Behind The Scenes At A National Park

July 11, 2013 Posted by: Park Ranger Dale Cox

A fallen tree crosses and partially blocks a side channel of the St. Croix River in this image. NPS Photo Dale Cox. 

The mission of the National Park Service is one of balance. -  encouraging the public to enjoy these special places, like canoeing and kayaking the backwaters of the pristine St. Croix, while still working to ensure that the natural and cultural resources of a given area are maintained for the enjoyment of future generations.


When a tree falls and blocks or partially blocks a small river channel, we must weigh the need to cut and remove it (for safety and access) with the fact that this is a natural aspect of what happens in nature. In a river park that is 233 miles long (466+ miles of shoreline, not including islands!) we realize that attempting to remove every potential hazard from a park would prove an impossible undertaking, and visitors should understand the need for proper planning, preparation, and self-responsibility when going on a river trip.


Even so, there are times we do clear hazards, such as the case of a tree that we discovered in late May, which had toppled over in a side channel of the lower St. Croix. While not heavily visited, this is a beautiful spot that people are delighted to discover and explore. Added in is the potential that snowmelt flooding next spring might bring in debris which could pile up behind it and prevent access beyond it for years to come. Due to these factors and others, it was determined the park would remove it, which with a tree this size was accomplished slowly and safely over the course of a few days by Riverway maintenance staff.

A picture of the same side channel, with the tree now removed. NPS Photo Dale Cox.

Hats off to the men and women “behind the scenes” who work to keep the sloughs open, the campsites clean, and the grass cut!

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Last updated: April 10, 2015

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