Located in northeastern Minnesota, the Cloquet River State Water Trail is known for its fishing, paddling and class 1-3 rapids. The upper stretch of the Cloquet River is wild, with heavily forested banks. The lower stretch is partially forested, and borders farmland and residences. There are many steep, rocky stretches that can become impassable when water levels are low.
River segments and maps
Get maps and more information for this river's two segments:
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. If the flow into Island Lake is less than 150 cubic feet per second, many sections 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.
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.
For more information about conservation, paddling and fishing on the Cloquet River, see Wild Country...Still by Gustave Axelson in the May-June 2010 Minnesota Conservation Volunteer.
Fish and wildlife
Eating fish from a Minnesota river or lake? Read the MN Department of Health's fish consumption advisory.
- Brook trout (near cold-water tributaries in the far upper reaches)
- Brown trout
- Channel catfish
- Smallmouth bass,
- Northern pike
- Painted turtles
- Snapping turtles
- White-tailed deer
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 this area has been a traditional home to the Dakota, and later, the Ojibwe. It's believed that in 1679, the first European to explore the area was Daniel Greysolon - Sieur du Lhut - for whom Duluth was later named. The permanent presence of Europeans in the area began with the La Pointe Treaty of 1854, when the Lake Superior and Mississippi bands of the Ojibwe Indians ceded the vast area of northeastern Minnesota to the United States. The completion of the railroad from the Twin Cities to Duluth in 1869 marked the real beginning of immigration to the 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 remained amid a second-growth forest of birch, aspen, fir and spruce.
The river was established in 1967 as a state water trail.