Cloquet River State Water Trail

Cloquet River

The upper stretch of the Cloquet River is wild, with heavily forested banks. The lower stretch is also forested, but also borders farmland and some residences. There are many steep, rocky stretches that can become impassable when water levels are low.

Local contact and map

Cloquet River location mapMap
GeoPDF map - (What is a geoPDF?)
Order map

Lake and St. Louis Counties, northeastern Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Two Harbors office: (218) 834-1430

River character

River rapids ratings

Because of the many steep, rocky stretches and the small watershed area, medium to heavy stream flow is necessary for an enjoyable run. In the summer, rapids may be runnable only after a heavy rain. Stream flow usually peaks in late April and drops throughout the summer. Fall rains frequently raise the level of the river significantly.

If the gauge on the bridge south of Brimson (river mile 67.7) reads much below 3.5, many of the rapids will be too rocky to run. Likewise, if the flow into Island Lake is less than 150 cubic feet per second, many chutes may be too congested for easy passage.

From Katherine Lake to Island Lake, the river falls 549 feet, or 8.5 feet per mile. The upper stretch is steepest, falling 13.9 feet per mile from Katherine Lake to Indian Lake. From there to Island Lake, the river falls 3.2 feet per mile.


Read Wild Country...Still, an article about conservation, paddling and fishing on the Cloquet River.

The upper stretch of the Cloquet River is wild, with generally low banks heavily forested with red and white pine, fir, spruce, aspen and birch. Long placid stretches are broken by short bouldery rapids. Outcrops are most frequent in a short stretch immediately above Island Lake. Except for several houses near Alden Lake and on Island Lake, the upper Cloquet is undeveloped.

The lower part of the river varies in scenery. A riverside forest of red and white pine, fir, spruce, aspen and birch is occasionally broken by farmland and a few homes and cabins. Though several bridges cross this stretch, there are no large towns or cities.


Eating fish from a Minnesota river or lake? Read the MN Department of Health's fish consumption advisory.

Common game fish include smallmouth bass, sunfish, northern pike, walleye and channel catfish. A few brook trout inhabit the far upper reaches near cold-water tributaries in that area.


The map of Major Stephen Long's expedition in 1823 shows the Cloquet as Rapid River, but on Joseph Nicollet's 1843 map, the river was called Cloquet, probably for a French trader.

For centuries before the coming of whites, this area was the home of Dakota Indian tribes. In 1679 the first European to explore this area probably was Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, for whom Duluth was later named. White settlement of the area began with the La Pointe Treaty of 1854, by which the Lake Superior and Mississippi bands of the Ojibwe Indians ceded to the United States the vast area of northeastern Minnesota.

The completion of the railroad from the Twin Cities to Duluth in 1869 marked the real beginning of immigration to this area. Hundreds of immigrants from the eastern United States and Europe arrived in Duluth each month.

There were an estimated eight billion board feet of pine in the Cloquet River valley. It was in this area that the largest section of timber ever recorded was cut--33 million board feet from a square mile near Little Alden Lake. Nearly all of the original pine stands had been logged by the time of the last log drive in 1925, though scattered mature white and red pine remain amid a second-growth forest of birch, aspen, fir and spruce.