Brule River, also known as Bois Brule
The Brule River rises in central Douglas County near Upper St. Croix Lake. It is about 44 miles long and flows north to drain into Lake Superior. It is spring-fed, originating in marshland.
The Brule’s source is very close to the source of the St Croix River, which flows to the southwest and drains into the Mississippi River. In fact, the two rivers begin in an area just north of Upper St. Croix Lake. There is a continental divide --- an imperceptible continental divide I might add --- in Douglas County that causes waters in a large spring-fed swamp-marshland area to flow out to the northeast as the Brule River and to the southwest into Upper St Croix Lake out of which emerges the St. Croix River. It is absolutely fascinating to visit the area in and around Solon Springs to look for the sources of each. I’ve done that, as you’ll see. For its part, the Brule River drops 420 feet in elevation on its journey to Lake Superior.
I have taken photos of the areas marked in red as well as the marshland area at the source.
Source of Brule River
I took this shot from CH P just south of Stone Chimney Rd. near Solon Springs. After consulting with maps, local markers, and local residents, I concluded this was the West Fork of the Brule River amidst marshland from which springs the Brule River, about as close to the source as I thought could get. The water was quite high on this day in August. But wait. I got even closer. If you look at the map above very closely, where I have it marked “Roughly Source of Brule,” you will see graphic annotations meant to signify marshlands. I found those marshlands.
I have to admit I was taking lousy notes, so I am not exactly sure where I am, except that this is an entrance to the Brule Bog Boardwalk Trail, the marshland area. I believe I took S, Sjoberg Road north off CH A, turned right on E. Crowshaw Rd,, then another right on Olson Rd, which I have found has numerous names depending on what map you look at! Shortly thereafter I spotted this trail head, not knowing what it was. The only thing I do know is that this trail entry is off a gravel road and immediately enters the bog, and this for sure is one end of the Brule Bog Boardwalk Trail. I’ll leave it at that.
It’s worth a short stroll through the park. We did not go the whole 2-plus miles, perhaps only a quarter mile since we did not know what we were in for.
We saw no signs as we entered but came across this park bench that announced where we were! It was based on this that I could do a lot of research when I got home.
This area of vegetation excited me. By looking carefully, there is a pool of water in the upper right corner. We kept on walking a bit and could then hear the sound of fast moving water.
And then just a bit further, here we are, at least a creek!
After a short while, we broke more into the open and spotted this water flow. Note how it makes an abrupt turn. What’s happening here in this marshland area is the spring water from below is coming to the surface and accumulating where it can accumulate and flowing when and where it can flow. Eventually, this water makes its way to the Brule. It is worth mentioning that there are many such little streams in the bog, many hundreds, perhaps thousands, and they wind their way through the bog to form the Brule when the geography wants it that way.
West Fork Brule River crossing under CH P
It may seem incredible, but about 1.5 to 2 miles away by the way the crow flies the West Fork of the Brule River forms and passes under CH P. This is look upstream, sort of toward the bog. The river has widened quite a bit from what we saw in the bog!
Equally incredibly, this is a look the other way from CH P at the West Fork downstream. Look how it narrows under the bridge. Frankly I was surprised this water here was so calm, since the wide section abruptly arrows under the bridge. Usually that creates a very rapid current and even white water. But not here.
Here’s the satellite view from Google Maps! Those of you smart in earth science and geography might be able to figure out how the West Fork narrowed so rapidly underneath CH P! It does this kind of thing a few times before it marries up with the East Fork just a few miles away.
Stone’s Bridge Canoe Landing
The Stone’s Bridge Canoe Landing is located where CH S in Douglas County crosses the Brule just west of Hwy 27. This is a very popular canoeing and kayaking area. The water from here north to Winneboujou is a pretty easy trip, about six miles, a good trip, a great place for kayaking and canoeing.
Winneboujou Canoe Landing
Roughly 10-12 miles northeast of its source, by the way the crow flies, is the Winneboujou Canoe Landing, and the Brule River still heading to Lake Superior.
Copper Range Campgrounds
Life on the Brule River starts to change drastically by the time you get to Copper Range Campground, which is about 4.5 miles north of Hwy 2 on CH H, and then west on Park Road.
I turned off CH H left (west) on CH FF. Here satellite photo shows CH FF crossing the Brule. The current has picked up steam.
At this point you are about eight miles from meeting up with Lake Superior and you are transitioning from the Northern Highlands Geographic Province to the Lake Superior Geographic Province. You will recall the river drops 420 feet from start to finish. It drops 328 ft. just in the last 19 miles. The red box roughly marks the area where the Brule crosses from one province to the other. In this area, the Lake Superior Lowlands Province extends about 20 miles south of the lake itself.
This satellite photo shows rapids about 0.4 miles north of my photos taken from CH FF. You can see the pace of the drop has picked up steam. Just a bit upstream from here is another section I’d like to show you. First the satellite.
If you double back on CH FF to CH H, and turn left to the north on CH H, you’ll come to Kolski Road. I turned left on Kolski and ended up in a small parking area. There was a wooden trail with steps down to the Brule from the parking area. I took the next few shots from the river’s edge. You can see she’s got some swift rapids here.
I took this directly into the sun, so it’s not my best shot, except it is a great shot of the rapids. The water looks brown, but it is not. It is very shallow here and you can see through the water to the bottom.
I maneuvered into a better position and zoomed in on the rapids to give you a better look.
We happened on old Kolski Road and this venue quite by chance. I commend it to you.
While I hate showing you landscapes when we are in the river business here, I do want to show you a shot I took from a place close to here that shows vividly the northern highlands ridge line and the start of the Lake Superior lowlands.
So there you are.
The final run to the lake
For this sequence of photos, I traveled north on Hwy 13 straight at the lake and then turned onto Brule Road which in several spots gets close to the Brule.
In some instances you have to work a little to get the shot, especially in summer with so much foliage.
I noticed a home on Brule Road so I stopped near it. I tripped through some woods on a downhill slope near the home, and came upon a section along the Brule that was manicured in places. As I walked upstream just a bit, I spotted a trail but it went up to the home I mentioned previously, so I stayed away. I remained a little worried that the manicured area might be that home’s property so I did not stay long. In any event, I took this shot. I later looked at Google Earth and indeed the trail is on private property.
As I was about to go back up through the woods, to my surprise two ladies were kayaking to Lake Superior. They have less than a half mile to go.
I remained on Brule Road and came to a park and beach where the Brule empties into Lake Superior. Here are a satellite view and a few of my shots.
The final ride.
And in we go! I must say after this day’s work, this was a bit anti-climatic, but beautiful nonetheless.
The beach is just marvelous.