Paddlers can explore the wilds of the Kankakee River this Sunday and watch thousands of sandhill cranes take flight against the dramatic backdrop of a darkening sky.

"The Kankakee River Sandhill Crane Paddle has become an annual tradition attracting hundreds of participants since starting in 2010," the organizer said in a press release. "Annually from 100 to 250 paddlers enjoy a day on the water before moving to Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area to witness one of nature’s greatest spectacles—the gathering of 10,000 or more Sandhill Cranes at dusk."

The Northwest Indiana Paddling Association stages the event, which starts signing up paddlers at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Yellow River Public Access Site at English Lake. People should show up between 10 and 11 a.m. to sign up and drop off their boats before driving to the endpoint at the Porter County Park’s Dunn’s Bridge historic site in Kouts, where shuttle buses will take them back to the starting point, with the last bus leaving at 12:30 p.m.

Paddlers will be able to travel 8.6 miles along the Kankakee River and then have a riverside cookout. People can bring their own canoes, reserve a loaner boat or secure a seat on one of six 24' voyageur canoes the Minneapolis-based Wilderness Inquiry is bringing.

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"Native Americans and early explorers called it the Hekiki, Huakiki, Aukiki, as well as the Sauwauseebe, but area residents know it simply as 'The Kankakee,'” organizers said in a press release. "On Sunday, Oct. 13, paddlers and nature lovers of all ages are invited to join the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association and their partners on an easy float down this historic waterway."

The Northwest Indiana Paddling Association is putting on the 10th annual Kankakee River Sandhill Crane Paddle with the help of the Jasper County Soil and Water Conservation District, LaPorte County Soil and Water District, Lower Kankakee River Watershed Initiative, Everglades of the North documentary, Porter County Parks Dept., LaPorte Co. Convention and Visitors Bureau, Jasper County Tourism, Kankakee and Yellow River Basin Development Commission, Wilderness Inquiry, LaPorte Co. Surveyor and the Indiana Dunes National Park.

For more information or to register, visit eventbrite.com and search for "Kankakee River Sandhill Crane Paddle."


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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.