The Devil’s Kettle, Judge C.R. Magney State Park

minnesota magney state park devils kettle
The upper falls on the Brule River split. The one on the right continues down the river, but the one on the left disappears into the Devil’s Kettle.

It’s one of the great geological mysteries of Minnesota. The Brule River runs through the Judge C.R. Magney State Park until it encounters a rock outcropping and splits into two waterfalls. The water from the east side of the rock continues down the river, but the waterfall on west side of the rock falls into a pothole and…disappears into the Devil’s Kettle.

The Devil’s Kettle is just about a mile and a half from the north shore of Lake Superior, just a few miles south of the U.S.-Canada border, 14 miles up Highway 61 from Grand Marais. For years, it was thought that the water poured into the fissure somehow emerged via some magical tunnel to the bottom of Lake Superior. That was the theory anyway after attempts to trace the flow by tossing everything from ping pong balls to logs into the Kettle proved fruitless.

But the extremely powerful system, it is thought, destroys anything tossed into the plunge pool. The powerful recirculating system is capable of holding any material under the pool below the kettle until it’s disintegrated into unrecognizable bits by the time the water resurfaces at some point downstream.

minnesota magney state park devils kettle 2
A closeup of the water falling into the Devil’s Kettle.

But eventually science and logic came to the rescue. In 2017, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources measured the water flow above the falls at 123 cubic feet per second and below the falls at 121 cubic feet per second. The DNR determined the flows to be practically identical. In other words, the water that enters the hole is somehow re-emerging in the river downstream.

A dye test was contemplated to prove this hypothesis, but was cancelled because it was felt the water volume measurement was in itself conclusive.

Oh, and don’t try the dye experiment yourself. A permit is needed for that sort of test, and it’s unlikely that you’d get one.

Hiking to the Devil’s Kettle

It’s an uphill hike of a bit more than a mile from the Judge C.R. Magney parking lot to the falls overlook. Just below the Kettle is another small falls you can go down a long flight of around 180 stairs to see.

The smaller falls are, by Devil’s Kettle standards, nothing special. And if you go down to see them, you’re going to have to climb back up those 180 steps to get back up to the trail. And right after that climb, there’s another 70 steps to get you up to the viewing spot of the Devil’s Kettle.

minnesota magney state park upper falls
They’re called the Upper Falls on the map, even though they’re downstream from the Devil’s Kettle falls.

Note: the trail to the falls in Judge C.R. Magney State Park is part of the Superior Hiking Trail that runs all the way from the Canadian Border to south of Duluth. The Superior Hiking Trail runs through most of the state parks that line the North Shore and is part of the North Country National Scenic Trail that runs across the northern United States from Vermont to North Dakota.

You can see all my posts from my latest trip to the North Shore here.

Where to stay on the North Shore

I based my latest exploration of the North Shore from a beautiful apartment in Two Harbors that I found on AirBnB. If you book it, we’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. If you’re not an AirBnB member, join AirBnb here, and you’ll get up to $65 off your first stay.

More info from MNTrips

See the list of all Minnesota State Parks, including basic permit information. We also have a list of all Minnesota Historical Society sites. We’re adding our commentary for the park and historical sites as we visit them.

When you plan on hiking or biking the Minnesota State Parks, be sure to download the Avenza Maps app to your phone. The app allows you to download the trail maps for almost every state park, and they are invaluable for navigation, especially because many of the parks don’t have as many directional signs as they should.

Also, if you’re planning on camping at Minnesota State Parks, you’ll need a reservation. Here’s the online reservation form.

Check out our recommendations for what to carry in your hiking day pack when you check out the extensive Minnesota State Park and National Park system.

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