Cloquet River State Water Trail

Cloquet River

Read Wild Country...Still, an article about conservation, paddling and fishing on the Cloquet River. This river contains significant stretches of Class I-II rapids, and there are some Class III rapids near Island Lake Reservoir. About rapids classes.

Local contact and map

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

River level reports | Outfitters | Safety | Licenses & fees | Current conditions

River character

Because of the many steep, rocky stretches and the small watershed area, medium to heavy stream flow is necessary for an enjoyable run. During the summer, the river's rapids may be runnable only after a heavy rain. Stream flow usually peaks in late April and falls 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.


The upper stretch of the Cloquet River is wild, its generally low banks are 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.

Fish and wildlife

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 Minnesota Department of Health has guidelines for consuming fish taken from Minnesota's lakes and rivers. Go to the Fish Consumption Advisory Page to find out more.


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.