St. Croix River State Water Trail

Boats on the St. Croix River

Beginning in Upper St. Croix Lake in Douglas County, Wisconsin, the St. Croix River State Water Trail flows 164 miles to its confluence with the Mississippi River near Prescott, Wisconsin. The majority of the river creates the state boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin, and much of it is federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River.

Upper river segments retain a rugged wilderness character, flowing past heavily wooded banks and pine-studded islands. Lower segments showcase steep sandstone and limestone bluffs with winding side channels and placid, tree-shaded backwaters.

Maps and river segments

The St. Croix River is both a state water trail and a national scenic riverway, co-managed by the National Park Service (NPS).

Get river maps from the National Park Service

Call the National Park Service St. Croix River Visitor Center for more information: 715-483-2274.


There is a short but strong stretch of rapids under the U.S. Highway 8 bridge. Standing waves vary from three to five feet high and can swamp an open canoe. The easiest path is along the right side of the rapids.

Another stretch of extensive and potentially tricky white water is in the Kettle River Rapids, river miles 110-105. Rapids gradient is 8.3 feet per mile. The St. Croix and Kettle rivers join at the lower end of the rapids.


Most of the St. Croix's banks feature heavily wooded second-growth forests of birch, maple, oak, aspen and basswood, although many of the islands below the Kettle River Rapids are still crowned with pine.

Below the Dalles, the river flows through a heavily wooded, steep-sided valley with occasional sandstone and limestone bluffs. Springs and small streams enter the river, creating dozens of islands, miniature deltas, valleys and winding side channels. At Stillwater the river widens and deepens into Lake St. Croix, formed by a natural bar at the junction of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers and bounded by steep wooded slopes. From Bayport to Afton the bluffs recede on the Minnesota side, replaced by large, level terraces.

Water trail locator map




CAUTION! Important portage information:

There is an unavoidable 1.3 mile portage around a dam just north of Minnesota's Interstate State Park in the Taylors Falls area.

Download portage map
Download portage map
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Map of Taylors Falls area portage

Click to enlarge portage map

Fish and wildlife

Eating fish from a Minnesota river or lake? Read the MN Department of Health's fish consumption advisory.


  • Catfish
  • Largemouth bass
  • Muskie
  • Northern pike
  • Sauger
  • Smallmouth bass
  • Walleye


  • Bear
  • Beaver
  • Fox
  • Raccoon
  • River otters
  • Mink
  • Muskrat
  • White-tailed deer


  • Blue-winged teal
  • Mallard
  • Ring-necked duck
  • Ruffed grouse
  • Woodcock
  • Wood duck


The river was Minnesota's first to be designated in the national wild and scenic rivers system, administered by the National Park Service. The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway was designated in 1968.

The river's upper and lower segments were formed at different times, by draining waters from different glacial lakes. At the St. Croix Dalles at Taylors Falls, water draining from glacial Lake Duluth drilled a deep narrow path through hard igneous rock to join the previously formed lower river. Rocks and gravel swirling in river eddies carved out the Dalles' potholes - stone wells up to 60 feet deep.

Indian burial mounds, paintings and sandstone carvings were once numerous in the lower St. Croix valley, now largely lost to time, agriculture and construction.

Accidents of nature helped to preserve the wildness of the river’s upper segments. Sandy soil unfit for farming and rapids that made water transportation impossible discouraged the 19th century influx of settlers from populating the river valley above Taylors Falls. During that same time, the lower river saw millions of logs sorted and floated downriver to mills during the state's logging heyday.

Riverboat passengers watch a rock climber on the riverbank
Rock climber and riverboat passengers.


Clouds reflected in the river
Cloud reflections.

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