Though copper prospectors came a half century earlier, Knife River was platted in 1899 following the construction of a logging railroad. Like most North Shore  towns it made the switch from logging to fishing when the forests were cut over. Today it is one of the few that retains a commercial fishing industry, though just a handful of people along the entire North Shore (down from 450 in the 1920s) are able to make it their livelihood.
Nevertheless, tiny Knife River is still famous for its aquatic bounty, and many North Shore residents and regular visitors stop here when passing by to pick up some of the famous smoked fish. Many swear by the smoked and cured salmon, trout, herring, and more from Russ Kendall’s Smokehouse (149 Scenic Hwy. 61, 218/834-5995, 9 a.m.–6 p.m. daily).
If you want to get your fish the hard way, the Knife River is chock-full of trout in the spring (be careful though, the Ojibwe chose the river’s name because of the numerous sharp stones in it), or call the full-service Knife River Marina (115 Marina Rd., 218/834-6076, www.knife-river-marina.com , 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily, open until 6 p.m. in the summer) for charter captain recommendations.
The shady deck at Emily’s (218 Scenic Hwy. 61, 217/834-2501, www.emilyseatery.com , 11 a.m.–7:30 p.m. Tues.–Thurs. and Sun., 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Fri.–Sat., closed Mon., $8–10) sits right over the mouth of the Knife River. The casual sit-down menu includes sandwiches, light entrees, and the de rigeur walleye. Emily’s wild rice soup is a classic of the genre.
Get dessert or a midday pick-me up at Great! Lakes Candy (223 Scenic Hwy. 61, 218/834-2121, www.greatlakescandy.com , 10 a.m.–7 p.m. daily summer, reduced hours in fall) across the street. They make their own fudge, caramel, and “agate” lollipops.
A few miles up the road, stop in at the Burton Forge Gallery (Scenic Hwy. 61, www.burtonforge.com , 1–5 p.m. Thurs.–Mon. summer, Sat.–Sun. Sept.–Dec.) to see remarkable examples of a dying art: wrought iron, including architectural pieces, furniture, and home accents.