What's In A Name?

May 03, 2013 Posted by: Park Ranger Dale Cox

Mention the St. Croix in a casual conversation and you soon realize this river means different things to different people.

Through the years I have spoken to thousands of paddlers at an early March event in Madison, Wisconsin, a great number of who only know of the St. Croix as it is seen from Interstate 94. At that location the river is more of a ½ mile wide lake than a river. The lower 25 miles is called Lake St. Croix because of its width, depth, and lack of current.

I have heard conversations among diehard walleye fishermen who refer to the Kinnickinnic Narrows as the "upper St. Croix". This is a location where the Kinnickinnic River merges with the St. Croix, depositing the "Kinnie's" sediment and narrowing the St. Croix from a width of around two-thousand feet down to only a few hundred. This is only six miles upstream from where the St. Croix ends by mixing its waters with those of the Mississippi River.

Just above Lake St. Croix the river narrows in a five mile stretch of water called Stillwater Islands, named for its tree covered sandy islands. Known as "Little Venice" in the early 1900's, there are boaters today who commonly call this the "upper St. Croix" due to the shallowing of the river which occurs upstream of the islands and limitis access for larger boats.

Several summers ago a travel article in a Twin Cities newspaper referred to the St. Croix Dalles area near Taylors Falls, Minnesota, as the "upper St. Croix". This is not an uncommon reference for many people who have spent time with family or friends exploring this narrow rocky gorge.

And yet beyond the Dalles area, which is located 52 miles from the Mississippi, an additional 100 miles of the protected St. Croix Riverway extends beyond. What part of the river is your "upper St. Croix"?

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Last updated: April 10, 2015

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