The mystery of Minnesota’s disappearing river Half of Devil’s Kettle Falls plunges underground — then simply disappears. (Tarsuion via Deviantart (CC BY 3.0)/Tony Webster/Flickr)
The mystery of Minnesota’s disappearing river
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The Judge C.R. Magney State Park is on Minnesota’s north shore of Lake Superior. It is just a few miles south of the border with Canada. Is has several waterfalls. One of them has mystified geologists and hikers for decades. That's because one of the water falls simply disappears. This is according to Caitlin Schneider reporting for Mental Floss. 

The Brule River flows through the park. It drops 800 feet in eight miles as it carves its way toward the lake. At Devil’s Kettle Falls, a “thick knuckle of rhyolite” (a volcanic rock) splits the river in two. This is according to Stacie Boschma, reporting for MNN.com. One side streams over the rocks like a normal waterfall. The second half of the river drops into a deep hole, but no one knows where it ends up.

Schneider writes that scientists think the river must drain somewhere beneath Lake Superior. But nobody knows for sure. Over the years, she writes, “researchers and the curious have poured dye, pingpong balls, even logs into the kettle. They then watched the lake for any sign of them. So far, none has ever been found.”

Travis Boser is an intrepid Youtuber who took a video from a perch between the diverging river that peeks into the Devil’s Kettle. A few logs can be seen at the bottom of the hole. In the comments, Boser notes that the river was low at the time of his recording. It was a flow that allowed him to scramble up to that viewpoint.

People have proposed a few possible explanations, but the trouble is that the geology of the area doesn’t support them. Caves and underground channels most commonly form in limestone rocks. Limestone rocks dissolve easily in water. But the park rests on layers of basalt and rhyolite. It erupted when the North American continent started to rift apart 1.1 billion years ago. The rift failed, but left behind a huge curving basin that now holds Lake Superior. 

Some think the hole is the opening of a lava tube. But rhyolites never form lava tubes. Basaltic lava does, but those rock layers are far below the river bed and of the wrong type. They are sheets of flood basalt, not the kind of flows that typically form tubes. Even if one did somehow form, it would be strange for it to extend all the way to the lake and never grow clogged with sediment, trees and other debris. An open fault line is another offered explanation, but it would face the same problem.

The disappearing river remains a mystery. Whether or not you think you can solve it, you can take a look for yourself. Viewing it in person requires a mile-long hike and a climb of 200 steps. But it should be worth the effort.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What do you think is happening to the waterfall?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (24)
  • TatyM-ilc
    7/14/2018 - 01:56 p.m.

    I think at the beginning the waterfall was visible, but over the years it began to disappear due to geological faults. Now, only a single waterfall is visible and the second water flow is absorbed by some small cave, or it results in a little creek.

  • ChristianH-ilc
    7/14/2018 - 05:53 p.m.

    Volcanic mountains are formed by lava, so those maintains have several unknown caves. As a result, the waterfall fluids through long caves, so Lake Superior and Devil’s Kettle Falls are connected.

  • AngelicaL-ilc
    7/15/2018 - 02:27 p.m.

    The waterfall could reconnects with the river through a recirculation current and after that, the water may rises somewhere downstream.

  • GustavoC-ilc
    7/15/2018 - 03:01 p.m.

    All the water that seems to dissapear is going underground through some kind of deposit. It is difficult to determine the characteristics of this deposit, but it should be different from others.

  • JoseG-ilc
    7/15/2018 - 06:07 p.m.

    I think the water comes from the waterfall connects with the Brue river few miles ahead from the hole. Furthermore, the Judge C.R. Magney State Park increases his tourists because the disappearing river is an attraction.

  • MajoR-ilc
    7/15/2018 - 06:47 p.m.

    I think the kettle isn't that deep, and the water flows into a conduct connected to Lake Superior. Maybe the pinpong balls didn't appear because the waterfall is so strong that desintegrated them.

  • MartinF-ilc
    7/15/2018 - 11:01 p.m.

    Maybe the water is going through some natural rifts located below the hole, and it ends in a huge cave as an acquifer. I think something so rare like this phenomenon has to have a scientific explanation, or maybe the solution has been found, and locals overlook the explanation and keep talking about the mystery of Devils Kettle to encourage people to visit the place. However, Devils Kettle seems to be a fantastic place to visit because it show us the beauty of nature.

  • IbethJ-ilc
    7/15/2018 - 11:21 p.m.

    I think, there is an underground channel, and it flows out into other deep cave. Maybe, it was created by a big volcanic eruption many years before Christ.

  • MishelA-ilc2
    7/15/2018 - 11:43 p.m.

    I think both waterfalls are interconnected and therefore the water that comes out of it must be stored in some kind of cave. Also, because it is a volcanic mountain it has a different geological structure. Undoubtedly, these features should attract many tourists.

  • CarlosG-ilc
    7/16/2018 - 12:08 a.m.

    Nobody knows the end of this waterfall, but I think that this water is evaporating when it is near to lava flow.

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