The Kettle River is a State-designated Wild and Scenic River that has a diversity of habitat and gradient along its 80 mile length. The river originates in a series of small, slow flowing bog streams near Cromwell in Carlton County. From river mile 62 (near the Carlton County 131 crossing) downstream, the river is large enough to have suitable gamefish habitat. The width of the river ranges from 75 feet at the beginning of the navigable portion to 250 feet in the lower reaches.
The Kettle River contains some rocky, high gradient rapids, most notably the series of whitewater rapids as the river flows through Banning State Park known as Hells Gate. This area most be avoided or portaged around as it is extremely dangerous. Rapids also occur south of Robinson Park near Sandstone at the old dam site, at river mile 18.5 (between Sandstone and Highway 48, known as the Friesland Rapids), and near the mouth of the river in St. Croix State Park. The Friesland Rapids and the area in St. Croix State Park can usually be canoed during most water conditions, although during low water you may need to pull the canoe through some spots. Most of the rest of the river can be paddled easily by a novice canoeist.
Since much of the water comes from runoff, the Kettle River is subject to low flows in late summer, especially in the upper reaches. It is recommended that boaters check gauge readings (see link below) before making a trip.
Thirty four species of fish were sampled during a 2002 river survey on the Kettle River.
Fish population information
|species||where found||population status|
|smallmouth bass||all areas||good numbers, sizes up to 20", large 2001 year class now 15" and larger (2007)|
|walleye||all areas||moderate numbers, consistent year classes, good size structure up to 28"|
|northern pike||all areas||good numbers, consistent year classes, sizes up to 24" sampled|
|channel catfish||Highway 48 area and downstream||fair numbers, but may be undersampled by electrofishing. Sizes up to 31" seen in 2002.|
|lake sturgeon||mostly Sandstone and downstream||Numbers low but population increasing. Catch and release only season June 16-April 14
|redhorse||all areas||Abundant; The current state record river redhorse was caught in the Kettle River.|
|sunfish||backwaters, weedy areas||Low numbers, mostly small size due to limited habitat. Sunfish are more adapted to lake environments.|
|rock bass||all areas||Moderate numbers; sizes up to 7"|
|muskellunge||occasional, below Highway 48||Rare; not stocked in the river but occasional migrant from St. Croix River|
Other species present include burbot, white sucker, quillback sucker, northern hogsucker, largemouth bass, black crappie, and yellow perch.
The Kettle River is home to several species of native minnows and darters, as well as two native lamprey species, the chestnut lamprey and the brook lamprey. The chestnut lamprey preys on primarily sucker species, attaching itself to the fish by its disc shaped mouth and rows of sharp teeth. However, unlike the non-native sea lamprey in the Great Lakes, chestnut lampreys do not have an adverse effect on fish populations.
Fishing the Kettle River
Canoes are the recommended means of travel on much of the river, especially upstream from State Highway 23. Small motor boats can navigate the river from Highway 48 to the Maple Island access in St. Croix State Park, but beware of sand bars and submerged obstacles such as rocks and logs. Small boats can also launch at the Robinson Park access in Sandstone and travel downstream as fas as Big Spring Falls, upstream from the old dam site.
Boat access and shore fishing locations
|St. Croix State Park- Kennedy Brook||gravel ramp||state park vehicle permit required|
|St. Croix State Park- Maple Island||carry in||state park vehicle permit required|
|State Highway 48||concrete ramp||small to medium fishing boats; popular shore fishing area|
|Big Spring Falls area, Banning State Park (south of Sandstone)||carry in||some shore fishing is done here but the area is largely undeveloped. Hazardous boating conditions; canoers can portage past the rapids|
|Robinson Park, Sandstone||concrete ramp||Accessible locations and benches for shore fishing|
|Banning State Park||asphalt ramp||dangerous rapids downstream|
|State Highway 23||gravel ramp||small fishing boats; space and parking limited|
|County Road 52||carry in||canoes and kayaks only; no ramp, boats must be carried a distance from the parking area|