• Canoeists paddle by tree lined shores

    Saint Croix

    National Scenic Riverway WI,MN

Canoeing

The St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers are known for their quiet water canoeing. To help you plan a canoe trip; descriptions of different river stretches are provided for both the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers. Average speed while paddling is 3 miles per hour, so a slow leisurely day trip would average 15 miles per day.

 

The Namekagon varies from an intimate shallow cold-water trout stream, closed in by a predominately coniferous forest, to a slow moving stream flowing through marsh and swamp land. A narrow, twisting river throughout most of its 98 mile length, it is best navigated by canoe. The Namekagon Paddling Guide provides information about what to expect on stretches of the Namekagon River and distances.

 

The St. Croix River changes from narrow to broad and shallow to deep, providing many recreational experiences on its over 150 mile length. Canoes dominate the upstream section, canoes and small fishing boats use the middle, and motorized boats dominate the downstream section. Backwater areas and sloughs can help canoeists avoid boats.

To assist you in planning, descriptions and distances for the St. Croix River have been divided into two paddling guides. The Upper St. Croix Paddling Guide covers the St. Croix River from Gordon Dam to Highway 70. The Lower St. Croix Paddling Guide covers the St. Croix between Highway 70 and Stillwater, Minnesota. Canoesists do not commonly make use of the River below Stillwater.

 

OVERVIEW
For mapping purposes the rivers have been divided into 8 stretches. Maps show distances, rapids, campsites, facilities, and landings. See the heading Maps. Also, River Levels can help you decide if it is appropriate to canoe a specific stretch this week.
River Currents: The average speed for the St. Croix is one mile per hour. The average speed for the Namekagon is two miles per hour. Specific stretches of the river can be slower or faster. Flowages have little if any current. Experienced canoeists can travel faster by reading the river and using paddling skills, while new canoeists are not as efficient. Fishing and wildlife viewing can also slow your travel.
Wind Condition: The wider portions of the river are most effected by wind. A strong upstream wind can mean waves and slower progression.
Canoeing Difficulty: Normal conditions for the two rivers are at most a Class I (moving water with a few riffles and small waves and few or no obstructions). The one exception is below the dam at St. Croix Falls, which should not be attempted by open canoes. During periods of high water/flood some rapids can become Class II (easy rapids with waves up to 3 feet and wide, clear channels that are obvious without scouting, but require some maneuvering) or Class III (rapids with high, irregular waves often capable of swamping open canoes. Narrow passages that require complex maneuvering and may require scouting from shore).
Outfitters & Shuttles: If you don't have your own canoe or need a shuttle, commercial outfitters can supply them. A list is available, choose an outfitter close to where you plan to canoe.
Campsites: Campsites containing a primitive toilet, fire-ring and picnic table, are marked by a brown and white tent symbol visible from the river. See camping for more information.
Portages: Dams are located at Hayward (left shore), Trego (right shore) and St. Croix Falls (right shore), this requires your canoe and gear to be removed from the water and carried past the dams. The portage at St. Croix Falls is 1 1/4 miles long due to river conditions below the dam and land ownership. You might want to consider ending your trip before the flowages, or lakes, created upstream from each dam or put in below the dams. Recommended portages are also available at the site of three historic logging dams that have been partially removed. Pacwawong, Phipps and Coppermine should be scouted before attempting to run, if you choose not to portage them. Depending on water conditions these dam sites can be hazardous.
Canoeing Plans: It is a good idea to provide someone with your planned put-in and take-out locations, expected length of trip and number in party. They can then contact authorities if you are overdue. The establishment of a late return phone number is an important way to inform others of your location. Cell phone signals are weak or non-existent along much of these two rivers.

If you would like to read some personal accounts of canoe trips read on...

 

PROTECT THE RIVER
Sandbanks are erodable and provide nesting habitat for turtles. Please stay off them.Mussels are protected because of endangered species. Please do not remove them from the river.
Primitive toilets are available at campsites and landings. If toilets are not available, bury human waste at least 6 inches deep and at least 100 feet from the river.
Bring a trash bag to carry out all trash. Glass beverage containers are prohibited at the Riverway.
Do not damage live trees. Dead and down wood may be used for firewood.

 

SAFETY
Exposure to cool air or cold water can lead to hypothermia, even when temperatures are well above freezing. Dress appropriately and bring spare clothes in case you get wet.
Kneel in the bottom of the canoe while in areas of rough water for stability. Standing and sudden sideways shifts can make the canoe unstable.
If you fall out of a canoe keep your head upstream, feet downstream, kick and back paddle to control your movement if you can't stand up. Your canoe floats, so you can also hang onto it, remember to stay on the upstream side.
Water riffles mean that rocks lie close to the surface. Follow the smooth water shaped like a "V" pointing down stream.
Keep the front or bow of the canoe headed downstream with the current or headed into boat wakes.
When leaving vehicles at landings, remove or hide valuables as break-ins have occurred in the past.

A brochure is available on canoe safety.

Did You Know?

Black and White photo of the St. Croix river clogged with logs

Between 1850 and 1889 log jams occurred at angle rock on the St. Croix River between Minnesota and Wisconsin, where the river bends within a rocky gorge. In 1886 over 150 million board feet of logs jammed creating a tourist attraction. Today St. Croix NSR attracts tourists for its scenic beauty.