 8, 2013

BAUMíS BRIDGE ó On Aug. 24 and 25, a festival will celebrate the history of the once great Grand Kankakee Marsh and bring awareness of restoring the river and wildlife that once thrived in abundance along the river. The festival, the Aukiki River Festival, is in its sixth year with the celebration of the sesquicentennial of Baumís Bridge.

Baumís Bridge connects Jasper and Porter Counties and is a historical passage across the once wide river. The Kankakee Valley Historical Society hosts this annual event on the Porter County side at Collierís Lodge, the last of the hunting lodges that once dotted the landscape along the river. The festival will feature live historical demonstrations from various eras. The site was the location of archeological digs for several years with artifacts as old as 10,000 years found at the lodge.

At Jasper County Road 125 West, Baumís Bridge has been known by different names, Indian Crossing, Potawatomi Ford, Sherwood Ferry, Eatonís Ferry and Sawyerís Bridge. Bought by Enos Baum in 1860, the area consisted of a mill and a ferry, which took travelers across until Baum built a stable bridge in 1863. It was a toll bridge until the close of the Civil War, when Jasper and Porter Counties took over the maintenance of the bridge. The small community that existed at that time called the area Baumís Bridge and the name has stuck over the 150 years.

The Collier Lodge is the last remaining building at Baumís Bridge and was purchased in 2000 by John P. Hodson and his wife. The couple established the KVHS in hopes of raising the funds to restore the lodge to its former glory. The Aukiki Festival is a way to bring awareness of the rich history of the area and the desire to restore the historical building.

The area, once settlers began arriving, became a popular place to hunt and fish. Hunting clubs were built, bringing presidents and royalty to the Kankakee River. Soon, speculators were looking at the river as a hindrance to the growth of the region after Indiana attained statehood in 1816. Some thought the marsh should be drained and the land used for farming.

From 1906 to 1918, the federal government "straightened" the Kankakee River in Indiana, reducing the once grand river from a "meandering 270 mile river to a 90 mile straight ditch," Hodson wrote in his bi-weekly column for a Lake County newspaper titled, "River Bits."

Where once the skies were blackened by the flocks of migrating birds and the river abundant with wildlife, the impact of the straightening of the river was almost immediate. The number of wildlife was drastically reduced. Waterfowl changed their migratory flights to areas in Illinois.

Through the KVHS and other organizations, promoting the restoration of the wetlands is top priority as well as keeping the history of the area alive.

The Hodsons werenít looking to history when they began buying land in the area. Their third to last parcel of the 150 acres they purchased had a building on it built in 1898. A farmer from the area explained the history of the building to the couple, who were fascinated by the story. They soon learned there was more history to be heard and founded the historical society.

For 10 years, the site at Baumís Bridge was the site of an archeological dig by students at Notre Dame. A new type of point was found buried beneath the sand and dirt near Collierís Inn, which was named after Hodson, called Hodsonís Corner Notch. Native Americans built tools from rock, and along with the usual collection of arrowheads were found hammer heads and other tools built by the ancient river dwellers.

Baumís Bridge and the hunters clubs faded out of existence in the 1930s, ending the heyday of tourists and hunters to the area. Hodson said the river really isnít a river any more. It is the Marble Powers ditch, named after a Jasper County commissioner (Marbles) and an engineer (Powers).

At the Aukiki River Festival, Hodson said, "We celebrate the history of the river and those with influence on it." This includes French trappers, Native Americans, hunters and soldiers from the French/Indian War and the Civil War. There are a number of encampments set up at the festival. There will be black powder demonstrations, tomahawk and ax throwing demonstrations, music and food from times past.

Hodson said the demonstrators interact with visitors and celebrate hundreds of years of history up to the 1930s, when the historical era finally ended. New this year is a French voyager story teller. There will be vendors as well. Each year, more vendors are added and new historical acts.

The historical society were able to acquire a log cabin built in 1864 that once sat close to Lake Michigan in what is now the Indiana Dunes State Park. The cabin was discovered inside a more modern structure and rather than destroying it, was moved to Portage after having been moved twice before that. The Portage Historical Society didnít have the funds to restore the cabin and the KVHS took it off their hands.

Volunteers carefully disassembled the building, which was only 60 percent intact. The historical society plans to rebuild the cabin. Salvageable timbers from a similar cabin that burned in the Chesterton area were recovered for this project. Hodson said a number of fallen oak trees on his properties will provide timber as well. He found a sawmill that will make smaller boards for the cabin but is still looking for a way to cut the larger logs that are 30 inches in diameter and 26 feet long.

Hodson said the Portage Historical Society had estimated the cost of restoring the cabin at $495,000 but the Kankakee Valley Historical Society plans to get it done for less than $500 through donations and volunteer labor. Already, some Boy Scouts have helped out and the Portage ROTC. The Lake County Power and Steam Club has cut up some of the timber.

In the future, the KVHS has plans to move Lake County Bridge #2, which is being rebuilt at Jasper County Road 1200 West. They have to move the bridge to the Baumís Bridge area. It is a one lane wooden bridge joining Lake, Newton and Jasper counties by the Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park. The organization needs the money to move and install the bridge.

According to an article on the Historical Societyís website, they are looking at a transportation enhancement grant. Porter County Surveyor Kevin Breitzke suggested they could float the bridge down the river to the Baumís Bridge site.



Aukiki Festival like a step back in time


August15, 2013

KOUTS | Get ready to step back in time for the annual Aukiki River Festival in Kouts on Aug. 24 and 25 as re-enactors bring the history of the Kankakee River region back to life.

John Hodson, executive director of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society, which hosts the event, said that the event has grown in past years and is always popular with families.

"People are just attracted to historical events and we donít just focus on one era. We have a cast of characters that are part of this regionís history, from Native Americans through the 1930s and they really interact with the people," Hodson said.

Located on the grounds at 1097 Baumís Bridge Road, the festival offers encampments from the French-Indian War, Native Americans, French voyageurs, fur trappers and traders, and the Civil War; demonstrations by blacksmiths, trap and skeet shooters, Civil War quilters, and crafters; displays of historic autos and agricultural equipment, blankets, and general merchandise; and musical entertainment and period-themed food like bison burgers and sassafras tea.

Hodson says that because this year is the sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) of Baumís Bridge, more attractions have been added to the Aukiki River Festival.

"We have added more vendors and more participants and the festival is growing in leaps and bounds,"  Hodson said. "We are expanding our grounds and new this year we have a French storyteller. We will also have fashion demonstrations so our participants talk about their costumes. We are also selling the Everglades of the North DVDs, an hour-long documentary on the history of the Kankakee River."

He says that most everyone from last year is returning, including the favorites.

"The black powder shoot, the muzzle loaders, are a big favorite, as is the tomahawk and knife throw. The 20th Indiana Civil War Regiment will be back and we are increasing our number of participants and encampments," Hodson said. "Weíre up to about 40 or 50 encampments now. Porter County Sheriff David Lain is supposed to bring out Dillingerís Tommy gun again as well."

The sixth annual Aukiki River Festival is free to attend and Hodson says the mission of the event is to get the word out about the history of the region.

"The whole point is the awareness of the history of the Kankakee River and the region so people can get more involved with conservation and historical groups, as well as the recreational activities of the river. Itís not just the border between Porter and Jasper counties. We want to bring people down to the south end of the county. Itís a great area," he said.


Aukiki Festival brings history to river valley

By Susan O'Leary Times Correspondent | Posted: Saturday, August 28, 2010 8:15 pm

KOUTS | Lucy, a 10-year-old black Newfoundland, napped in the shade of the trees lining the Kankakee River on Saturday at the third annual Aukiki Festival.

A re-enactor and Lucy's owner, Jude Rakowski explained the importance of dogs in the lives of the Indians who once made the area their home.

"A lot of people have dogs and they are interested in Native Americans, but they may not have made this connection," said Rakowski, of Michigan City.

The annual festival -- named after the American Indian name for the Kankakee River -- highlights the history and culture of the Kankakee River Valley, archeological excavation in the area, and the restoration of the 1898 Collier Lodge at Baum's Bridge south of Kouts.

John Hodson, president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Association that organized the fest, said the event has experienced some growing pains.

"We thought last year was a hit," said Hodson, directing overflow parking after the main lot filled at noon. "I knew we were going to do well. ... but be careful what you wish for."

Hodson said this year's festival expanded to include the Civil War period.

"General Lew Wallace kept a steam launch and a houseboat about 100 yards from here," said Hodson, explaining the Civil War connection.

Seth Nichols, of Lowell, demonstrated blacksmithing, while James Dumas smoked bluegill and venison over a wood fire pit. Mother and daughter team Alice and Cindy Deardoff sold homemade soap and maple sugar candy.

Porter County Sheriff David Lain displayed the 1934 Ford featured in the movie "Public Enemies" and John Dillinger's Tommy gun.

Pam Rymanowicz and James Lay, of Holt, Mich., stopped at the festival on a camping tour around Lake Michigan.

"I'm looking for cast iron cookware," said Rymanowicz, who heard about the fest after camping at Indiana Dunes State Park.

"It's nice to see a little festival like this," said Lay, who held Jack Russell terriers Jack and Skip and a black lab, Molly, at the end of a leash.



Kouts the place to be Saturday

August 26, 2010

BY JOAN DITTMANN j4dittmann@yahoo.com (219) 477-6013

B aums Bridge in Kouts has an interesting, varied history, from a place with evidence of American Indian activity to the site of hunting clubs, and even brushes with presidents and "Ben Hur."

You can learn more about the area's colorful history and see artifacts that an archeological project has unearthed there during the Aukiki River Festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

"There is a long history of this area being a river crossing," said John Hodson, co-founder and president of the Kankakee Valley Historical Society. "We know there was a ferry here as early as 1836 and, before that, it was referred to as the Pottawatomie Ford. Aukiki is one spelling of one of the many Native American words that refers to the ( Kankakee ) river.

"Even though it's a beautiful spot with a rich history, and once drew people from quite a distance, it seems hardly anyone knows about it today. The goal of the festival is to educate people about the history, the environment and the river system."

Re-enactors will demonstrate some of the activities of American Indians and voyageur fur traders from the late 1700s, including flute music relating to both groups.

The festival also will include black-powder shoots, knife and hawk throwing, blacksmithing as done in the 19th century, and a Civil War recruitment encampment.

"The connection to the Civil War is that the archaeological dig has unearthed a few Civil War buttons, and Gen. Lew Wallace, a famous Hoosier and real renaissance man, kept a houseboat here," said Hodson, adding that Wallace, whose best-selling novel, "Ben Hur," was published in 1880, loved the Kankakee River . "This area was a treasure trove for fur trappers in the 1800s, with millions of dollars of furs coming from here. In the 1870s and 1880, a series of hunting clubs were built here."

Those clubs drew some famous visitors, including presidents Benjamin Harrison and Theodore Roosevelt.

Other highlights of the event include children's activities, old-time stories, crafts and toys, items related to John Dillinger, and a display of a portion of the archaeological work conducted on the site this summer, along with a chance to talk with Mark Schurr , professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, who leads the site investigation.

"This is one of three events at different venues in Kouts that day," Hodson said. "We have re-enactments and history, the town has Porkfest, which will have a carnival atmosphere, and, as we wind down at 4 p.m., things will start gearing up at Baums Bridge Inn (restaurant) with their customer appreciation event.

"It'll be a nice day to come out to south Porter County ; there will be something for everyone."

Porkfest has a parade at 10:30 a.m., entertainment, contests and good food.

It takes place off of Indiana 49, just south of Indiana 8.

The Aukiki River Festival is at 1099 Baums Bridge Road , two miles south of Kouts, then west on County Road 1050S.

Admission to the Aukiki River Festival is free, but donations are greatly appreciated and will help restore the Collier Lodge to serve as a museum.

Festival to focus on Kankakee River history

By Times Staff | Posted: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 12:00 am

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP | The history of the Kankakee River, from the days of the American Indians and the arrival of the fur traders to settlers and others all the way up to the 1930s will be recreated Saturday at the third annual Aukiki River Festival.

The festival, named for the American Indian name for the river, will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Collier Lodge, 1101 S. Baum's Bridge Road .

Scores of re-enactors will be on hand to recreate experiences such as a fur trapper encampment, an American Indian encampment, a French voyageurs encampment, and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War recruitment encampment. Also, Ogden 's Company of Rogers's Rangers and Young Rangers will be set up.

Demonstrations will be provided in black powder muzzle loading and tomahawk throwing. An antique shotgun display will include demonstrations on early trap and skeet shooting.

In addition, Jim Lambert and his 1934 Ford, which was used in the movie "Public Enemies," will be on hand, and a portion of the Collier Lodge historical excavation will be open for public viewing. Food vendors, kids activities and other attractions will be offered.

Musical entertainment will be provided by Susan and Gary Brown, the Trois Canards and Trilly Cole.


Aukiki River Festival 2009

HEATHER AUGUSTYN - Times Correspondent |

 Posted: Saturday, August 15, 2009 12:00 am

KOUTS | American Indians, fur traders, hunters and the rich and famous emerge from the past to celebrate the one thing they all had in common -- the Kankakee River.

The re-enactors are some 40 to 50 volunteers from the Kankakee Valley Historical Society which sponsors the second annual Aukiki River Festival from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 22 at Collier Lodge, 1101 S. Baum's Bridge Road in Kouts.

John Hodson, president of the KVHS, said the festival, named after an American Indian word for Kankakee , is a way to celebrate all of the ages of the river, from the mid-1770s through the 1930s.

"We focus on the Native Americans, fur traders, voyageurs, up to the hunters in the 1930s. We have a blacksmith, storytelling, and two bands playing French voyageur music," Hodson said.

The aim is to educate participants on the many phases of the river and the cultures that thrived in the region in south Porter County due to the presence of the Kankakee, evidence of which has been literally uncovered by the KVHS over the past few years at the Collier Lodge site.

"We'll have an archeologist on site, Mark Schurr from Notre Dame, who will be performing work on site and will answer questions about his work," Hodson said.

The Aukiki River Festival is on the same day as the Kouts Pork Fest and customer appreciation day at Baums Bridge Inn, a strategic plan to get more involvement in the south county.

"We want to get people involved in all of the great cultural events in south Porter County so they can spend the whole day at all of our different venues. The Porter County Convention Recreation and Visitor Commission doubled our grant for our festival and showed a lot of support for this part of the county," Hodson said.

They hope to increase attendance from last year, which was 700 attendees. Food vendors, kids activities and crafts, and lessons in cooking, gardening, pottery making and weaving round out the day.

For more information, visit www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org or call (219) 766-2302

  Our Hunting Heritage

By Garry Burch

Ducks filled the sky to the point it darkened the sunlight much like a dark cloud moving over the land. Ducks, Geese, Cranes and other waterfowl were everywhere. That is how my grandfather described the Kankakee River area when he was a young boy in the late 1800ís. I was able to ask that question in the early 60ís shortly before my Grandfather passed away. It was a question I had to know about. I often dreamed of the river and how it was once a wilderness filled with stories of the good and the bad. But as a young boy interested in hunting I dreamed of how it once was before the white man changed the marshlands forever.

Huge populations of waterfowl made the Kankakee River bottom home on their migrations south for the winter and a refuge for the trip back north, the marsh also offered fantastic fishing for pickerel, walleye and pike and bass.

Opportunities for hunting were many if you knew your way around the vast marshland. For those that didnít know their way, a guide was usually hired to get the hunters into the good hunting spots. Getting there was work in its self. A wooden boat filled with hunter, guide and gear was usually poled down one of the feeder streams deep into the marsh.

Early hunting on the marsh was usually for substance or money. Game that was bagged was eaten later at home or salted and shipped to Chicago to the restaurants there. It was well before anyone ever thought of conservation so the hunting was from usually October until April.

After word spread about the marshlands abundance of game, market hunters as well as sportsman from the east soon made their way to Indiana ís Grand Marsh. Many of the eastern hunters soon formed clubs and bought land in the area and secured hunting rights for their own members.

 Most of the hunters came by rail to the nearest city. From there they secured a place to stay or if they were a club member they made their way to the club house where food, bed and boats waited. Their thoughts were on seeing and hunting the huge flocks of waterfowl that seemed to be endless in numbers. Guns that were first on the marsh were the flintlock fowler type guns and that soon changed to the percussion guns.

Later it was the hand-loaded, brass shelled black powder cartridge shotgun that ruled the marsh. It was a single barreled gun and if you had the money of the eastern men you had the latest double barreled shotguns of 8ga., 10 ga., or 12 ga. With black powder it was the bigger the shotgun the better.

The hunting clubs of the times provided great access into the marsh something only the locals enjoyed until the clubs came. But change was not all that bad as the clubs provided jobs for the locals that knew the marsh well. Even with taking clients out in the marsh, many guides still had their own secret places just for themselves.

Of the many clubs that sprang up along the marsh, Colliers lodge was one that provided lodging and access as well as a bridged crossing over the river to the other side. The Colliers lodge site was also well known by the early natives that called the marsh home. It was located at the narrowest point river where a crossing was possible.

Today the Colliers lodge still stands and an organized effort to save this important part of our history and hunting heritage is underway. The site is also a recognized archeological site and digs are on going at the ancient river crossing. Indian artifacts as well as more modern artifacts from the hunting days like brass shotgun shells are and pottery being uncovered.

Professor Mark Shurr from Notre Dame University is in charge of the archeological dig. Many volunteers have helped in the digs recovery efforts. This dig has turned into an exciting and popular summer attraction to the site. Many have signed up as members to help and learn the fundamentals of archeology.

For information about the Colliers Lodge you can contact the Historical society at this web site. www.kankakeevalleyhistoricalsociety.org

On the website you can also read about the long ago history and hunting stories of the area when it was still a vast marsh wilderness. If you or a club you belong too would like to contribute funds to this important cause you can also contact the Kankakee valley Historical Society through this website.

Reading many of the hunting stories of that long lost time makes me dream of what it must have been like to have this wilderness right at your doorstep. At the Collier lodge site they try to bring back that piece of history at a small gathering called the Aukiki Festival. This years date is August 22nd 2009.

I took the time to visit this festival last year and found it to be very interesting. Many groups were represented there. American Indians, trappers, old duck hunters, combined with a few mountain men and historical collectors all added to a education of what early Kankakee River life must have been.

One gentleman had an old black powder double-barreled 10 ga. shotgun that was once king of the marsh on the rivers backwaters. He educated many on the early duck hunting equipment and how the ammo was reloaded by hand. The reloading of the shotgun shells was a past time for many hunters when they were preparing for a long day on the marsh. Keeping their powder dry was also a challenge for the hunters.

Some people showed examples of what early native Indian life was like on the marsh. Others gathered were the likes of early trappers that worked and explored the marshlands of the Kankakee River area. Early life on the river was hard work and harsh on the ones trying to live there.

The archeological dig was also active when the festival was going on and you could see the work being done. Professor Mark Shurr (the one I called our own Indiana Jones which he denied) was there and explained the processes going on during the dig and showed some of the real artifacts they uncovered. One looks with amazement at the Indiana artifacts found because at one time in early history before the white-man came to this land a Native American held that arrow-head in his hand for trade or shot it from his hand made bow in an attempt for food. Itís a real look at a time long ago.

This years 2009 dig will be July 6th ĖJuly 23rd. If your interested in being a member and helping out you can contact the society through the website.

Coming from a family whose heritage was lived on the Kankakee marshland, the rivers history still has its own lure to me. Plan on attending this years events and please help save the Colliers Lodge its an important part of our early American hunting and fishing heritage.

My thanks to all those who allowed me to photograph them and share there piece history with the many who read this article. Keep up the great work.


  Celebration steps back in time

Times Correspondent
| Sunday, August 24, 2008

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP | Dressed as a Potawatomi woman, Cindy Deardorff, of Wheatfield, stirred a clay pot of buffalo stew, with beans, onions and garlic, over an open flame. Wood smoke filled the air, with the sound of crickets, as the lazy Kankakee River drifted by.

Other re-enactors -- 19th century fur trappers, French voyageurs, and Native Americans -- demonstrated life as it was on the Kankakee River at the first Aukiki River Festival, hosted by the Kankakee Valley Historical Society on Saturday.

"Aukiki is the Indian word for (the Kankakee ) river," said Debra Dubovich, a society board member.

The society, which is striving to restore the 1898 Collier Lodge at Baum's Bridge on the river's bank, promotes an interest in the history and culture of the Kankakee River Valley area with educational programs, research and archaeological excavation.

Mark and Diane Saunders, of Lowell , relaxed on a picnic table under the trees while listening to the banjos and fiddles of the Oxcart Ramblers.

"We enjoy this type of festival," Mark Saunders said. "The smoke, the smells -- and it's in a beautiful location."

John Hodson, historical society president, said the Aukiki Festival highlights the need to preserve Kankakee River Valley history.

"We've been around now for six years, so people know who we are" Hodson said. "We wanted to have a festival of our own to get people down here and see the building and what we're trying to accomplish."

The lodge, which served as recreational family resort in the 1800s, would be a museum and public meeting place, Hodson said.

"We see this as a center to tell the whole story here," he said of the lodge, local wildlife and 150 acres of woods and riverfront. Hodson said the festival was planned for the same day as the Kouts Pork Festival and the Baum's Bridge Inn customer appreciation day.

"We want to develop this into people coming down to southern Porter County to see a variety of events," Hodson said. "This area is named Pleasant Township for a reason -- because it is pleasant. Yes, the Dunes is beautiful, but we also have our own beauty here, too."

Aukiki River Festival

  by Charles M. Bartholomew

Post-Tribune Correspondent

PLEASANT TOWNSHIP Ė The black bear, mountain lion, and bobcat that once roamed the Grand Kankakee Marsh returned to their old haunts Saturday, put on display by a big game hunter who shared his hobby with several hundred visitors to the inaugural Aukiki (ďRiverĒ) Festival, staged by the Kankakee Valley Historical Society on their grounds at the Collier Lodge next to Baumís Bridge.

Also part of the exhibit from the trophy room of real estate developer Ben Houser , a KVHS member and volunteer, were a deer, fox, and pheasant, all still denizens of the area that was once one of the worldís great hunting grounds and home to dozens of hunting clubs.

ďIíve hunted all over the world, South America, Africa, Alaska , Canada ,Ē said Houser, whose wife Debbie has participated in all six of the summer excavations that have caught the attention of amateur archaeologists around the world.

A sign at the parking lot entrance re-stated KVHS president John Hodsonís reason for inviting the public to come sample the rich, deep history of the land that stretches back thousands of years and covers Native Americans, French fur trappers and explorers, pioneers and early settlers, farmers, and the coming of modern industry.

Ever since buying the abandoned lodge, last of its kind still standing, Hodsonís dream has been to restore the deteriorating building and property into a museum and history center.

ďThe festival page on our website has been getting a lot of hits.  Iím not sure why, but some of them have been coming from Russia , Sweden , and Hong Kong ,Ē Hodson said.

 Notre Dame anthropologist Mark Schurr , who has supervised the annual dig under contract to KVHS, was on hand to show off one of this yearís three-foot-deep excavation ďunitsĒ containing part of the wall of the ďmegastructure,Ē the focus of this yearís investigation.  He thinks itís part of a log cabin built around 1840, when the river crossing was known as Eatonís Ferry.

Trying his hand at pounding corn with a blunt stick in an upright hollow stump at the Native American exhibit was Skyler Byvoets{cq}, 11, of Valparaiso , spending the day attending both Kouts area festivals on Saturday with a large family group.

ďWe were over at the Porkfest earlier.  Weíve been doing all the festivals,Ē said Dan Smaga, Skylerís uncle.  He said theyíre planning to attend the Harvest Festival at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in the fall.