Kettle River State Water Trail

Kettle River

The Kettle River is one of the best white water rivers in the Midwest. It is bounded by a heavy forest of black spruce, fir, birch, aspen, maple, ash, and elm, with scattered red, white, and jack pines. The Kettle is designated as a wild and scenic river. Most of the rapids on this river are Class I during low water, with some stretches reaching II or III in high water. The Banning Rapids area ranges in difficulty from Class II-IV at all water levels. The width varies from 30-250 feet. About rapids classes.

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Carlton and Pine Counties, east central Minnesota
Contact DNR Parks and Trails Moose Lake Area Office: (218) 460-7021.

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River character

The Kettle, though clear, is tinted amber from swamp drainage. The Kettle responds quickly and quite dramatically to rain, since the river depends on runoff for most of its flow. Most rapids in all but the upper reaches are runnable if the State Highway 48 gauge reads above 4.5 feet and the State Highway 23 gauge reads above one foot. Rapids are usually not runnable in late summer, though many quiet stretches of the river remain canoeable. The river falls an average of 6.1 feet per mile. The total watershed covers 1,056 square miles.


Most of the river is bounded by a heavy forest of black spruce, fir, birch, aspen, maple, ash, elm and scattered red, white and jack pine. Bluffs occasionally rise more than 100 feet above the river. Rocky cliffs are common along the Banning and Lower Kettle River rapids. The river passes a few towns, houses or farmland, although several bridges cross the upper reaches. The Kettle in Pine County is a state wild and scenic river.

Fish and wildlife

Smallmouth bass, walleye and northern pike are caught throughout the river. Crappies are taken in the reservoir above the Sandstone Dam. The Kettle also holds channel catfish, sturgeon and redhorse.

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.

Beavers, otters and muskrats are occasionally sighted. White-tailed deer are common. Other mammals include black bears, bobcats, coyotes, mink, raccoons and gray and red fox. Two upland game birds, ruffed grouse and some Canada geese nest near the river.


The Kettle was the focus of considerable industry near the turn of the century. The forests, once thick with pine, were logged. Land near the river was mined for sandstone and copper. The river itself was dammed to generate electricity and to float sawlogs to nearby mills. Many people near Sandstone took refuge in the Kettle River when the Hinckley fire swept through Pine County September 1, 1894.