Judge CR Magney State Park, Minnesota

The Brule River at Magney State Park
The Brule River at Magney State Park

The Minnesota north shore has eight state parks, each of which contains at least one waterfall.  Tom and I are determined that we will visit all eight and we started with the closest one, Judge CR Magney State Park.

The name is a bit of a mouthful.  It was named after Clarence R Magney who was mayor of Duluth and a judge on the Minnesota Supreme Court.  He was instrumental in establishing the eight state parks and three waysides along the north shore.  Waysides are like tiny state parks with parking, a picnic area, and usually a waterfall right along MN 61.

Magney State Park has a campground with 27 sites and is the closest “rustic” campground to Grand Portage, about 15 miles down 61.  There is a picnic area and nine miles of hiking trail.  The centerpiece of the park is the Brule River with its rapids and waterfalls.  The Brule River drops 800 feet in eight miles with most of the drops in the state park.

Devil's Kettle with the obvious pothole.
Devil’s Kettle with the obvious pothole.

The most popular hike in the park is the Devil’s Kettle Trail.  Devil’s Kettle is a place where half the river plunges over a 50 foot waterfall, and half of it disappears into a hole in the ground.  No one has any idea where it goes. The consensus is that there must be an exit point somewhere beneath Lake Superior, but over the years, researchers and the curious have poured dye, ping pong balls, even logs into the kettle, then watched the lake for any sign of them. So far, none has ever been found.  The mystery is so enduring that Devil’s Kettle is listed at one of seven places in the world that water disappears – with no one having any idea where it is going.

devilskettle 005The day we hiked to Devil’s Kettle was wet and the river was high, so we didn’t get a good view of the water pouring into Devil’s Kettle.  Tom thought the water was just coming a different way over the falls until he read more about it.  The hike itself was a pleasant, if steamy, walk through the woods along the river.  Most of the time you walk along the rim of the canyon above the river.  Then you go down (and come back up) 176 steps to get to the falls and the Kettle.  I didn’t count the steps, but we had heard from lots of people how many there were.

American_Woodcock_Scolopax_minorThere are other trails at Magney State Park, including part of the Superior Hiking Trail and the Timberdoodle Trail.  The Timberdoodle Trail is a nature trail and we decided to save that for another day.  But we love the name!  We have started calling each other “timberdoodle” when we do something silly.  (Oh, you timberdoodle!)  Timberdoodle is a local name for the American Woodcock, a small brown ground bird that lives along freshwater shorelines.

We enjoyed our time at Judge CR Magney State Park and look forward to exploring the other state parks along the north coast.

Fog rolling in from Lake Superior
Devil’s Kettle with a high water level
Siberian Irises like the mist off the falls
Waterfall just downriver from Devil’s Kettle
A larch tree
Trail sign
  • Kristine Moye

    Very cool story! I’m surprised nobody had dived the hole to see if the can determine where it goes.

    • revkaren54

      I’m sure someone has tried! I think there must be a place in China where people are wondering why ping pong balls and logs keep coming up in their well.