Exploring The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

The St. Croix National Scenic River that runs between Wisconsin and Minnesota offers a great recreational retreat year-round. NPS photos.

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is one of those special places in nature that doesn’t have an optimal season; whenever you choose to go is a good time to go.

Trying to beat the heat on a balmy summer afternoon? Spend your day paddling down a river beautiful enough to inspire one of North America’s first shifts towards river protection and clean water. With that clean water comes a multitude of intriguing species, such as dragonflies, bald eagles, turtles, sturgeon, river otters, and the endangered freshwater mussels.

A Winter Retreat

Prefer to explore during the winter months? A visit to the national scenic riverway that is bordered on the east by Wisconsin and the west by Minnesota is a great excuse to dig out those snowshoes or cross country skis and put them to work.

During the winter months park staff regularly groom the Trego Lake Ski Trail, which offers 3.6 miles of beginning to intermediate skiing in three loops. Along the way you'll have a number of scenic overlooks to pause for a rest and to view the river and see if any wildlife is out and about. Snowshoers have their pick from the riverway's many hiking trails once they get buried in fluff.

If you're looking for a winter sport a little less taxing, head down onto the river ice for some ice fishing while enjoying some of the most beautiful sunsets, views, and animal sightings. Be careful, though, as the ice can be uneven. Park officials recommend that you check it thoroughly before heading out onto it.

Spring Paddling And Hiking

Spring is always an enjoyable time to explore the Riverway. With 156 miles of the Saint Croix River and 99 miles of its tributary, the Namekagon, you will probably need some navigation assistance! Never fear, the Saint Croix River visitor center in Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin, is open year-round, and the Namekagon River Visitor Center in Trego, Wisconsin, is open seasonally.

The visitor centers can stock you up with maps and paddling guides and apprise you of current river levels. You can also get an overview of the national riverway by watching the centers' 18-minute film, The St. Croix: A Northwoods Journey.

Come hike or paddle as the hundreds of miles of park bursts with new spring life and an impressive array of wildflowers. Fisherman: take notice; the river is rich in prized smallmouth bass, brown trout, brook trout, and musky.

What we're hoping is that this getaway release has inspired you to head on over to St. Croix National Scenic Riverway right now! What better way to enjoy autumn’s entire colorful splendor than by exploring such an extensive and majestic riverside via canoeing, kayaking, tubing, boating, guided fishing trips, or tours on paddlewheelers; you can contact a licensed outfitter for information about these services.

If you need more than one day to take in the sights, there are more than 150 campsites along the riverbank that are available on a first-come first-serve basis, and they’re free!

For additional insights, visit the riverway's website.