Kankakee Valley Historical Society

Aukiki River Festival 2017

1097 Baum's Bridge Rd. 

Kouts, Indiana

Go here for the new Aukiki River Festival 2017 Webpage

Aukiki River Festival Facebook page


Aukiki River Festival sign designed by Katie O'Connor


Go here to view 2013 Aukiki River Festival video

View the Aukiki River Festival 2012 video produced by Steve Dubovich

2013 Aukiki River Festival pamphlet 

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 26 & 27, 2017

Aukiki River Festival celebrates the Kankakee River

Step back in time Aug. 26 & 27, 2017

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Aukiki River Festival sign at 600 S and SR 49

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

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Aukiki River Festival site map

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Aukiki River Festival Facebook page

Participant List

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. 

The Spencer Family

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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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View BlacksmithsWright snippet video

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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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

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



August 9, 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.