The St Croix River forms part of the state border between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The St Croix National Scenic Riverway creates a corridor of wilderness next to the urban setting of Minneapolis and St. Paul. This is one of the places that city dwellers come to get away from it all without having to drive too far.
Tom and I headed up to the St Croix National Scenic Riverway after visiting the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. Although the Mississippi River is a wonderful green area, you never forget that you are in the midst of a city. Noise from trains, airplanes, cars and the constant roar of a million people surrounds you no matter where you are. The St Croix National Scenic Riverway, on the other hand, is a mostly wild place whose shores are dotted by quaint small towns tucked in the river valley.
The St. Croix River was one of the original eight rivers to have significant portions placed under protection by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. The upper reaches of the river in Wisconsin, as well as the Namekagon River, are protected as the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The free-flowing nature of the river is interrupted only by a hydroelectric dam operated by the Northern States Power Company at St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.
The lower 27 miles below the dam, including both sides of the river along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, are protected as part of the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. This area includes the Dalles of the St. Croix River, a scenic gorge located near Interstate Park, south of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.
Our first stop at the St Croix National Scenic Riverway was the Visitors Center in St Croix Falls. The Visitors Center is in an especially lovely setting, with abundant wildflowers and a great view up and down the river. We watched the movie and checked out the exhibits. We also said hello to Ranger Jed. We had worked with him at Grand Portage when he was a seasonal ranger. He is now a full-time Human Resources ranger at St Croix. When we won the Hartzog Award, Jed sent us a congratulations note, which was very sweet.
Paddling is the #1 activity on the St Croix National Scenic Riverway and we saw several kayakers and canoists above the dam. The northern part of the river is free-flowing with lots of state parks and forests along the way to pull over and camp. It looked like it would be a wonderful week-long trip. There are little towns along the Namekagon and St Croix with restaurants, shops, and Bed and Breakfasts.
After checking out the Visitors Center, Tom and I went to Interstate Park, which spans Minnesota and Wisconsin and provides hiking, camping and lots of interesting things to see. We enjoyed walking around the pothole area with large holes scraped by glaciers and drilled by running water. The parks also connect Taylors Falls, Minnesota with St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. Both towns are set up along the river to welcome tourists and paddlers.
The highlight of our visit to St Croix National Scenic Riverway was meeting our friends Laurie and Adam Woods in Taylors Falls for supper. We met Adam and Laurie when they were our pastors in Death Valley through A Christian Ministry in the National Parks. Both of them are now pastors of churches in Wisconsin. We enjoyed a leisurely supper in the lovely outdoor setting of Romayne’s and listened to them talk about the challenges of being new pastors during Covid-19. Our time together was too short but we were so glad to see them for a little while.
St Croix National Scenic Riverway is a beautiful place and would be a wonderful place to spend some time kayaking or canoeing. Seeing just a part of it made us want to come back again.