Sandbar Ahead!

July 31, 2013 Posted by: Park Ranger April Ammann

A canoe is pulled up to a sandbar on the lower St. Croix River in this image. NPS photo.

On any summer day, if paddling the St. Croix River south of Osceola, you may find a family, or even yourself, enjoying one of the features of the lower river….the sandbar.   We owe these wonders of river time summer fun in part to natural progression, but mostly to the logging era.  The St. Croix at one time was controlled by multiple gated dams, levees, and wing dams to allow a measured amount of water to flow when logs were being moved.  In conjunction with deforestation and erosion, the manipulation of the river sent great amounts of sediment laden water downstream. 

By the 1880s, steamboats became beached on the shallow sandbars we enjoy today, where once they could navigate easily. Still today, the sandbar landscape changes yearly, with new sediment carried on spring floods adding to the mix or being carried downstream.  It is never the same sand you feel between your toes, but equally enjoyable.  And don’t forget to stand still for a while in the knee deep water to feel the minnows nibbling at your feet!

4 Comments Comments icon

  1. Tim
    June 15, 2014 at 03:01

    A buddy and me went down the river just last weekend June 6th-8th and started at Interstate Park and camped close to Eagles Nest Campground.It was the 39th time we have been down the river and from our point of view the NPS does a great job of maintaining the campsites along the river...remember it is a river and continually changes with rain etc.We have never been disappointed!!!

  2. September 29, 2013 at 10:58

    The statement made about the channel markers being in place on north of the Stillwater bridge to the high bridge is completely untrue. There are no Green and red buoys on the river north of the Stillwater. The navigable channel from Wolf Marina past Boomsite marina is very narrow and not obvious. This year there's have been a significant number of groundings due to no channel markings. It is a disappointment that the park service thinks this is a safe way to operate. What would it take for the boats on the St Croix to get some additional safety markers? If not, where can I send the bill for my props?

  3. September 09, 2013 at 12:45

    We appreciate your concern about the safety of river users. The red and green channel markers north of Stillwater to the Soo Line High Bridge are still intact to help boaters. From that bridge, where upstream boat traffic is restricted, to the Highway 8 bridge in St. Croix Falls, a slow-speed, minimal wake regulation is in place at all times. This is posted at all landings. It is intended to keep boaters from traveling at speeds high enough to throw passengers from the vessel or damaging their boats should they bump an obstruction. Thus far, it has been an effective and efficient way to be proactive about public safety. As a river user, you have noticed that the river is a dynamic force, constantly changing the location of sandbars and, particularly, the location of dead trees with flooding. During low water, obstacles we may not have been aware of emerge. Given this constant change, it is not possible to mark every single hazard in the Riverway – some 255 miles. Please use caution when you are boating, wear a lifejacket, and do not operate at an unsafe speed in order to prevent an accident from occurring. Water levels are also constantly changing, making boating challenging. For up-to date river levels call our St. Croix River Visitor Center at 715-483-2274. We regularly check the gauges and have rangers on the water either in kayak or motorized boat, so we can offer advice about boating conditions. Often this late in the season, using a motorized boat above the Soo Line High Bridge becomes very difficult. It is unfortunate you have not had the opportunity to meet any of our rangers out on the water. We are there as often as we can be, educating visitors about water safety and the natural and cultural resources for which this river was preserved. The St. Croix and Namekagon rivers were among the first eight rivers set aside under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968, to “be preserved in free-flowing condition, and that they and their immediate environments shall be protected for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.” I’ve been a lifelong-resident of the river and have enjoyed spending long summer days out on the sandbars of the St. Croix with my family as a child. Under the protection of the National Park Service, I hope one day I can bring my kids here to enjoy them, as well.

  4. August 24, 2013 at 06:25

    Since the takeover of the St. Croix River by the Nat. Park Service, safety on the river has been a very low priority. Starting at Stillwater and heading upstream, all markings sending boaters along the channels have been intentionally removed. No wake buoys are no longer visible in no wake areas that marked narrow channels and low water conditions. Rock markers are gone. Deadheads that floated down with high water are not tagged with floats to protect a boater from spearing their boat or throwing the occupants into the water after glancing off one of them. The question is; would the river be better preserved by local government. With no staff to protect the users of the river, I question why the NPS is so brazen as to brag about the features of the river. Send someone out on a boat with the mission of protecting the users and making their experience a better one. If someone drowns after hitting a unmarked bar or log, I hope the NPS does not hide behind the laws protecting government. Stand up and admit that you neglected public safety.

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Last updated: April 10, 2015

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