Difficulty II(IV)
Length 18.3 Miles
Gauge BIG FORK RIVER AT BIG FALLS, MN
Flow Range 300 - 1540 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 3 months ago ~ 1370 [CFS] ℹ️
Reach Info Last Updated 04/02/2019 10:34 am

River Description


Quick Facts:
Location: NorthCentral Minnesota, approximately 13 miles NE from Bigfork, 136 miles NW from Duluth.
Shuttle Length: 12.7 miles. (See details in "Directions" Tab.)
Character: Northwoods canoe tripping, mostly flatwater, light rapids and one falls.

Put-in elevation is approximately 1280'.
Take-out elevation is approximately 1240'.
Thus total elevation change is approximately 40'.

Information (lat, lng, elev, total drop, run length, shuttle length) adjusted and/or verified from best manual extrapolation of online data (via maps.google.com, distance measuring tool, and other resources). 2009.04.15

The resolution on Google Maps for this area is pretty good. Go to the 'Map' tab, click 'USGS Aerial' 'Satellite', double-click near the put-in, zoom in to the maximum resolution available (without losing image), and do a 'virtual walk' of this reach!

General Overview

This reach includes class I rapids, a half-mile stretch of Class II (Muldoon Rapids), and Little American Falls, described in a MN DNR brochure as "a six foot ledge into a deep pool flanked by 60 foot bluffs." It lists conflicting ratings for the drop, once calling it Class III-IV, and later calling it Class IV-V. (I anticipate the former is more likely correct by current standards.)

Boaters may use alternate access to shorten the trip (perhaps even just doing a 'park-and-huck at the take-out falls?).

Cliff Langley provides (2011-03-21):

Little American Falls is a very scenic drop you can hike to from a trail in the Little American Falls campground. The falls is a class III+, or class IV if really juicing. It is basically one move, line up and go off a 4 to 6 foot drop. It didn't seem worth the bother of hiking up and down a long (hundred yard plus) staircase for one drop that would take 2 seconds to run. Nice spot though, cool campsite only accessible by water craft on river left right by the falls.

Rapid Descriptions

Low grade rapids

Class - Mile - 0
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Topo maps indicate 'rapids' upstream and down from the highway. From the 'Satellite' view at best resolution, they are not evident. It seems likely this is little more than a rocky shoals.

Low grade rapids

Class - Mile - 1.38
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Another (non-evident from 'Satelite' or 'USGS aerial' view) topo-map marked 'rapids'.

Low grade rapids

Class - Mile - 4.8
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Topo maps indicate a 'rapids' here, but again, they are not evident from 'satelite' or 'USGS aerial' views.

Muldoon Rapids

Class - Mile - 8.75
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Muldoon Rapids appears to be a low-grade (maybe class I-II?) rock-garden stretching for nearly a half-mile downriver.

Alt.Access

Class - Mile - 10.1
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

Little American Falls

Class - III+ Mile - 18.25
Rapid Thumbnail Missing

This will be the (whitewater) highlight of the trip.

Drainage area at this location is about 962 square miles (per USGS StreamStats Beta software).

Comments

Gage Descriptions

Gauge is 50 miles downstream, but should provide adequate reference for this reach as well.
MN DNR brochure alluded to a different gauge 35 miles upstream (in Bigfork, apparently no longer active) and suggests "Some rapids will be too rocky to run if the gauge reading is much less than 4 feet".
Correlation to existing gauge at Big Falls not known at present. Stated minimum is therefore a guess, subject to revision.

Directions Description


Shorter trips are certainly possible. Since there are no known (marked) rapids between Muldoon and American Falls, boaters of the upper reach may wish to take out at County Road 40 (though we have no specific info regarding convenient access/parking at this location), and then drive down to look at (and huck) American Falls. For shuttle directions for this shortened (10.1 mile) trip, type (or copy/paste) 47.8835 -93.5888 in the text entry box.

No Accident Reports

Alerts

News

article main photo

Penobscot River Dams to be Removed!

12/1/2003
Kevin Colburn

Atlantic Salmon and other imperiled fish species will soon have hundreds of additional miles of habitat. A recent decision between a power company, NGO's, tribes, and government agencies calls for the removal of two dams on Maine's Penobscot River and the bypassing of a third. American Whitewater applauds this huge win for rivers and is recruiting volunteers to assist with our work on the project. There is a public meeting December 2nd.
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Matt Muir

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Rob

Revisions

Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1190740 04/15/09 n/a n/a
1211788 04/02/19 Rob updated image position
1199986 05/03/11 Rob Add featured photo and promote boater comment into main page.