Kettle River Paddle Fest 2018

I have been researching for my upcoming trip back to my home state of Minnesota.  My walls are now once again plastered with lake and river maps, tabbed with sticky notes of where I want to paddle and locations I want to visit.

That is when my internet search took me back to my foundation, the Kettle River, to explore where I could safety paddle. I visited last May hiking along the banks to find a place to launch. Then I decided the river was running faster than I felt comfortable with paddling alone. Sadly the kayak stayed on the CRV, now older and wiser from other kayak adventures.

Spring riffles on the Kettle River

Spring riffles on the Kettle River close to where it joins the St Croix River inside St Croix State Park

I had heard last Spring that each year a small group of kayakers gather at the Banning State Park to paddle Hells Gate, a strong class III white water section of the river.

“If you love kayaking, have you ever ran Hells Gate or been to the kayak fest?” asked the Moose Lake State Park Ranger

“I am not that kind of kayaker!”  I instantly replied to the ranger.

“You would love it anyway, just watch from shore.” was the reply from the ranger who also manages the Banning State Park facility.

I smiled and filed it away until I ran across a reference to this wild event this week. Sadly, I won’t be able to attend this year as I will already be in Wyoming working on a volunteer project.

I was inspired to dig deeper, find out more about this event.  Pass it on to a couple of my readers who find white water their passion.

I called Tony  V. ,who is the director of the event in Sandstone, Minnesota, to ask if I could post some information for my readers. Tony was happy to share a bit of the history of the event. Then he offered  to paddle with me down the course this spring prior to my trip to Wyoming. That made my heartrate jump to an almost uncharted rate as we talked. I hoped Tony couldn’t hear it pounding in my chest over the phone line.

Will I be up for his challenge? Let’s just say…hmmm…we will wait and see.

Thanks Tony for the invite and for the great information!


The Kettle River Paddle Fest is being run this year for the 12th time.  The fest is open to anyone of any level as there are parts of the river that are perfect for beginners.  There is a small $5.00 for paddlers as it is a ACA sponsored event.  Banning State Park also requires either a day entrance pass or your annual Minnesota State Park pass.

The white water is a strong class III and could run a class IV depending on the spring rainfall levels. The river can run up to 3400 cfs at peak and in late summer/early fall can barely trickle as it makes its’ way to the St Croix River.

I would encourage anyone who wants to participate to brush off the winter cabin fever in early May, grab your kayak and/or canoe, and head out to enjoy the water. If paddling white water is not your thing (I totally understand) go watch from the shore as these paddlers maneuver down my hometown river.

Kettle River Paddle Fest

Kettle Festival 2018
*all paddle fest events are on river time, please check back for updates*

Friday, May 4
9:00- 4:00 Paddle festival set up for sponsors and event planners.
4:00 Pre-event river inspection, followed by final safety meeting.
5:00 – 8:00 Robinson Park Paddlers Social

Saturday, May 5
9:00-6:00 Robinson Park in Sandstone Minnesota hosts the Kettle River Paddle Festival.
1:00-3:00 Race registration in Robinson Park.
3:30 Pre-race meeting for all paddlers at the Banning State Park
4:00 the “Kettle River Run” paddlers race from Banning State Park to Robinson Quarry. Fastest boat down the river wins big prizes.
5:30-7:30 Dinner and social
7:30 Announcement of the “Kettle River Run” winner, beverages with fellow paddlers and some great door prizes from our generous sponsors.

Sunday, May 6
9:00- 11:00 join the flat water Group Float (pending )
9:00-1:00 Boat “SWAP and FLOAT” in the parking lot of Robinson Park.
12:00 the Kettle River Rodeo watch paddlers do their stunts and tricks. River level will determine what wave will be used for the competition. Watch the action from the cliffs of Banning State Park, plenty of free seats for everyone.
3:00 Final river run and park clean-up, help keep the Kettle River and Robinson Park looking beautiful.


If you are interested in paddling the Kettle River here are a couple of great resources to consider.

Hard Water Sports in Sandstone, Minnesota

Banning State Park

St Croix State Park