DescriptionFlowing from the highlands of northern Wisconsin and central Minnesota to the St. Croix's juncture with the Mississippi River just s.e. of Minneapolis-St. Paul, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is a 255-mile river reserve. The Upper St. Croix River and its tributary, the Namekagon River, were among the original eight rivers designated as National Wild and Scenic Rivers in 1968. Four years later the Lower St. Croix River from St. Croix Falls to Prescott was added to the system by Congress.
For hundreds of years the St. Croix and Namekagon were an important link between the Mississippi and Lake Superior. Besides being a major waterway, the St. Croix had marshes, pools and rapids that provided a wealth of food and fur for the Ojibwe and other Native American tribes who once lived in this area. Beaver, otter and other pelts became the currency of a profitable trade with the French.
During the 17th and 18th centuries the river rang with the raucous songs of voyageurs as they paddled their loaded canoes up the St. Croix and down the Brule River to Lake Superior and eventually to Fort William. By the mid-19th century a new sound was heard, as logs thundered down the St. Croix from the logging camps of the North Woods.
Other than the development along its lower portion and the legacy of dams, the river retains much of its pristine nature. Both the Namekagon and St. Croix begin as narrow streams winding through forests, marshes and wide valleys. When the two rivers join, the St. Croix becomes wider, deeper and slower, making the area popular for small powerboats and canoes. The last segment below St. Croix Falls becomes even wider and more populated, marked by towns and pleasure craft.
General InformationThe upper reaches of the St. Croix Riverway are canoe and kayak waters, with only a few rapids and none classified as white water. The paddling season generally begins in May and ends in September; outfitters can be found in Hayward, Trego, Grantsburg, Taylors Falls and other towns on the riverway.
Canoe-access primitive camping predominates; permits are required for camping between St. Croix Falls/Taylors Falls and the Soo Line High Bridge north of Stillwater. Along the Wisconsin-Minnesota border several state forests and parks offer developed campgrounds, hiking and cross-country skiing.
Bass and muskellunge can be found along the entire riverway; trout are found in the upper reaches. Otters and such birds as bald eagles and osprey compete with the anglers for fish. The presence of these and other animals and waterfowl draws both bird-watchers and hunters. Fishing and hunting licenses are required within the riverway.
The proximity to urban areas and the river's width and placidity make the lower reaches below St. Croix Falls a popular area for boaters. Highlights in this area include the scenic Dalles of the St. Croix gorge in Interstate State Park. South of Stillwater is a favorite spot for water skiers and sailors. The Apple River, which joins the St. Croix, is one of the most popular rivers in the state for tubing.
ADDRESSADDRESS inquiries to the Superintendent, St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, 401 N. Hamilton St., St. Croix Falls, WI 54024; phone (715) 483-2274 or (715) 483-3284 for recorded information.
Points of Interest
Things to SeeNamekagon River Visitor Center
GEM DescriptionCanoe, camp or check out the wildlife in this northwoods setting.