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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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. No groomed ski trails are available here. Find northeastern Minnesota ski trails.