19 August 2009

State Park of the week: C. R. Magney

The next state park takes us far up the North Shore, through Two Harbors, Lutsen and Grand Marais to Judge CR Magney State Park. Judge Magney was the mayor of Duluth in the late 1910s and, later in life, an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. He was also a driving force in the establishment of many of the parks along the North Shore and his favorite, along the Brule River, was named for him.

The Park has any facilities and sights to see. It is almost a recent archaeological dig, with the foundations for a WPA camp from the 1930s interspersed amongst the campground. There is lakeshore along Superior (with wonderful pebble beaches all the way down to Grand Marais) and a beautiful section of the Superior Hiking Trail. The most famous sight in the park is, however, Devil's Kettle Falls.

The Brule, like many rivers of the North Shore, is rather placid until it tumbles over a basalt (I think) formation on its way down to the lake. However, while most rivers go over a falls and then proceed onwards, the Brule shakes it up a bit. The river splits in two over the falls. The eastern half falls on to a ledge, splashes, and goes on its merry way. The western half falls in to a deep, dark, foreboding pothole and seems to disappears. No one knows exactly where it goes, although it probably courses through groundwater cracks back in to the Brule or in to Superior a couple miles downstream. Still, it is quite something to stand at the top of the falls and watch half a river disappear.

On a warm day, of course, you can swim in the river. Not in the Devil's Kettle, but downstream below "Upper Falls" (which is, paradoxically, the lower of the two main falls). You do have to hike in a mile, which takes you up a steep hill on bluffs overlooking the falls and then down a staircase to the swimming hole. (Devil's Kettle is up another pitch, but well worth the trip.) This discourages some visitors, but its still a popular place. For solitude, however, you can walk north along the Brule River, where the Superior Hiking Trail becomes much narrower and less-used. Or, spot a car at the northern end of the park and hike downhill—you can leave a bike at the bottom to get back.

Devil's Kettle isn't particularly close to the Twin Cities—plan on 5 hours if you don't hit any traffic—but it is one of the more unique spots in the state and well worth a visit.

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