Minnesota is a state known for its vast expanse of wilderness, and there are few better examples of this than the St. Croix State Park. Located just an hour and a half drive north of Minneapolis, this sprawling park is a testament to the beauty and power of nature. Spanning over 34,000 acres, it is one of the largest state parks in the state, offering visitors a plethora of outdoor activities and stunning vistas.
The St. Croix State Park is situated on the banks of the St. Croix River, which serves as a natural boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The river has carved out a deep gorge over the millennia, creating a rugged landscape of sandstone cliffs, rocky outcroppings, and dense forest. The park is home to a wide range of wildlife, including deer, black bears, bobcats, and bald eagles, to name just a few.
Visitors to St. Croix State Park have a multitude of options when it comes to exploring the park. Whether you are looking for a leisurely stroll through the woods or an adrenaline-fueled adventure, the park has something to offer everyone.
History of St. Croix State Park
St. Croix State Park has a rich history that dates back to the early 1900s when the state of Minnesota first acquired the land. In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began working on the park, building roads, trails, and buildings that still stand today.
During World War II, the park was used as a training ground for the Army, and many of the buildings were repurposed for military use.
After the war, the park was returned to the state of Minnesota, and in 1945 it was officially designated as a state park. Since then, the park has undergone numerous improvements and expansions, and today it is one of the most popular state parks in Minnesota.
Wildlife at St. Croix State Park
St. Croix State Park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Most commonly seen animals at the park include white-tailed deer, black bears, gray wolves, red foxes, river otters, and beavers.
In addition to these larger mammals, the park is also home to many smaller animals, including raccoons, skunks, opossums, and chipmunks. The park is also a popular spot for birdwatchers, with over 200 species of birds recorded in the area.
One of the best places to observe wildlife at St. Croix State Park is the Chengwatana State Forest, which is located adjacent to the park. The Chengwatana State Forest is home to a large population of black bears, and visitors to the park often have the opportunity to see them in their natural habitat.
Hiking Trails at St. Croix State Park
One of the most popular activities in the park is hiking. There are over 128 miles of trails winding through the park, ranging from short, easy loops to more challenging treks. The trails take hikers through a variety of landscapes, from dense forest to prairie grasslands, and offer breathtaking views of the river and surrounding bluffs.
Our favorite hike is St. Croix State Park is the 5-mile round trip hike to the Kettle River Sandstone Overlook. This trail takes hikers through a beautiful forested area and ends at a stunning overlook with views of the Kettle River and the surrounding landscape.
For more experienced hikers, the park offers several longer trails, including the 16-mile round-trip trail to the Upper Tamarack River Falls, and the 10-mile round-trip trail to the St. Croix River Overlook.
Another popular hike is the Eagle Point Trail, a 2.5-mile loop that takes hikers to the top of a sandstone cliff, offering sweeping views of the St. Croix River valley.
For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, the park offers several picnic areas, perfect for a relaxing afternoon with family and friends. The picnic areas are situated near the river, and many offer stunning views of the water and surrounding cliffs. There are also several playgrounds for kids, making it a great spot for families.
Camping at St. Croix State Park
St. Croix State Park, located next to the St. Croix River in Minnesota, is a nature lover’s paradise, boasting 34,000 acres of pristine wilderness and two rivers to explore. The park offers a wide range of activities to visitors, including canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, hiking, and biking.
St. Croix State Park has a total of three campgrounds, offering a combined 211 campsites to choose from. Of these campsites, 81 offer electric hookups, with 42 located at Riverview, 9 at Paint Rock Springs, 20 at Old Logging Trail, and 19 at the equestrian campground. The developed campsites can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs up to 60 feet, and come equipped with a table, fire ring, and grate.
Campers at St. Croix State Park have access to a variety of amenities, including drinking water, flush toilets, a vault toilet, hot showers, and a dump station. Ice and firewood are also available for purchase during the camping season, and there’s a visitor center, nature store/gift shop, and picnic areas on-site.
In addition to traditional campsites, St. Croix State Park also offers backpack sites, walk-in sites, canoe sites, cabins, a group site, and equestrian sites. The park’s eight cabins come equipped with electricity and are available year-round, while the 40 equestrian sites cater specifically to horseback riders, with hitching posts, manure bunkers, and water spigots provided.
There’s no shortage of things to do in St. Croix State Park, no matter what your interests may be. Hiking enthusiasts will love exploring the park’s many trails, like the 2.5-mile Gandy Dancer Trail or the 1.8-mile Pine Ridge Trail, while bird watchers can spot over 200 species of birds throughout the park. Fishing is also a popular activity, with the St. Croix River and Kettle River offering a wide variety of fish to catch.
Overall, St. Croix State Park is a must-visit destination for those seeking outdoor adventure and the chance to reconnect with nature. Whether you’re camping in one of the park’s many campsites, exploring the park’s trails and waterways, or simply soaking up the beauty of the natural world around you, St. Croix State Park is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Fishing at St. Croix State Park
The St. Croix River is one of the most popular destinations for anglers in the Midwest, and St. Croix State Park is no exception. The park is home to several lakes and streams stocked with various fish species, including walleye, northern pike, bass, and panfish.
In addition to the park’s lakes and streams, the St. Croix River itself is a popular spot for fishing. Anglers can fish for a variety of species, including smallmouth and largemouth bass, walleye, and catfish.
Boating and Kayaking at St. Croix State Park
For adventure seekers, the St. Croix State Park is an adrenaline-fueled paradise. The park offers several heart-racing activities like kayaking, canoeing, and tubing, which are sure to get your blood pumping.
If you’re up for a thrilling challenge, grab a kayak or canoe and head straight to the St. Croix River, one of the most popular spots for whitewater paddling in the Midwest. The river offers a perfect combination of calm stretches and rapids, providing a fun and challenging experience for all levels of kayakers and canoeists.
With towering cliffs on either side, the river takes you on a wild ride through the park’s scenic landscape. The rapids are intense, so you need to be skilled and experienced to navigate them safely. But the rush of adrenaline you feel as you power through the rapids is an experience like no other.
If you prefer a more relaxed pace, the park’s tranquil waterways are perfect for canoeing and kayaking. The river is wide and slow-moving in some areas, allowing paddlers to take in the scenery at their leisure. You can paddle through the calm waters of the river, surrounded by the lush greenery of the park, and soak in the serene beauty of nature.
For a more laid-back adventure, tubing down the river is the way to go. Rent a tube from one of the outfitters in the area and let the river’s current carry you away. The cool water is refreshing on a hot summer day, and you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the surrounding landscape.
Whether you choose to paddle or tube down the river, there are several access points in the park where you can launch your adventure. You can rent kayaks, canoes, and tubes from outfitters near the park, making it easy to gear up and hit the water.
If you’re new to kayaking or canoeing, there are guided tours available that offer a great way to explore the park’s waterways while learning from experienced guides. They’ll share their knowledge of the river’s history, ecology, and geology, giving you a deeper appreciation of the park’s natural beauty.
As you paddle through the park’s waterways, you’ll be treated to some of the most stunning scenery in Minnesota. Towering cliffs, dense forests, and serene stretches of water make for a picturesque backdrop to your adventure. Keep your eyes peeled for the park’s diverse wildlife, including otters, beavers, and bald eagles.
The Fire Tower
One of the most unique features of St. Croix State Park is the Fire Tower. Built in the 1930s, the tower stands 100 feet tall and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Visitors can climb to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the park and surrounding areas. The tower is open during the summer months, and there is no fee to climb to the top.
St. Croix State Park is a beautiful and diverse destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a hiker, angler, boater, or simply looking for a peaceful retreat in nature, St. Croix State Park is sure to please.
The park is one of the largest and most diverse state parks in Minnesota. Visitors can explore the park’s many hiking trails, observe wildlife in their natural habitat, camp in one of the park’s many campsites, or simply relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
If you’re looking for a truly unique and unforgettable experience, plan a visit to St. Croix State Park today.
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