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'Kinni' is a jewel of a trout stream

Whether a fly rod or spinning rig is the preferred tool, anglers need not go far from downtown River Falls to find prolific volumes of trout in the Kinni.

The "Kinni," as it is affectionately known to most here, is a superb, Class 1 trout water stream which originates in the center of St. Croix County and flows 20 miles southwest before merging with the mighty St. Croix River. At its midpoint sits the only city on the river, River Falls.

J.R. Humphrey, a St. Paul freelance writer and angler, labels the 20 miles of river above and below River Falls "precious jewels of a fly-fisher's memory," and adds "I'll give two hours of my life, anytime, to fish my 100 yards of the Kinnickinnic on a sultry summer evening..."

The river rises from a series of spring holes in pastures three miles north of Interstate 94.

Between those first holes and the city of River Falls, there are 12 miles of Class 1 water, augmented by numerous springs and four named feeder creeks. The upper stretches of the river and the feeder creeks harbor native brook trout and furnish terrific spawning grounds for browns.

A fish-shocking survey done by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on the river in 1996 indicated an increasing number of brook trout present in the river. The largest brook trout measured 14 inches, but "brookies" were a small percentage of the total trout population, making up no more than 30% in any of the 40 sites surveyed. Most sites had far less. Because of this, DNR officials encourage anglers to return brook trout to the river to help maintain the natural reproduction the Kinni enjoys

Brown trout, however, are abundant.

Access to the upper Kinni, the portion between the headwaters and the city, is easy. There are 17 entry points between the spring ponds and Highway 35 at the north edge of River Falls.

It isn't unusual to see anglers wading the streambed within the city of River Falls either. Parking is along County Road MM, in Heritage Park downtown or in Glen Park.

That portion of the Kinni below Glen Park is considered the lower Kinnickinnic. In the words of Humphrey, it "must have been created by the master fly fisher."

The river is broader and shallower, averaging perhaps 40 feet wide and a foot deep. Lofty bluffs cause wide shadows over the sand, gravel and rubble bottom. The lower Kinni is easy to wade and its broken structure provides habitat for several species of large mayflies and a variety of forage for larger trout in the form of crayfish, leeches and minnows. Although flies are the lure of choice, a number of trophy trout have been taken on spincast equipment.

The Kinni winds for eight miles below River Falls before passing beneath County Road F. Access to the area is restricted by private lands and steep wooded banks and limestone cliffs. The Kinnickinnic River Land Trust is working with landowners to help preserve and manage the natural lands and some landowners have signed agreements that allow the public to use their streambank for walking and fishing. The KRLT remains active, looking for ways to conserve the land and water of the Kinnickinnic watershed and also provide public benefit.

The entire Kinnickinnic River is carefully guarded by a small army of volunteers including anglers, landowners, city officials, and a large contingent from Trout Unlimited and other sportsmen's clubs.

The cooperative effort has been manifested in the Kinnickinnic River Priority Watershed Project. Volunteers help oversee a network of temperature and water quality monitoring stations above and below the city which are helping keep watch on the impact development is having on the stream. As River Falls continues to grow, city officials want to make sure factors such as stormrunoff and development have minimal impact on the quality of the resource.