I have the great fortune of living along the Wisconsin shore of the powerful and beautiful St. Croix River. Approximately 169 miles of waterway runs through the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota, the lower 125 miles forming the border between the two states, until it reaches its mouth at the Mississippi River.
The geologic forces that formed the river go back to when the Mid-Continent Rift tore North America in two, forming a volcanic zone. Lava from these volcanoes cooled into hard basalt. A shallow sea grew over the area leaving layers of sand and minerals. Melting glaciers then scraped the land, carving the river’s course, creating the awe-inspiring basalt cliffs of the Interstate Parks and sandstone river bluffs we see today.
Historically, the river has provided a way of life for the Native Americans, French fur trappers, and loggers. Minneapolis General Electric Company began construction on a hydroelectric dam located here in St. Croix Falls in 1903, completing the project three years later. Today it continues to provide power to the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro.
Recreation is now the draw. People come from around the world to boat, fish, camp, and canoe along our river. Numerous trails snake through the woods and along the cliff tops for those who prefer to experience the beauty on foot or two wheels. The steamboats that once transported people and commerce by necessity, now ferry tourists (and locals) armed with cameras to view the impressive cliffs and colorful fall leaves while eagles soar over their heads. Recent heavy storms to the north dumped as much as ten inches of rain, sending a torrent of muddy floodwaters downriver. Roads were washed away; some bridges had to be closed. Scores of people flock daily to the overlooks to experience the power of the river. Sluices on both sides of the dam are full open to help control the tremendous amount of water that is currently rushing over the top of the dam.
The pride we have in our river is show-cased in the bronze statue “River Spirit” found at the foot of the scenic overlook in St. Croix Falls. Conceived and created by Julie Ann Stage, commissioned by the City of St. Croix Falls, and unveiled in July 2007, this life-size woman rises heavenward from the depths of the river as an eagle takes flight from her shoulder.
Small towns along the river feature a wide-range of restaurants, local craft breweries, wineries, antique and gift shops, quaint little B&B’s. Local festivals celebrating our immigrant history, our river’s history, abound. There’s something for everyone. So, if you’re looking for somewhere new to vacation, or even just a day trip, consider our river, the St. Croix River. You will not be disappointed.