MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – If you’ve ever visited Minnesota’s north shore of Lake Superior, you’ve no doubt been inspired by vistas of jagged rock and tumbling waterfalls.
Perhaps, even perplexed by one scene in particular – the Devil’s Kettle.
The attraction inside Judge C.R. Magney State Park near Grand Marais has mystified visitors for decades, where water in the left fork of the Brule River waterfall appears to simply vanish into a large hole in the rock below.
In the summer of 2012, WCCO’s Mike Binkley explored the mystery of Devil’s Kettle for a Finding Minnesota feature. He experimented by tossing a ping pong ball into the cauldron etched with his phone number.
Last we heard, Binkley has yet to receive a call from the person who recovered the ball.
Over the decades, others — including scientists — have tossed in logs and even dye in hopes of tracing the water’s flow. Nothing ever surfaced.
“It gets ground up. It’s a pretty powerful churning,” said retired University of Minnesota professor Calvin Alexander.
Alexander suggests thinking of the kettle as nature’s giant blender. The water is churning around the hole in the rock with such power and force that it essentially shreds whatever material enters the pool.
Still, the questions remain: What happens to the flowing water and where does it exit to the surface water?
“The first thing you do is measure the water and it turns out nobody had ever done that,” Alexander said.
Last fall, he and DNR hydrologist Jeff Green did just that.
What they discovered is that the river’s water volume is nearly identical when measured both above and immediately below the falls. Their observation essentially debunks the myth that the water is taking an alternative route underground to nearby Lake Superior.
To help visualize their observation and measurements and to show the location of where the water is re-entering the Brule River, the scientists plan on pouring a bright green dye into the falls above.
They are betting that it will turn the river water directly below the same color, proving that the exit to the kettle is merely a short distance away.
“It’s cool, it’s neat,” Alexander said. “We now know something we didn’t know before. That’s what turns a scientist on.”