|Wild River State Park|
Turn the clock back a few hundred years and imagine yourself standing in the St. Croix River Valley amid a stretch of 100 to 200-foot white pine trees. If you're successful, you'll have a mental picture of what parts of the riverway looked like then. If you are having a little trouble coming up ...
St. Croix State Park
|Description: Twenty-one miles of the St. Croix River, a national wild and scenic river way, form the eastern boundary of the park; while Minnesota’s first wild and scenic river, the Kettle River, joins the St. Croix to form the western boundary. At least ten other streams flow through the park, creating a watershed of hundreds of square miles.
The geological history of the Valley, like most of Minnesota, is among the most complex in the world. During the last glacial period, about 10,000 years ago, the St. Croix River Valley served as a major drainage channel for glacial meltwater.
As these waters carved the way for the river seen today, the waters left behind a variety of soils and sediment that cover the ancient lava bedrock far below. One of the most common types being sand and red and yellow clay, which may be seen along the River Bluff Trail where the St. Croix has cut away the riverbank. In fact, one area along the river has such a large deposit of yellow clay, it is commonly called Yellow Banks.
The landscape is dominated by communities of jack pine, aspen, birch, black spruce swamp, tamarack, northern and lowland hardwoods, white and red pine and some cedar. This site is home to 5000 acres of a unique plant community that includes the rare jack pine barrens, with its jack pine canopy and prairie plant understory. Look for big bluestem and blazing star here, as well as the blueberry and blackberry.
No matter what your means of transportation, miles of trails and waterways wind through the park for those on foot, horse, bicycle, skis, snowmobile, kayak, canoe or car. There are 127 miles of foot, 75 miles of horseback, six miles of paved bicycle and two self-guided interpretive trails, so you’ll have plenty of opportunity for wildlife viewing. This is Minnesota’s largest state park.
Wildlife to Watch: More than 34,000 acres of meadows, marshes, streams and forests provide homes for an array of wildlife from aquatic animals such as Blanding’s turtle, beaver and river otter to land dwellers like porcupines, coyotes, gray and red foxes and squirrels. Elusive species such as fisher, bobcat and timber wolf may be spotted as well. White-tailed deer sightings are likely and black bears are commonly seen in spring and summer.
Look for turtles, including snapping and painted, and although seen less often, map and spiny softshells too. Wood turtles have been reported nesting near the park. Listen for toad and frog calls and choruses and the vocalizations of snipe, a bird of wetland meadows and boggy areas. There are big sturgeon in the Kettle River and large and small dragonflies galore to discover at the park.
Bald eagle, barred owl, eastern bluebird and red-eyed vireo are often seen. warblers and flycatchers are plentiful. Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings and savannah sparrows and sedge wrens may be spotted or heard too.
In 2008 straight-line winds toppled hundreds of pines. This blowdown has initiated the restoration of rare pine barren and oak savanna habitats that are critically imperiled in Minnesota and globally rare. This has created new habitat opportunities for wildlife and birds, such as the red-headed woodpecker, a species not often seen in the state.
Special Tips: To view wildlife on and around the waterways and springs, bring your own canoe or kayak, or rent one at the park. Enjoy the flat water and easy rapids of the St. Croix or the more challenging Kettle River, but do check with park officials to get updated reports on river conditions. In addition, an observation tower and three scenic overlooks will give you memorable views of the vicinity.
Other Activities: Canoeing, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, camping, horseback riding and biking.
The multiple-use Willard Munger State Trail, consisting of a complex system of interconnecting trails, winds through the park.
Ownership: MN DNR
Size: 34,000 acres
Closest Town: Hinkley
Best Seasons for Wildlife Viewing: