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LENGTH 26.6 miles
DIFFICULTY easy until Stillwater, motorized boats
DATE September 18-19, 2016
MAIN FEATURES St Croix National Scenic Waterway, Interstate Park, Osceola Landing, William O’Brien State Park
Took my first overnight kayaking trip down the Lower St Croix River this weekend and camped one night in the National Park sites. We have small recreational kayaks, so those lightweight backpacking skills were definitely needed. Total trip distance, 26.6 mi from Taylors Falls to Stillwater. The river was flowing a little slower than we expected, so we still had to do some work!
The NPS sites are free, require a (free) permit and are only accessible via boat. We stayed on an island at mile 40.9. The only downside was the sound of a little road traffic from the nearby highway, but the rest was quiet and peaceful. Very few people out on the river until we hit Stillwater, and the leaves are already starting to turn!
Our trip started in the morning in Hudson WI to drop off a car, then drove the other car up to Taylors Falls to put in the boats.
This was a first for both of us, so we weren’t too sure at first when we loaded everything in and tried to imagine heading out overnight.
We did 10 miles our first day and our first stop was at Osceola Landing. The Landing has bathrooms, fresh water and was a great place to take a lunch break. We met a few Boy Scouts that were canoeing down the river and caught a shuttle to take them back to Taylors Falls.
This was my first time kayaking on a river. The water was glassy but moving well on the upper part of our trip. The St Croix was kind to us first timers. It was tempting to explore every island, but we only hopped out on a few and kept our pace.
After a little debating we picked Site 40.9 around 4pm. Right after we settled in, a few other canoes went past looking for a spot for the night. We grabbed it just in time and it was perfect for the two of us. We could have easily put a few more tents up, but it was nice to have the space. I was curious about the group sites and should have checked those out for future trips.
Our humble rice junk dinner (just like Mom used to make!) was super delicious after a long day of paddling under the clouds. Our site was soggy after the storm that had hit the night before, so our feeble attempts at a fire were dampened but I amused myself by hanging our food with the PCT method. This was my first time hanging a bag on my own and its the only way I’ll do it from now on!
The next morning started with Instant potatoes, dried kale, bacon and onion rehydrated in a bag. And coffee of course!
Day 2 turned out to be 16 miles and we were thankful for William OBrien State parks fresh water and toilets. It was a nice place to get out and not deal with filtering river water. Just bring a few Nalgenes and hop from park to park.
My favorite view was when we crossed under the Railroad Bridges. They were enormous and we felt so tiny beneath them.
Next time, we’ll skip the plan to go to Hudson and get out just North of Stillwater. The motorized boats proved to be a bit challenging to navigate the closer we got to town. But these floating porta potties the NPS put up everywhere at yacht height were fascinating!
The nasty headwind and giant boats buzzing past us were enough for us to call the trip in Stillwater and go to plan B. CALL MOM. After a game of motorboat ‘frogger’. We paddled right up to the sidewalk at the main park in downtown Stillwater and hauled the boats and all of our gear up while the good people of Stillwater looked on. Mom to the rescue! She picked up her two grown daughters and patiently listened to all of our stories from the weekend on the car ride back. We congratulated ourselves and felt like we accomplished something we’d never forget.
Have you paddled the lower St Croix? If you are thinking about it, here are some of the planning resources we used. Enjoy!