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 mapMap - geoPDF 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.

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. 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.


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.