The St. Croix River National Scenic Riverway (the exact name) consists of 255 miles of river, and the surrounding banks, in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Actually, two rivers, the St. Croix and the Namekagon make up the Riverway. The system is managed by the National Park Service, and were in the original eight waterways designated as “National Wild and Scenic Rivers,” in 1968.
At the southern end, the Riverway enters the Mississippi River at Prescott, Wisconsin. Moving upriver and north, the St. Croix river creates the Minnesota/ Wisconsin border. Just north of Danbury, Wisconsin, the river turns east and the Namekagon flows into it from the east. Both rivers above that point are also under the protection of the National Park Service.
Although the entire system is within easy reach of Minnesota’s populated areas, the rivers afford peaceful, natural experiences, without needing to travel for days before being able to begin an adventure. Minnesota Counties bounded by the river include Chisago, Pine, and Washington.
The rivers offer easy canoeing, and the only rapids are Class I, making this ideal for family trips. Along the route are a number of designated primitive campsites. In addition, several state parks and private campgrounds provide camp-style accommodations. Various zones have been established, with differing regulations, so paddlers are advised to do plenty of pre-trip research to be sure that appropriate campsites are selected.
On the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River are three state parks directly adjacent to the waterway: St. Croix, Wild River, William O’Brien, and Afton State Parks.
In addition to paddling opportunities, the National Park Service maintains seven hiking trails along the rivers, with one of these, the 12-mile St. Croix Trail, located in Minnesota. This follows the river from Snake River Landing, just east of Pine City, south to Old Railroad Bridge Landing. At the northern end, a 0.5-mile road walk will connect the hiker to the Willard Munger State Trail (multi-use). This trail will lead a hiker to Duluth and connections with the Superior Hiking Trail and North Country National Scenic Trail.
Three of the other trails are just across the river from Minnesota, but on the Wisconsin side. They are the Ridge View Trail, the Indianhead Flowage Trail, and the Sandrock Cliffs Trail. The remaining trails are farther east in Wisconsin.
The Upper St. Croix is connected to the Brule River by the famous Brule-St. Croix Portage. This short, but historically significant, trail is a part of the North Country Trail, which spans seven states from New York to North Dakota. Along the portage are monument rocks bearing plaques with the names of famous historical figures who are known to have used this portage.
Popular activities on the St. Croix River National Scenic waterway include canoeing, kayaking, tubing, fishing, camping, hiking, and hunting in some sections. In winter, several of the trails are maintained for cross-country skiing, and/or snowshoeing.
For more information and maps, see St. Croix National Scenic Riverway