Kettle River State Water Trail

Kettle River


The Kettle River is one of the best whitewater rivers in the Midwest. It is bounded by dense forest, with rocky cliffs and bluffs occasionally rising over 100 feet above the river. The Kettle is designated as a Wild and Scenic River.

Local contact and map

Kettle River location mapDownload map - Download GEO map - (What is a geoPDF?)
Carlton and Pine counties
Contact Parks and Trails Moose Lake office: 218-460-7021

River character

The Kettle River, though clear, is tinted amber from swamp drainage. The river responds quickly and quite dramatically to rain, since it depends on runoff for most of its flow. The width varies from 30-250 feet. The river falls an average of 6.1 feet per mile. The total watershed covers 1,056 square miles.

It is highly recommended that paddlers check the river level gauge readings before paddling on the Kettle River. Most rapids in all but the upper reaches are runnable if the Kettle River Co Rd 12 Bridge gauge and/or Willow River Long Lake Road gauge reads Medium or above. In lower water conditions most rapids will be scrapable. Most of the rapids on this river are Class I, II or III and depend upon the water level.

The Big Spring Falls and Sandstone Rapids Area (RM 24 to 23.4) in Banning State Park ranges in difficulty from Class II-IV at all water levels, portage right .7 miles. There are dangerous undercut walls and ledges in this section of boulder bed rapids that can trap debris, watercraft and swimmers. Experienced whitewater paddlers only - scouting is mandatory!


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

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

Crappies are taken in the reservoir above the Sandstone Dam.


  • Smallmouth bass
  • Walleye
  • Northern pike
  • Channel catfish
  • Sturgeon
  • Redhorse


  • Coyotes
  • Beavers
  • Otters
  • Muskrats
  • Mink
  • Raccoons
  • Gray and red fox

Big game

  • White-tailed deer
  • Black bear
  • Bobcats


  • Ruffed grouse
  • Canada geese


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.