Friday, June 10, 2016

ST. CROIX DAYS


July 25, 2011...Nothing is better than sitting alongside the banks of the St. Croix River in Interstate State park just south of Taylor Falls. The area is as beautiful as ever with a wall of rock shooting as high as fifty-feet. I share the river with touring paddle boats and daring cliff divers. The water is the color of root beer.---River Journals

When I lived in Fargo, N.D, I always looked forward to this time year. Summer for me, and still is now, a time escape into the wilderness. Back then I would take extended paddling and camping trips into Minnesota. Like a modern-day voyager, I'd set off to find the most scenic waterway I could find,   unload my kayak and paddle its pristine waters.  Some of my most memorable days were spent traveling both up and down the St. Croix River.

The St. Croix River is a paddling jewel of the northwoods as it runs south dividing both Minnesota and Wisconsin as its border. In 1968, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, which includes its major tributary the Namekagon, was established as one of the original eight rivers under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
 "An unspoiled river is a very rare thing in this Nation today." said President Lyndon Johnson upon signing the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act,  "Their flow and vitality have been harnessed by dams and too often they have been turned into open sewers by communities and by industries. It makes us all very fearful that all rivers will go this way unless somebody acts now to try to balance our river development."
Ever since the riverway has offered outdoor enthusiasts a chance to enjoy a wilderness experience and a variety of other outdoor recreation opportunities within an easy reach from a major metropolitan area. The upper part of the rivers have challenging Class I-II rapids for canoeists and kayakers, while the lower section of the river is popular for all recreational enthusiasts, who enjoy canoeing, boating, fishing, rock climbing and hiking along its scenic shores. State parks and forests line the border river providing an endless array of camping sites.


July 26, 2011...We were accompanied by the river tour boat for the first couple of miles, explored a rocky island and saw a large rattlesnake there. The river is wide and the weather was clear. 

In on of our first trip on the St. Croix, my son Cole and I kayaked the 14-miles from Interstate Park to the landing at William O'Brien State park. We shared the scenic beauty of the famous Dalles of the St. Croix with historic looking paddle boats the Taylors Falls Queen and the Taylors Falls Princess.
The towering cliffs are made of basalt from the ancient lava flows. Looking closely at these formations, one can see layers of tiny, empty, bubble-like spaces running through the cliffs. Each of these layers marks what was once the top of a lava flow. From river level to the highest rocks, seven major layers visible forming the bedrock we see today.

Escaping the gorge, we spent a memorable on the river as it widens while intertwining with islands, sandbars, channels and backwaters. Only two bridges marked our progress along the way. One a highway bridge and another a swinging railroad bridge. After 14 miles of paddling our campsite at William O'Brien State Park was a welcome sight.


August 21, 2012...The park is battered from last year's wind storm. It doesn't look like a tree was untouched, fallen trees lay everywhere. But, the St. Croix doesn't care as it heads toward the Mississippi.  I love this river, clear challenging and filled with beauty, along with cool camping sites.

My next voyage on the St. Croix River was a solo odyssey of paddling downstream and up-stream to camping sites along the river. Being alone and without a shuttle,  I based my van at St. Croix State Park Main Landing and paddled to camping sites.   They were for most part quiet waters in remote and beautiful, heavily wooded country on both side of the river. I floated along in  Thoreau-like-fashion reflecting on the solitude of the journey. I found Eagle Bend campsite about 6 miles downstream just before some fast water to set up my camp. To go any further, I would have to battle back through challenging rapids on the way back.  I eat, swim and sleep with the sound of rushing water breaking the silence. Over the next couple of days, I paddle and camp along the St. Croix enjoying the solitude of my adventure.

August 24, 2012...A beautiful morning for paddling the St. Croix. A smoky layer of mist covers the river before the sun breaks over it. It's almost a shame I have to leave. It is so peaceful, so relaxing.