Parks and Trails Council of Minnesota

Judge C.R. Magney State Park

By Jim Umhoefer
As the turbulent Brule River races toward a jutting rock mass on the brink of a waterfall, more than half the stream disappears into a huge pothole. The channel on the east side of the rock drops 50 feet, in two steps, into the gorge below. The Western channel pours into the unknown depths of Devil’s Kettle. The Kettle, in Judge C.R. Magney State Park, is still a mystery because no one knows where the water re-enters the river.
Judge C.R. Magney State Park is located about 14 miles northeast of Grand Marais on the North Shore Scenic Drive in Minnesota’s Cook County.

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Devil's Kettle Falls. The stream on the left is swallowed up by a pothole at Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Devil’s Kettle Falls. The stream on the left is swallowed up by a pothole

The Brule River flows through Judge C.R. Magney State Park and empties into Lake Superior

The Brule River flows through Judge C.R. Magney State Park and empties into Lake Superior

A close up view of the Devil's Kettle Falls at Judge C.R. Magney State Park

A close up view of the Devil’s Kettle Falls

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Trails
Hikers can enjoy nine miles of moderate trails at this park. The 1.25-mile hiking trail that follows the frothy white water of the Brule upstream to Devil’s Kettle passes the Lower and Upper Falls along the way. Two picnic areas straddle the lower Brule, connected by a footbridge that is next to the trailhead parking lot.

Foot bridge over the Brule River at Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Foot bridge over the Brule River

Stairs lead hikers to the edge of the river at Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Stairs lead hikers to the edge of the river

Exposed roots on a hiking trail at Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Exposed roots on a hiking trail

You’ll hear the thunder of tumbling water through the conifer forest before the trail splits. To the left, the trail leads to Lower Falls. Veer right to continue to Upper Falls, a 15-foot drop. A continuous cloud of mist keeps the gorge walls moist.

The Brule River has carved a massive gorge into the volcanic rock over time at Judge C.R. Magney State Park

The Brule River has carved a massive gorge into the volcanic rock over time

View of the Brule River from a scenic overlookat Judge C.R. Magney State Park

View of the Brule River from a scenic overlook

Morning hikers may see a rainbow through the vapor. About a quarter-mile farther upstream is the Devil’s Kettle. You can look into the Kettle from a platform that juts into the river below the falls. On the hike back downriver, Lake Superior beckons like a blue jewel through the trees.
The Superior Hiking Trail, a 310-mile footpath on high ridges along Lake Superior, crosses the park as well.

Camping
Each of the 27 rustic sites in the campground is surrounded by trees. The peaceful, wooded setting appeals to a variety of campers. The campground fills often during the summer and into the fall color season, attracting travelers headed to and from Canada.

Rustic, but quiet camping at Judge C.R. Magney State Park

Rustic, but quiet camping

Fishing
The Brule River, originating in Brule Lake, flows through the park for about 6 miles before spilling peacefully into Lake Superior. Trout anglers often hike upstream above the falls on unmaintained trails to try for brook or rainbow trout. The steelhead trout spawning run in the spring and the salmon run in the fall provide excellent fishing opportunities. The nearest Lake Superior accesses are in Hovland and Grand Marais.
Park History
You might come across some old foundations in the campground. These were part of the Grover Conzet Work Camp of the 1930’s, a project that began during the Great Depression. The men who lived here worked on many forest projects.
When the land was designated a park in 1957, it was called Bois Brule State Park. In 1963, the state legislature changed the park’s name to Judge C.R. Magney State Park as a memorial to the former state Supreme Court justice and conservationist who helped establish many of the state parks and waysides along the North Shore. Magney realized that much of the North Shore would be privately developed one day, but visualized the parks as becoming “every man’s country estate.”
Winter
Judge C.R. Magney State Park is relatively quiet during the winter. Hiking and snowshoeing are ways to experience the park during the cold season. A hike upriver to the waterfalls and Devil’s Kettle will be rewarded with the sight of fanciful, surrealistic ice sculptures.
Mesabi Trail
Spirit Mountain
Visit Duluth in the winter
Spirit Mountain