All good journeys begin on the trail! -Mike Hohmann, ’09.
I recently revisited Interstate State Park along the St. Croix River, near Taylor’s Falls, MN and St. Croix Falls, WI. The two parks are located near the junction of Hwy 8, Hwy 95 and the St. Croix River. One park is in MN, the other in WI, each across the river from the other. It may be of interest that neither town is actually located on or near any ‘falls.’ There is a hydroelectric dam at St. Croix Falls, and sometimes, according to a Ranger I spoke with, the dam ‘overflows’ creating a temporary ‘falls. ‘Go figure!
The last time I visited the Park, about 6-8 years ago, I was camping with my oldest grandson, Charlie! He must have been 6-8 years old and we also had my Black Lab, Kolby, along for a few days in the woods. We camped on the MN side of the river, hiked a bit, split wood and made fires, and spent a few nights in a tent. What fun!
We also made a couple of trips into nearby (25 mi) Stillwater, MN -a great old ‘small town’ located right on the river. We went in for lunch one day because I wanted to show Charlie the lift bridge that crossed the St. Croix, and we ate at a small restaurant on the corner of where you turned to cross the river -excellent burgers and malts! We walked Kolby in the nearby city park adjacent to the bridge -I’m hoping I can find an old picture of the lift bridge to include in this story.
I also took my youngest daughter there camping about 25 years ago -I have a couple of great pictures but they’re not digitized so you’ll just have to take my word for it! So yes, I’m revisiting.
And, one day in a few more years, I just may be lucky enough to take my grand daughter camping there as well, although I’m sure her mother (and maybe dad as well) would accompany us! A family affair… Maybe a family reunion of sorts? 😉
On this trip, I arrived about 8 a.m. on a very foggy morning. This St. Croix River, I’m sure there are many others, is a tributary of the mighty Mississippi. It’s about 165 miles (275 km) long, and flows in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. The lower 125 miles (210 km), forms the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Much of it is a National Scenic Riverway.
The St. Croix begins at Upper St. Croix Lake, about 20 mi. south of Lake Superior in WI, and it flows southwest. It is joined by the Namekagon River, and then becomes much wider. It joins the Mississippi just south of Stillwater, at Prescott, WI. Interstate Park is about 60 mi. NE of Minneapolis.
There are many glacial potholes in the Interstate Park, as described above -a tale that begins over a billion years ago with volcanic activity, then followed by glaciers about two million years ago, and their melting about 12,000 years ago creating wild glacial rivers which created the St. Croix Valley and the potholes like Lilly Pond and hundreds of others.
Lily’s Pond pothole was very dark in the heavy shade, and was covered with lily pads and dense algae. The smaller pothole below is much more descriptive, although it is less than a tenth the size of Lily Pond. The center, round pothole below is about 3′-4′ in diameter.
Amazing how such trees continue to grow and thrive in such conditions. We see this continually, and I am always amazed. Of course we also see others that have lost the fight and succumbed -hanging off a cliff by their roots or laying below rotting or waiting to be washed downstream in high-water conditions. It’s that way in the wild, and in everyday life to an extent -only the strong survive!
Earlier I mentioned the Stillwater Lift Bridge. In the past month, the Lift Bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic, and is now only open to pedestrians and bicycles. However, it still operates as a lift bridge to facilitate river barge and boat traffic.
There is a new bridge a few miles south of the Lift Bridge, that has opened to carry vehicular traffic across the river. It is much larger and can handle vastly increased traffic flows. The new bridge connects with MN Hwy 36.
Construction of the new bridge was very contested by many groups and local communities, and issues were addressed in various courts over the past decade. The older lift bridge had traffic tied up in Stillwater on a daily basis, and weekends were especially bad. The decades-old design, running through narrow city streets could no longer operate effectively, and it was impacting local businesses along the congested streets. The issues were argued, and the new bridge was built.
I took the picture of the new bridge shown below, and I found those pictures of the old lift bridge (along with Charlie and Kolby) -from 2010.
I hope you enjoyed my quick revisit of the St. Croix River Valley. As the cooler weather of fall moves in, I’ll likely head out again for some more vigorous backpacking -out west or in the southwest. I hope to obtain my General radio license from the FCC in October, thus I should be on the air AND on the trail before the snow flies!
73, de Mike, KEØGZT