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DNR does not complete dye-trace study at Devil's Kettle

Devil's Kettle_Brule Falls at Magney_Image from
Devil's Kettle_Brule Falls at Magney_Image from

As reported by WTIP in March 2017, a waterfall that famously “disappears” into a hole at Judge C.R. Magney State Park near Hovland actually soon re-enters the river from underground, according to new research.

In fall 2016, hydrologists from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources found nearly identical volumes of water flowing both above the Devil’s Kettle waterfall and below it. Above the waterfall, stream gauges measured the flow of the Brule River at 123 cubic feet per second. Below the waterfall, gauges detected 121 feet per second.

“In the world of stream gauging, those two numbers are essentially the same and are within the tolerances of the equipment,” explained DNR Groundwater Hydrologist Jeff Green. “The readings show no loss of water below the kettle, so it confirms the water is resurging in the stream below it.”

Green and Calvin Alexander, a colleague at the University of Minnesota, told us that at WTIP they planned to conduct a dye trace to show where the water resurfaces. In the fall of 2017, during low-water flow, the plan was for the researchers to pour a fluorescent, biodegradable dye into the pothole and note where the dye re-enters the river. This, they hoped, would be the conclusive evidence to prove that the water simply remerges from the Devil’s Kettle.

Well, not so fast, according to other DNR staff who recently spoke with WTIP about the falls at Devil’s Kettle.

Green and other researchers did not return this fall to the Brule River to conduct their planned dye-trace study at the Devil’s Kettle.

According to Cascade River and Judge Magney State Parks Manager Pete Mott, there was not a significant scientific reason to return to Devil’s Kettle to perform a dye-trace study.

“The monitoring done last year confirmed that the water volume above the falls and below the falls was the same,” Mott said. “That tells us the water returns to the river immediately downstream of the waterfall.”

Mott said the Devil’s Kettle and this unique geologic formation evokes a sense of something other-worldly – a sense that will always remain.

As the DNR’s own staff were not allowed or at the very least discouraged from conducting the dye-trace study this fall, Mott said curious members of the public should also restrain from taking the experiment into their own hands.

In general, the public is not permitted to conduct this type of activity, Mott told WTIP. The DNR Parks and Trails Division requires research permits for work in the parks.

Those permits, it turns out, also need to be, or at least should be obtained by the DNR’s own staff.