Upper St. Croix River State Water Trail

St. Croix River Water Trail

Although it is only a two-hour drive from major metropolitan areas, the upper St. Croix retains a rugged, almost wilderness character. Gliding past heavily wooded banks and pine-studded islands, a canoeist will see few signs of human presence. The upper St. Croix is designated as a wild and scenic river. There are no major rapids. About rapids classes.

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St. Croix River Water Trail sections:

Local contact and maps

River location map National Park Service maps

Pine, Chisago, and Washington Counties, east central Minnesota
Contact National Park Service St. Croix River Visitor Center: (715) 483-2274.

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River character

The Kettle River Rapids (river mile 110 to 105) is an extensive and potentially tricky stretch of white water divided by a chain of tree-capped islands. Tumbling over boulders and exposed bedrock between 8 and 20 foot banks, the St. Croix is joined by the Kettle River at the lower end of the rapids. The gradient of the rapids is 8.3 feet per mile.


Today, second growth forests of birch, maple, oak, aspen and basswood carpet the valley. Stands of white pine forests that once cloaked the riverbanks are nearly gone, felled by the lumberman's ax. Below the Kettle River Rapids are a series of islands, often rocky and crowned with pine. Many spring-fed creeks join the St. Croix in this area.

Fish and wildlife

The St. Croix has little prime waterfowl habitat and hunting pressure is light. However, waterfowl such as mallard, wood duck, ring-necked duck and blue-winged teal can be found in the area. Upland game birds include ruffed grouse and woodcock. The most plentiful game animal is the white-tailed deer. Other wildlife along the St. Croix include beaver, bear, raccoon, otter, mink, muskrat and fox. Anglers fish the St. Croix for walleye, northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass, muskie and sauger. According to the 1997 Fish Consumption Advisory, women of childbearing age and children may eat only black crappie and bluegill sunfish. Others should eat only one meal a month of all other fish species.

The Minnesota Department of Health has guidelines for consuming fish taken from Minnesota's lakes and rivers. Go to the Fish Consumption Advisory Page to find out more.


One of the most colorful logging camp operators, Ed St. John, established his base camp at St. John's Landing (river mile 122) during the valley's logging boom in the last half of the 19th century. The landing is now part of St. Croix State Park, which extends for more than 20 miles along the river's west bank and includes miles of tributary streams.

Six miles beyond the landing are the Yellow Banks, once the terminus of a logging railroad which hauled timber to the river and dumped it over the sandy bluff for its trip to sawmills downstream.

Below the mouth of the Snake River (river mile 101.5) to Highway 70, civilization begins to encroach on both shores, although Minnesota's wooded banks are preserved within the confines of Chengwatana State Forest.

Accidents of nature have helped to preserve the upper St. Croix's wild nature. 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.

The beautiful character of the St. Croix has earned the river its status as Minnesota's first stream in the national wild and scenic rivers system. Administered by the National Park Service, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway was designated in 1968 to preserve the scenic qualities of the river and to provide adequate access for recreational users.

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