The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is located in northwest Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota and is a unit of the National Park System administered by the National Park Service. Relatively free-flowing and unpolluted, the Namekagon and St. Croix rivers flow through some of the most scenic and least developed country in the Upper Midwest.
In 1968, Congress established the Riverway as one of the original eight rivers protected under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. In 1972, the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway was added to the system.
Together they form the 230-mile-long park that offers outdoor enthusiasts a chance to enjoy a variety of recreation opportunities within easy reach of Minneapolis-St. Paul. The last 25 miles of the St. Croix River are not part of the national park, but are part of the national wild and scenic rivers system. This 25-mile stretch is administered by the States of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Quick FactsActing Superintendent: Terri Hogan
Average operating budget: $3.9 million
Employees: 29 permanent, 35 temporary
Volunteer hours: 5,760 hours in 2017
Visitation: over 708,00 visitors in 2016.
Size: 230 linear miles
Acreage: approximately 92,746 acres
National Park Service: 25,088 acres (27%)
Other federal agencies: 804 acres (.01%)
Scenic Easements: 14,642 acres (16%)
Private, State, other public lands: 52,212 (56%)
Community Overlays: The Riverway's 230 miles exist within a context of 2 states, 12 counties, and 25 towns and cities.
Use current and archival news releases for your research. The Wild Rivers Conservancy, the official nonprofit partner of the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, also issues press releases about programs and events that happen on the rivers.
An overview of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Foundation Document provides the information listed below in a pdf file format.
Park Purpose:"The purpose of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is to preserve, protect, and enhance the value of the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers and their immediate environment for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations.The values for which the Riverway has been designated as a wild and scenic river are its free-flowing character, exceptional water quality, and the aquatic, riparian, recreational, cultural/historic, geologic, scenic, and aesthetic values present in the rivers."
Park Significance:Significance statements express why the Riverway resources and values are important enough to merit designation as a unit of the National Park System.
Water Quality: The St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers have excellent water quality throughout their reaches. The water quality of the rivers is the critical medium that sustains the essential habitats the park provides for its aquatic species.
Free Flow: The Riverway protects one of the last undeveloped, large floodplain rivers in the upper Mississippi River system. The Namekagon and the St. Croix function unimpeded for considerable distances as they have for millennia, influenced by natural processes as they meander, flood, and migrate through the river corridor.
Mussel Diversity: The Riverway is home to 41 species of freshwater mussels - one of the greatest assemblages of these fascinating and sensitive aquatic organisms in the United States.
Ecological Corridor: The St. Croix and Namekagon serve as an uncommon, nearly completely protected north-south corridor that supports large populations of diverse flora and fauna. The Riverway transitions from a cold-water river to a warm-water river before ending in a glacially formed riverine lake.
Human History: Visitors can witness centuries of history related to river use throughout the Riverway. More than 200 American Indian and European American cultural sites have been identified within the boundary.
Recreational Opportunities: The Riverway offers exceptional primitive camping experiences along its length, including the opportunity for multiday and even multiweek float trips. Visitors can be immersed in a scenic and aesthetic landscape for days at a time with few indications of the modern world.
River Conservation History: The protected Riverway embodies the history of river conservation efforts in the United States. It was one of the original eight rivers designated under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and remains a place where legal precedents related to river protection and management are set.
Geology: Rich geological evidence of the Midcontinent Rift and the Cambrian, Ordovician, and Pleistocene periods can be seen here.
Scenery: Most of the Riverway is classified as scenic under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act for its minimally developed landscape and primitive riverine environment. Historic river towns contribute to the exceptional visual experiences here.
Last updated: November 23, 2021