The Mystery Behind Minnesota’s Devil’s Kettle Waterfall Has Been Solved

Minnesota’s Brule River is the source of a unique phenomenon that’s been puzzling locals, tourists, and scientists alike. Flowing not too far from the northern shore of Lake Superior, the Brule hits a divide as it travels through a cluster of volcanic rock that juts out in Judge C. R. Magney State Park. Split in two by the rocky fork, the river begins flowing both east and west. To the east, a waterfall is born, cascading half the river down into a pool, where it eventually meets up with the lake. But that western fork is a whole different story.

Unlike its eastern twin, the waterfall at the other end of this fork seemingly pours into nothingness. Called the “Devil’s Kettle,” this natural, rocky void has no obvious explanation on or below the surface. People have tried to solve the case of the bottomless waterfall by dropping ping pong balls into the pothole and casting dyes in an attempt to mark the water, but none of those plans have given anyone any clue as to where all this water is going. That is until Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources got involved.

By measuring the water volume both above and below the Kettle, two hydrologists, Heather Emerson and Jon Libbey, found the numbers at each location were nearly identical. This finding suggests that the Devil’s Kettle waterfall likely rejoins the river underground shortly after the fork.

"What we think is happening is the water is going in the kettle, and coming up pretty close to immediately downstream of the falls," Jeff Green, a hydrologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told Minnesota Public Radio.

The volume of water was flowing 123 cubic feet per second above the falls and 121 cubic feet per second several hundred feet downstream from the Kettle. In the fall of 2017, Green and retired University of Minnesota professor Calvin Alexander are planning to pour a biodegradable dye into the Kettle to get a more accurate reading on where and how the water meets back up with the river downstream.

So will the end of the mystery also mean the end of the Kettle’s allure? For some people, perhaps, but as Green points out, “it will still be a fascinating spot, and a beautiful spot."

The World’s Steepest Street Is in Harlech, Wales

Tonktiti/iStock via Getty Images
Tonktiti/iStock via Getty Images

It wasn’t by chance that Ffordd Pen Llech just clinched the Guinness World Record for the world’s steepest street: The townspeople of Harlech, Wales, worked hard to steal the recognition from Baldwin Street in Dunedin, New Zealand.

At its steepest point, the gradient of the street in Wales is 37.5 percent, beating out Baldwin Street’s 35 percent. “I feel sorry for Baldwin Street and the New Zealanders,” Gwyn Headley, who spearheaded the campaign, told The Guardian, “But steeper is steeper.”

Guinness World Records has a surprising 10 criteria for the honor, including a blueprint of the street in question. This was the toughest for Harlech residents, because the thousand-year-old road was there long before roads were planned out with blueprints. So surveyor Myrddyn Phillips created one from scratch, using a satellite dish and chalk to calculate every possible measurement. Another criterion is that the road must actually be used by both people and vehicles. This one was easy, considering it leads to Harlech Castle, a UNESCO Heritage Site that was built over 700 years ago.

Having just lost to England in the Cricket World Cup, New Zealand is having a rough month—which Headley does feel bad about. “At least they have the Rugby World Cup … for the moment,” she said.

Because of its opportunities for bikers, motorcyclists, and other thrill seekers, Baldwin Street has become something of a tourist destination, which Dunedin residents have capitalized on by establishing nearby food, drink, and souvenir shops. Since the street is just as steep as it was before losing the world record, it’ll likely still function as a tourist attraction. But the townspeople are understandably disappointed, and one even suggested resurfacing it to increase the gradient.

In the meantime, Harlech is planning a party. “We know the anticipation has been building for quite some time now and I’m pleased to see the outcome has brought such joy to the residents,” Guinness World Records Editor-in-Chief Craig Glenday told The Guardian. “I hope Harlech enjoys the celebrations and that the new title brings lots of people to the beautiful town.”

[h/t The Guardian]

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