Oh, what a difference direction can make. The Cloquet River has its origins at Cloquet Lake (elevation 1916'), not far from the headwaters of the West Branch of the Beaver River. But, while that stream takes a fairly direct route south and east to Lake Superior (and thus encounters some great gradient along its way), the Cloquet heads south and more westerly, to the listed put-in (elevation ~1285'), and on to the St.Louis River (just below the 1210' contour). So doing, it manages to spread this gradient across its considerable length. Having no first-hand experience or reports, doing a 'virtual flyover' (via Google satellite view) of this river, it appears there may be a few areas of random boulder-bed in the early going. (Actually, it looks like the listed put-in misses an area of better gradient and rock-bed rapids not far upstream, though much of this may be more 'image artifact' than fact, and access to that stretch appears less convenient.) Heading downstream, the river is largely broad and flat. In the middle and later parts of this reach, numerous islands dot the stream, which could cause some compression waves in some channels at higher flows. A very short paddle-out on the St.Louis River after the confluence gets you to the listed take-out. An anonymous tipster provided (2010-03-24): The stretch from Hwy. 53 to the Hwy 2 takeout on the St. Louis River is a decent stretch, however there is a lot of flat water. The run can be shortened to the last two miles before it merges with the St. Louis which is to the best part of the river. There is about a 3/4 mile stretch of constant class II+ water. In high water some of the standing waves can get pretty big. I've paddled this quite a few times in different conditions and I've yet to see any big holes (or even any potential for them), making this a really good stretch to learn on. I've also paddled from about 10 miles upstream of Island Lake to Island Lake. There are a few good sets of class II rapids -- possibly class III in high water. We must note here, about the above representation, we find no access evident which would allow doing just a two mile stretch. The last bridge downstream on the Cloquet almost bisects the listed reach, leaving just shy of five miles to the listed take-out.Check out the MNDNR page and PDF brochure for this river.
According to our anonymous contributor, the 'best' part of this run lies in the final two miles before confluence with the St. Louis River. This location appears to be the last road access, but pretty much bisects the run, leaving five miles to our listed take-out.
Since there appears to be precious little gradient, it is likely there is enough water to paddle most of this reach (as flatwater) virtually any time. (Some areas may become shallow and scrapey.) Best whitewater probably requires higher flows.
A USGS gauge recorded data at the listed put-in location from 1909-07-01 through 1917-09-30. With the understanding that the watershed and rainfall patterns may have changed in the century since then, analysis of that gauge data may still have some relevance in understanding flows in this reach.
Drainage area at gauge: 750 sq.mi.
Minimum mean daily flow for record period: 10 cfs (Dec.01, 1915)
Maximum mean daily flow for record period: 5260 cfs (Apr.30, 1916)
10% of time flow exceeds: 1600 cfs
90% of time flow exceeds: 93 cfs
10/90 Ratio: 17.2 (relatively 'flashy' flow) Typically in the upper Midwest, rivers of this nature are (arguably) at their best when they are above the 10% flow, which (obviously, on average) happens about 36 days of the year.
Permits are not required for this reach.
We have no additional detail on this route.
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