Little Fork River State Water Trail

Little Fork River

The Little Fork River flows north into the Rainy River. Rapids are separated by long stretches of quiet water. None are very long, though some portages are difficult because of brush.

Local contact and map

Kettle River location mapDownload map - Download GEO map - (What is a geoPDF?)
St. Louis and Koochiching counties
Contact Parks and Trails northeast regional office: 218-328-8980

River character

  • The Class I-II rapids are mostly in the upper part of the river.
  • Use caution at Hannie Falls, which is rated Class VI.

Red clay and other suspended solids cloud the water, especially during heavy rains. Even in low water, the river carries a dark tint. Stream flow generally peaks in late April and falls during the summer, when the rapids may be impassable. Heavy summer or autumn rains can raise the river to runnable levels. The U.S. Geological Survey maintains a gauge on river mile 21.6 on river right. A reading of 3 feet or lower indicates most rapids are too shallow for easy passage.


The Little Fork is bounded by low banks, nearly level land and a dense forest of pine, spruce, fir, aspen and birch. Farms and houses flank the upper river, which is crossed by several bridges. But the stretch from the State Highway 65 bridge at river mile 97.7 to where the road again crosses the stream at river mile 57 is wild and nearly inaccessible. Farther downstream development again is more evident, particularly near Littlefork. Rocks which underlie the watershed are Precambrian igneous and metamorphic. Outcrops are infrequent. The lower river glides over flat land that once was the bed of glacial Lake Agassiz.

Fish and wildlife

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


  • Walleye
  • Northern pike
  • Muskie
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Rock bass
  • Sturgeon


  • Moose
  • Black bears
  • White-tailed deer
  • Timber wolves
  • Bobcats
  • Lynx
  • Beavers
  • Otters


  • Ruffed grouse
  • Various ducks
  • Bald eagles
  • Osprey


A succession of Woodland Culture Indians occupied the region during the 2,500 years before its settlement by whites. The Laurel gave way to the Blackduck, who may have been the direct predecessors of the Dakota. The Dakota, or Sioux, inhabited the region until the Ojibwe laid claim to what would become northern Minnesota. Magnificent stands of white and red pine near the Little Fork's headwaters were logged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A log drive down the Nett Lake and Little Fork rivers to the Rainy in 1937 was the last major drive in the region.