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As a teenager I could not wait to go on a St. Croix River on my own, while most of my peers were spending their money on movies and entertainment, I found myself saving every penny for a different kind of adventure – my first boat. It wasn’t a fancy yacht or a speedboat; it was a humble 16 ft aluminum craft canoe. But to me, it was a ticket to explore the vast bodies of water that drew me in.
They don’t make them any more but if I were to get another canoe and I’m thinking about it this one strikes my fancy.
Back then I would throw an inner tube on top of the car with the canoe securely fastened on top. Then head towards the nearest water. More often than not, my destination was the St. Croix River. A picturesque waterway that stretches through Wisconsin and Minnesota. I would launch my canoe in Stillwater, a city with a rich history in the lumber industry. At the peak of the log boom, Stillwater’s lumber mills produced an astonishing amount of timber, making it one of the largest lumber markets in the world.
Today it is a town where authentic paddle wheel riverboats and gondolas glide the waters. Historic Main Street shopping, dining, lodging and entertainment are yours inside this charming river town where time stands still in the valley.
But on to my Canoe and The St Croix River
The St. Croix River, a tributary of the mighty Mississippi River, spans approximately 169 miles. It’s lower 125 miles from the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, and it is designated as a National Scenic Riverway under the protection of the National Park Service. The St Croix river, with its breathtaking natural beauty, became my sanctuary.
What I packed
Accompanied by anyone willing to join me, I would paddle against the current on the St Croix , exploring the numerous small islands and sandbars that adorned the river. These hidden gems were perfect for a sandbar picnic, surrounded by the stunning rocky cliffs that marked the beginning of our voyage.
If we had time we would set up camp on one of the larger sand bars with our Coleman sleeping bags and Coleman coolers. Had to have ice and cooler any of you Baby Boomers remember Boons Farm?
Anyway that’s all that canoe could hold but it was enough and it was heaven. Oh! We had bug spray and ground cover but no tents.
My family’s history goes back many generations of farming in the St Croix valley. I always felt I belonged on this river of beauty.
If you ever find yourself in Minnesota, I urge you not to miss the opportunity to explore this part of the state. From Stillwater to the charming town of Taylor Falls, the St. Croix River offers an unforgettable experience.
Once you reach Taylor Falls, take some time for a recommended hike. Visit the Interstate State Park and do the 1.25-mile River Trail, well maintained and easy to follow.
Afterwards, let the current guide you as you drift along the river, soaking in the tranquility and beauty that surrounds you. The St. Croix River is a hidden gem that will leave you captivated and yearning for more. So, grab a paddle, hop in a canoe, and embark on an adventure that will surely leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.
Trails and State Park close by
Don’t worry about not having a Canoe or kayak. There are numerous locations that you can rent from. If you are more of the trail and bicycle type.
Stillwater was also recently named a Bronze-level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists. The award recognizes Stillwater for its commitment to creating transportation and recreational resources that benefit its residents of all ages and abilities while encouraging healthier and more sustainable transportation choices.