Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Short segment of Superior Hiking Trail heads to two waterfalls

Superior Hiking Trail alongside Brule River at Judge
CR Magney State Park. Photo courtesy of MN DNR.

Day hike runs 2 miles on Minnesota’s North Shore

About a mile from Lake Superior, volcanic rock splits the Brule River in a formation known as the Devil’s Kettle. One side of the divided river drops 50 feet while the other half rushes into a pothole.

A 2-mile round trip segment of the Superior Hiking Trail, in Minnesota’s Judge CR Magney State Park, crosses the Brule and heads alongside it to Upper Falls and then the Devil’s Kettle.

Footbridge over rapids
To reach the trailhead, from Grand Marias head north on Minn. Hwy. 61 for 14 miles. Turn left/north into the state park and follow the campground road to its northern end, where you'll find a parking lot. The trail starts at the lot’s northeast corner.

At the trail intersection, go left/northeast. This takes you to a footbridge over the Brule River where rocky outcroppings create a whitewater rapids.

Across the bridge is a picnic area. Go left/north on the packed surface trail, following the river through a dense birch and aspen forest. Black bear, chickadees, deer, jays, moose, nuthatches, squirrels, woodchucks and woodpeckers all call the Brule River Valley home.

The trail curves east, climbing the hill above the river until coming to Upper Falls. It drops 25 feet over a basalt cliff.

Devil's Kettle
While impressive in and of itself, Upper Falls is just a teaser for what lies ahead. Continuing north on the trail, a wooden stairs leads to an overlook of the Devil’s Kettle.

About 1.1 billion years ago, lava flowed through fissures out of the Earth’s crust, akin to what is occurring now in Africa’s Afar Depression. Some of the flows were quite deep; the rock making up the Devil’s Kettle measures about 770 feet thick. The Brule now rushes over where those ancient flows cooled into black basalt.

The Devil’s Kettle marks a good place to turn back. You can extend the hike by continuing north along the Brule, and it’s worth a look; above the Devil’s Kettle, volcanic rocks churn the Brule into a whitewater rapids. Don’t go too far, however, as the trail heads deep into the backcountry.

Retrace the trail across the footbridge and back to the first intersection from the parking lot, and consider taking the pathway south along the Brule River. The trail crosses Hwy. 61 and stops close to where the Brule empties into Lake Superior.

Read more about day hiking Northeast Minnesota in my Headin’ to the Cabin: Day Hiking Trails of Northeast Minnesota guidebook.