The St. Croix River Valley, revisited

All good journeys begin on the trail! -Mike Hohmann, ’09.


River Trail

River Trail, Interstate State Park, MN


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!


St. Croix River watershed map


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? 😉


A foggy morning on the river.


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.



Fog in the St. Croix River gorge




St. Croix River, MN


St. Croix River, MN -the morning fog is lifting


Glacial Potholes, St. Croix Dalles, MN


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 Pond Pothole, Interstate Park, MN


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.


Pothole, St. Croix River, MN


The St. Croix, as the fog is finally lifting



Nature’s forces split this boulder


Split boulder, another view.


The trail continues…



A close-up across the river




Interstate Park, St. Croix River, MN


Trees growing in rock (1), St. Croix River, MN


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!


Trees growing in rock (2), St. Croix, MN




Mid-morning -the boats are out on the St. Croix River


Kayaks on the river



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.


The ‘new’ Stillwater bridge replacement, ’17


Stillwater Lift Bridge, 2010


Charlie and Kolby, Stillwater Lift Bridge, 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



About Mike Hohmann

I did lots of camping/hiking as a kid in the Scouts, and I still strive to 'be prepared.' After high school, I got bored with more school and enlisted in the Army Corps. of Engineers, doing two tours in Vietnam. Post military, I completed BS and MBA degrees and spent several decades with Corporate America, working mostly in the areas of conventional and renewable energy. I also spent over a decade as a self-employed small business consultant in marketing and finance. As a young family man with a wife and two kids, we spent many vacations camping and hiking in northern Minnesota. I spent additional long weekends fishing the rivers and camping/hiking along the North Shore of Lake Superior. I retired early and hit the trails hard-- in the lower-48, Alaska, and western Canada. These days I backpack, car-camp and day-hike, go snowshoeing, and try to get the grand-kids out to teach them the ways of the trail. Other interests include American Revolutionary War and Civil War history, 19th and 20th century firearms, Native American history; business and macroeconomics. I'm a recently-licensed amateur (Ham) radio operator, and I look forward to many radio-related adventures in coming months. Life is good! Member, Superior Hiking Trail Association; Member, Appalachian Mountain Club; Member, REI; Member, ARRL- Amateur Radio Relay League, the National Assoc. for Amateur Radio; Twin Cities Metro Skywarn Spotter; Twin City FM Club; Richfield Amateur Radio Club; QRP ARCI, Low-Power Amateur Radio Club International; Honorary Member, Toronto QRP Society; Life Member, National Rifle Association
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10 Responses to The St. Croix River Valley, revisited

  1. I’m a big fan of fog for photo taking—love the one where the fog is starting to lift. This looks like a great place. It reminds me a bit of a park on Vancouver Island that also has potholes, but the river is not as big.

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      Thanks for your comment, Caroline. Yes, there’s something almost magical about fog. And it can often be short-lived. It adds an interesting dimension to almost any outdoor scene. Your comment reminds me to check your blog to see how the bicycle trip in Wyoming went… after your rigorous trek along the BC coastline. Good to hear from you!

  2. ve3ips says:

    Mike, what a great experience and to do it with family as well makes it more enjoyable

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      That’s very true, John. I want to introduce all the grandkids to hiking and the outdoors, and amateur radio as well. Time will tell what they ultimately get into, enjoy and pursue. Everyone has lots going on in their lives, even the kids, so time becomes the ultimate limiting factor. Btw, I met someone who is very knowledgeable in rdf at Field Day this year and that should prove very useful! Thanks for reading and your comments as well..

  3. Those potholes look a lot like the potholes of botanical beach on Vancouver Island. Those ones are exposed at low tide and are little worlds in and of themselves, filled with inter tidal critters that call them a safe & very protected home. You should venture up there some time with your grandkids… they’d love it! When our kids were young we’d lose hours there! (But you always have to be aware of the tide coming in… so set an alarm!)

    • Mike Hohmann says:

      Thanks for that suggestion, Sheri. I’m headed out with another grandson in a few day to camp and hike -they keep me busy! I’ll soon be headed to the west and southwest for some hiking and climbing. I’ve enjoyed your blog -especially the posts from the Canmore areas of Alberta and southern BC. I know you’ve also got some other adventures in the blog that caught my eye… like Cuzco and Machu Picchu. But I only began following you today! 😉 Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      • What places will you hit? We’ve got the climbing bug here in our family too. Let me know if you want any Bow Valley (Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise) climbing crag beta. (Our son’s off in Squamish right now.)

        As for the blog, I began it a year ago with our Peru trip, so you’re just about caught up, by the sounds of it. Well done, ’cause I don’t make ’em short! But there will be plenty more coming!

        • Mike Hohmann says:

          I’m looking at Utah, New Mexico and Arizona this fall, no technical climbing -just trails in the mountains and visiting friends… maybe King’s Peak in UT and a few mountains 10-12,000′ in WY to get acclimated on the way out -that’s about as ‘technical’ as I get. 😉 You’re right, your posts aren’t short -but they’re sure interesting! And good photos to boot! I do think my next trip into Canada will center on the Bow Valley area… maybe up to Lake Louise and Jasper, visiting the ice fields and over to Yoho. My wife has never been up there and 3-4 weeks would be nice. It’s been about 15 yrs. since I’ve been up there, and I’m long overdue in my return. I’ll definitely be in touch when we’re planning the trip, maybe we can even meet up on a high ridgeline somewhere! Thanks for following, Sheri.

  4. Judy says:

    Wonderful photos–just like being there!

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