Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

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OVERVIEW: About this Audio-Described Brochure

Welcome to the audio-description version of St. Croix National Scenic Riverway's official print brochure. Through this text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two sided color brochure that St. Croix visitors receive. 

The front side of the brochure has material on the nature, wildlife, and people of the riverway. The back side contains a map of the park along with practical information on visiting.

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OVERVIEW: St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

The Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway, a unit of the National Park System, was established by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968.  It is one of a group of eight rivers in the country which first received this recognition.  For 255 miles, the Saint Croix River and its main tributary, the Namekagon River, flow through some of the most scenic and least developed country in the upper Midwest.  The Riverway was designated because of its free-flowing character, exceptional water quality, and the aquatic, riparian, recreational, cultural/historic, geological, scenic, and aesthetic features.  

The beginning of the Saint Croix River and the Namekagon River are located in northern Wisconsin.  After the Namekagon River joins the Saint Croix River north of Danbury Wisconsin, the Saint Croix River becomes the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, flowing south to the confluence with the Mississippi River at Prescott Wisconsin.  

The upper Saint Croix River is the most biologically diverse stretch of the riverway.  The forest transitions from Northwood pine and spruce trees to maple, elm, and ash trees, and the river widens and deepens into occasional rapids.

Discover picturesque stretches of the Namekagon river winding through Northwoods forest of pine and spruce.  Experience an easy paddle for a day or more with exemplary fishing. The Namekagon is the Ojibwe word for the place where the Sturgeons spawn. 

In the Lower Saint Croix River, explore the Dalles which are rapids of a river between steep rocky walls with its dramatic potholes and other rare geological features near Saint Croix Falls Wisconsin, and Taylors Falls Minnesota.  Enjoy recreational activities from rock climbing to boat tours.

Many recreational activities are available throughout the park such as paddling, tubing, boating, fishing, camping, hiking, birding, and exploring.  

To learn more, check out the park website

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OVERVIEW: Front Side of Brochure

The front side contains information and images relating to the natural history and features of the riverway. There is also information about its recreational past and present.

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IMAGE: NPS Black Banner

DESCRIBING: Front top of the park brochure

SYNOPSIS: A horizontal black bar with St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A black bar spans the top of the brochure with St. Croix in large white type on the far left. On the opposite side of the black bar St. Croix National Scenic Riverway Minnesota and Wisconsin in small white type followed by National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior in small white type. The Arrowhead logo of the National Park Service is on the far right side and right of the small white type. 

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IMAGE and TEXT: St. Croix

DESCRIBING: A horizontal color image.

SYNOPSIS: A red canoe sits on a shallow sandbar next to an island covered in green vegetation on the riverway.  The photo is taken in a way that makes you feel like you are there.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: An upstream view shows lush green foliage covering the foreground, which is the edge of a small island, in the middle of a flowing, rippling river.  On a small sandbar on the left of the island, a red canoe sits.  The canoe has 2 visible seats, with wooden thwarts, or cross beams.  The inside of the canoe is a pale-yellow color. 

The dark blue river water has a slight reflection of the pale blue sky, as well as green foliage surrounding the river.  

A second, much larger island is perched in the river ahead, with a mix of fir, pine and green leafed trees.  The ground is thickly covered in vegetation, like grasses and reeds.  

The river splits around the islands, with a few rocks, some as small as pebbles and some larger bowling ball sized boulders near the shore.

CAPTION: St. Croix River, Seven Islands, mile 95.6.


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IMAGES and TEXT: Corridors of Convergence


Corridors of Convergence.

Habitat transitions enrich life’s diversity.

Solitude in natural settings, rare so close to a major metropolitan area, exists for many who visit St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. The St. Croix and Namekagon rivers create a corridor where all manner of things—past, present, and timeless—converge. Scenery shifts as geological zones shift, as prairie and forests meet and mix, and as rivers and streams water the life-rich riparian zones lining their banks. Riverway waters are healthy, still home to all their historically recorded mussel species. Because its many values are so important to our quality of life, this Riverway was among the first protected by Congress under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968.

Recreation gradually shifts as the character of the rivers changes. Human-powered canoeing is popular on the Namekagon and northernmost St. Croix, but motorized boating, houseboating, and sailboating are popular on down the Riverway. Traditional lands of the Ojibwe (Chippewa) meet the lands of the Dakota (Sioux) here, and now Indian ways—hunting, fishing, river travel, or just enjoying the natural world—have become popular forms of outdoor recreation throughout these corridors of convergence.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Scenic Gorge

DESCRIBING.: A vertical oval colored photograph.

SYNOPSIS.: A river flows past tree covered sandstone cliffs.  (1 of 3 photographs.)

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION.: An aerial photo of the dark brown river water rippling next to tan sandstone cliffs, with evergreens perched on top. The sandstone cliffs rise vertically from the water with cracks and crags throughout. On top of the cliffs, fir and pine trees range from forest green to reddish-brown covering the top half of the photo. 

CAPTION: Scenic Gorge

CREDIT: Maribeth Lundeen

RELATED TEXT: [Related text goes here]

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IMAGE and TEXT: Quiet Stretch

DESCRIBING: A vertical oval colored photograph.

SYNOPSIS: Green foliage surrounds a calm reflective pool of water. (2 of 3 photographs.)

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A vertical oval colored photograph shows a lush green forest, with a pool of water in the center and left side of the image. Ferns fan out on the bottom portion of the photo. Tall green grasses line the far side of the water, with evergreen trees jutting out from the grasses. The still waters reflect the green leaves and blue and white of the slightly clouded sky. 

CAPTION: Quiet Stretch

CREDIT:  Jean Van Tatenhove

RELATED TEXT: [Related text goes here]

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IMAGE and TEXT: Open Water

DESCRIBING: A vertical oval colored photograph.

SYNOPSIS: A wintery scene with snow and ice next to a river. (3 of 3 photographs.)

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: A snow and ice-covered shoreline is next to open rippling water on the bottom and middle half of the image. Leafless trees line the water on the left and right with a pale blue sky with wispy white clouds above.

CAPTION: Open water

CREDIT: NPS / Dale Cox

RELATED TEXT: [Related text goes here]

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IMAGE and TEXT: St. Croix snaketail dragonfly

DESCRIBING: A colored illustration.

SYNOPSIS: A close up, top down view of the St. Croix Snaketail dragonfly.


The illustration shows a top-down view of a St. Croix Snaketail Dragonfly facing the right.  Similar to a q-tip, the slender body has a golden tip at the left end.  The body is segmented and turns iridescent green when getting closer to the head. A black collar segments the head from the body, just to the right of the wings.  Its semispherical head has a lime-green face with rounded sky-blue eyes.  The dragonfly’s four transparent wings are slightly longer than the overall length of its body. The pairs of wings attach to the dragonfly’s thorax. These intersection points are brown in color. The wings are oblong, flat on the upper edge, and rounded on the bottom edge, with lace-like veins running through them. 

CAPTION: St. Croix Snaketail dragonfly

CREDIT: Matt Berg

RELATED TEXT: [Related text goes here]

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IMAGE and TEXT: Snowshoe

DESCRIBING: A colored image.

SYNOPSIS: A top down view of a wooden snowshoe.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION:A colored image shows the top view of a wooden snowshoe. The sand colored wood is shaped similar to a fish, coming to a point on the right end. Two wooden cross pieces separate the 3 sections of woven sinew, similar to a cane chair, with the two outer sections more tightly woven than the middle section.

CAPTION: Snowshoe

CREDIT: NPS / Angela Faulkner

RELATED TEXT: [Related text goes here]

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IMAGE and TEXT: Canoe Paddle

DESCRIBING: A horizontal color photograph.

SYNOPSIS: A wooden canoe paddle.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: This horizontal rectangular photograph of a canoe paddle laying flat. It has a flat triangular handle on the left, a thin shaft, which flares gradually to create a long rectangular blade at the end. The blade has rounded corners. Most of the paddle is a light brown wood. Two reddish-brown wood strips run parallel to each other on either side of the shaft where it meets the blade to the blade's bottom edge.

CAPTION: Canoe Paddle

CREDIT: Tom Lewis / iStockphoto

RELATED TEXT: [Related text goes here]

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IMAGE and TEXT: Lake sturgeon

DESCRIBING: A horizontal, rectangular, color photograph.

SYNOPSIS: A profile view of a sturgeon.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION:  This horizontal, rectangular, color photograph is a side view of a lake sturgeon facing left. The torpedo-shaped fish is mostly charcoal gray with an ivory belly with green spots. It has a rounded, tapered snout, with small oval openings in the nasal cavity, also called nares. These are next to the sturgeon’s ivory-colored eyes, which have a black cross shape in them. The fish’s deep gill curves to the left, behind the eye. The sturgeon’s body is not smooth but covered in three distinct long horizontal lines of large, pointed scales or oval scutes. One line runs along the top of the fish to a small fin, near the sturgeon’s tail or caudal fin. Another line of pointed scales runs down the middle from the gill to the caudal fin. Another line of pointed scales runs along the belly. The scutes on the upper body have a gray outline, a rust interior, and a dark gray point with a white tip. The scutes that line the bottom of the fish’s body are green against its ivory belly. A paddle shaped fin comes out near the sturgeon’s gill. Two fins, which are shaped like a right triangle, line the back center of the fish near its tail.  

CAPTION: Lake sturgeon

CREDIT: Tom McHugh / Photo Researchers Inc

RELATED TEXT: [Related text goes here]

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IMAGES and TEXT: River Recreation

River Recreation.

Shoreline primitive camping par excellence.

Creating the Riverway in 1968 signaled a shift in thinking about the rivers. For over 300 years they had been harvested, exploited, and manipulated. Now we treasure the Riverway more for scenic beauty, recreation, and wildlife habitat. The rivers are so diverse that they offer a great variety of recreation: paddling, inner tubing, fishing, boating, wildlife watching, and primitive shoreline camping. (See map on the other side of this brochure.) Your challenge may be to define what type of recreation you seek. Once you decide on an activity, park staff, the website, and river section maps can point you to spots that suit your needs.

Trout fishing is popular on the upper Namekagon while smallmouth bass capture attention on the St. Croix. The rivers’ environs here are generally more wild than those below St. Croix Falls, but you can find solitude throughout the Riverway.

Below St. Croix Falls, the Riverway’s setting mixes forested areas with suburban landscapes. There it offers motorboating, houseboating, sail boating, and water skiing. State parks along the rivers in both Minnesota and Wisconsin offer developed campgrounds, picnic areas, beaches, and hiking trails.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Easy rapids

DESCRIBING.: A small oval shaped color photograph with a black shadow behind the oval image.

SYNOPSIS.: A person sits in an orange kayak on the river paddling through a rapid on a summer day.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION.: A lone paddler sits in a kayak smiling. They are wearing sunglasses and a yellow and black life jacket over a pink short-sleeved shirt. The paddler holds a yellow paddle horizontally above the water. The paddler flows through a small rapid of turbulent water in an orange kayak. Behind the paddler is an area of green vegetation on the river edge. 

CAPTION: Easy rapids

CREDIT: NPS / Jean van Tatenhove

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IMAGE and TEXT: Nice catch

DESCRIBING: A small oval shaped color photograph with a black shadow behind the oval image.

SYNOPSIS. A person holding a fish sitting in a boat on the river.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. A person looks forward smiling and holding their catch. They wear a white ball cap, white short-sleeved shirt, red life vest, and tan pants. They hold a large fish, called a muskie with both hands in front of their chest. They hold the gills in their right hand and the tail in their left hand, the fish extends over the width of their body. The fish is silver with a rusty red stripe down its back, fins, and tail. The person sits in a blue canoe with fishing gear on the river in front of a shoreline of green vegetation.

CAPTION: Nice catch

CREDIT: NPS / Jeff Butler

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IMAGE and TEXT: Autumn view

DESCRIBING: A small oval shaped color photograph with a black shadow behind the oval image.

SYNOPSIS. A person stands enjoying an autumnal view at the edge of a cliff.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. A person wearing a tan jacket, black jeans, and hiking boots stands on a large grey rock. They look out enjoying a view of a rocky chasm with a backdrop of black cliffs and green pine trees on a sunny day. Among the pine trees are glimpses of seasonal orange and yellow foliage.

CAPTION: Autumn catch

CREDIT: NPS / Donyal Eret

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IMAGES and TEXT: Worthy Waters

Worthy Waters

All 40 native mussel species are still present

These Riverway waters are remarkably healthy compared to others in this region. This adds immeasurably to the Riverway’s attraction for people who love the outdoors and makes it imperative that we protect the Riverway. The nation’s most threatened class of organisms is freshwater mussels. The federal government lists 23 percent of the nation’s 304 native mussel species as threatened or endangered. Problems facing these bivalve mollusks are dredging, dams, fish kills, sediment runoff from development, and invasive, non-native species like the zebra mussel. The Riverway is still home to all 40 of its recorded native mussels. This attests to healthy waters—and to the lack of major development along the rivers—despite how many mussels are in trouble. Five of the Riverway’s mussels are endangered and several others are listed as species of concern by states. Mussels can’t escape problems—many move only a few feet in a lifetime. They lie on waterway bottoms, filtering water for food organisms. Growing pressure for development, especially south of the St. Croix Falls hydroelectric dam, is a grave threat to the future of the Riverway’s unusually intact assemblage of mussels.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Winged Mapleleaf

DESCRIBING: Photograph of a Winged maple leaf mussel.

SYNOPSIS. Photograph of the top half of an orange Winged maple leaf mussel. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION.  This is one of four mussels shown, each image only shows the top shell of the mussel.  Each mussel has rings throughout, similar to a tree's growth rings.  The mussel is slightly round with slightly curved edges on the left side and looking slightly domed. The mussel is brownish orange though not uniform in color with heavier brownish smudges near the middle portion of the mussel. There are 3 distinct brown rings; one toward the bottom edge, another a third of the way from the bottom edge and the last closer to the rounded top of the mussel. The rings vary in thickness but are all relatively thin, about the thickness of letters written with a ballpoint pen. 

CAPTION. Winged Mapleleaf

CREDIT. Illinois Natural History Survey

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IMAGE and TEXT: Elktoe

DESCRIBING: Photograph of an Elktoe mussel.

SYNOPSIS. Photograph of the top half of a jade, yellow and brown Elktoe mussel. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. This mussel is oval shaped. The primary color of the mussel is jade-green with brown down the left side. Three yellow and brown rings encircle the mussel, with the largest at the base of the mussel and smallest higher up (which creates the dome shape of the mussel) and the third ring about a third of the way up from the bottom edge. In between these three rings are thinner less pronounced bands of white across the green. Darker lines extend vertical from the base of the mussel and converge toward the top they give the appearance of shallow ridges. this adds to the dome shape.


CREDIT. Illinois Natural History Survey

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IMAGE and TEXT: Butterfly

DESCRIBING: Colored photograph of the Butterfly mussel.

SYNOPSIS. Colored photograph of the top half of a bright orange and yellow Butterfly mussel.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. Compared to the others, this mussel is more rounded with the dome peaking towards the top right. The mussel is bright orange and yellow. Frequent vertical brown stripes taper from the top dome and get thicker toward the shells bottom edge. There are horizontal stripes around the mussel varying in thickness, starting at the bottom edge and getting smaller to the dome at the top. Both types of stripes are very clear, overlap each other, and leave gaps of brown peering through the stripes.

CAPTION. Butterfly

CREDIT. Illinois Natural History Survey

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IMAGE and TEXT: Creek Heelsplitter

DESCRIBING: A small colored photograph of a Creek heelsplitter mussel

SYNOPSIS. A photograph of the top half of a brown and orange Creek heelsplitter mussel. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. Photograph of the Creek heelsplitter mussel. The mussel is oval shaped.  It has the appearance of a wide flattened cone, creating a dome towards the top right. The mussel is primarily brown with lighter orange on the right side and yellowish on the dome at top center. Two thin brown stripes encircle the mussel at its edge and about one third of the way up. Thinner brown stripes encircle the mussel toward the dome, with lighter orange and yellow shading to create the increase towards the dome. Vertical stripes start at the bottom edge of the mussel and converge towards the top of the dome, with more prominent brown vertical stripes on the left side of the mussel.

CAPTION. Creek heelsplitter

CREDIT. Illinois Natural History Survey

RELATED TEXT. (Scale of image is not actual size)

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MAP: Mapping Your Sense of Place

DESCRIBING: A satellite view of the St. Croix Riverway in the larger area of the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

SYNOPSIS. This map summarizes the themes of each section of the brochure and how they relate to the Riverway. The highlights of culture, geology, biology, hydrology, and recreation are depicted in graphic detail and text. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. The Northern Coniferous (Cone Bearing) Forest takes up the entire northern portion of the map and extends to Lake Superior in the east. The St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers are just below Lake Superior and reach south to the Mississippi river. The St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers’ watershed is depicted as a rusty brown patch in a triangular shape around the rivers. The Eastern Deciduous (Hard Wood) Forest is to the east of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers. The watershed of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers is the meeting point of the Northern Coniferous Forest and the Eastern Deciduous Forest.

Near the top of the watershed, two rivers flow in opposite directions, the Bois Brule to the north into Lake Superior and the St. Croix to the south into the Mississippi River. Throughout the flat green terrain of the map several blue lakes dot the landscape while many tributary streams flow into the Mississippi River with the St. Croix River.

The glaciation is depicted as a white glaze in a horizontal “S” shape. The shape extends down stopping at the prairies in southwest Minnesota. The edge of the glaciation moves north up through the middle of the watershed, then curves east around the Eastern Deciduous Forest of Wisconsin. The glacial edge then dramatically turns south covering eastern Wisconsin. 

The region portrayed in the map has been the indigenous homeland of the Ojibwe and the Dakota for thousands of years. The Ojibwe homeland is depicted on the map in the Northern Coniferous Forest. The Dakota homeland is depicted between the Eastern Deciduous Forest and the Prairie. 

The Migration Flyway is represented as a large area outlined in purple, fanned across the Northern Coniferous Forest that funnels down to the Mississippi River, forming an arrow pointing to the south.  

CAPTION. Mapping Your Sense of Place

Map captions are color-keyed to major topics on this page.

CREDIT. National Park Service


Born in the same headwaters swamp, waters of the Bois Brule River flow to the North Atlantic, but waters of the St. Croix River flow to the Gulf of Mexico.

St. Croix and Namekagon rivers watershed, the total area that drains into them.

Maximum glacial extent

Terminal ice lobes of the final Wisconsin glaciation (25,000 to 10,000 years ago) left rolling hills and glacial lakes but did not reach the southern Riverway landscape, which has a much different feel.


Several cultures have called this area—so rich in natural resources—their home. The worlds of the Ojibwe (Chippewa), to the north and east, and the Dakota (Sioux), to the south and west, met and overlapped here.

Migration flyway

The Riverway provides important feeding and resting areas for neo-tropical songbirds migrating between South American and Canada and the Arctic. Its long, unbroken habitats host nine wolf packs and over 30 bald eagle nest sites. The St. Croix snaketail dragonfly (see photo above) was not known to science until 1987.

Three major biological communities converge here—northern coniferous forest, eastern deciduous forest, and prairie. Their transitions create ecotones and greatly add to the area’s biological diversity.


An ecotone is a transitional area formed where different biological communities like forests and fields meet. An ecotone tends to host more species than do the communities whose meeting creates the ecotone.

Edge Effect

An ecotone’s tendency to have greater species variety than adjoining communities is called the edge effect. This also describes how ecotones can have characteristics that differ from the communities around them.

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COLLAGE and TEXT: A Wealth of Habitats


Unfragmented forests are crucial for wildlife


The Riverway’s protected north-south corridor forms a refuge of nearly unbroken shoreline wildlife habitats. Glacial actions created diverse landscapes scattered with rolling hills, numerous lakes, and rich river bottoms. (See map at left for the extent of glacial influence.) Darters, stoneflies, and pistolgrip mussels seek shelter in outcrops of exposed bedrock where the river flows fast. Where glaciers deposited 100-foot-thick sediments, the river is slow and deep—perfect for paddlefish and common map turtles. Southern St. Croix lands escaped the glacial bulldozer. Add to this landscape streamside areas, with seasonal floods and ground waters, and the result is diverse plant and animal habitats. Open water, marshlands, wooded bottom lands, and bluffs of the Riverway offer excellent birding. Some kingfishers dive for fish here all year. Neotropical songbirds like redstarts, blackpoll warblers, and wrens (below, marked with a *), migrate through, often at night, and many nest here in summer.

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Bird Collage

DESCRIBING: A collage of ten Riverway birds.

SYNOPSIS. A collage of ten individual color photographs of Riverway birds without backgrounds, nested on top of a faint overlay of the brochure background showing the state of Michigan and Lake Michigan. The birds are described in a clockwise pattern and the in-depth descriptions follow.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Bald Eagle

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background.

SYNOPSIS. A front-view of an adult Bald Eagle in flight with outstretched wings is in the one o’clock position in the collage of Riverway birds. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. With a pure white head, hooked yellow beak and eye, the adult Bald Eagle is feathered in brown with a darken fanned out white tail in the shadows of the large bird. Six primary or finger feathers spread out at the wing tips while the brown-feathered legs and bare yellow feet are stretched out and tucked under the tail. 

CAPTION. Bald Eagle

CREDIT. Harry Behret / Stockflorida

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IMAGE and TEXT: Marsh Wren

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background.

SYNOPSIS. A front-view of a Marsh Wren standing on a twig at the two o’clock position in the collage of Riverway birds. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. Perched on a twig, a Marsh Wren faces to the left showing off its slightly curved beak, a whitish eyebrow and throat, a rusty-brown-spiked feathered head. The breast and belly of the bird faces forward showing off its ruffled cream-colored feathers and a darken brown tail standing straight up in the back of the wren. 

CAPTION.: Marsh Wren*

CREDIT. Robert Royse

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IMAGE and TEXT: Blackburnian Warbler

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background.

SYNOPSIS. A side-view of a Blackburnian Warbler standing on a thorny twig at the three o’clock position in the collage of Riverway birds. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. Perched on a green twig with long orange thorns, this warbler has a distinct triangular black cheek patch with a flame-orange throat that fades to a cream-yellow belly. The warbler has a black crown with a yellow strip running from the top of its beak to the middle top of its head. The wings and sides have black barring.  

CAPTION. Blackburnian Warbler*

CREDIT. Alan Murphy

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IMAGE and TEXT: Blackpoll Warbler

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background.

SYNOPSIS. A side-view of a Blackpoll Warbler standing on a smooth twig with green leaves at the four o’clock position in the collage of Riverway birds.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. The Blackpoll Warbler has a solid black cap and white cheek. The black cap reaching down to the top of its black eye and to the start of its short pointed yellow beak. The bird has a pattern of black and white streaking on its sides, belly, and wings. Its wing tips have dull yellow feathers. The warbler stands on two small orange legs and feet.

CAPTION. Weighing under half an ounce, Blackpoll Warblers* migrate 12,000 miles from South America to breed in Canada. 

CREDIT. Alan Murphy

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IMAGE and TEXT: American Redstart

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background.

SYNOPSIS. A side-view of an American Redstart facing to the right on a smooth black twig at the six o’clock position in the collage of Riverway birds. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. Decorated with a glossy black head, throat, and back, the American Redstart is a flashy warbler with bright orange and yellow flashes on the wings, tail, and sides. The belly of the bird has fluffy white feathers leading to a smooth tail. Its tail is white with orange on its sides and the tail tip dipped in black. 

CAPTION. American Redstart*

CREDIT. Wilson Hum

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IMAGE and TEXT: Semipalmated Sandpiper

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background. 

SYNOPSIS. A front-view of a Semipalmated Sandpiper facing right and standing in water at the six o’clock position in the collage of riverway birds below the American Redstart. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. The Semipalmated Sandpiper is wading through water probing its black beak into the surface of the water with a faint image of the bird reflected below. The bird has a brown speckled back, neck, and head crown. A brown stripe goes from the bird’s beak across its eye. The bottom half of its head and body are creamy white with streaks of brown. The bird’s black legs stick out from the top of the water. 

CAPTION. Semipalmated Sandpipers (right), shorebirds, migrate from South America to subarctic Alaska and Canada.

CREDIT. Arthur Morris

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IMAGE and TEXT: Magnolia Warbler

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background.

SYNOPSIS. A front-view of a Magnolia Warbler facing right and perched on a green branch at the seven o’clock position in the collage of riverway birds.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. The Magnolia Warbler is a small bird with a gray beak and black mask around its eyes. The gray crown of the bird is decked out in splashes of gray, black, and white. Just below the vibrant yellow throat are vertical black stripes like a necklace around its neck which lead to its yellow chest. The Magnolia Warbler has gray wings with white feathers at its shoulders and gray tailfeathers. It stands on two small gray legs.

CAPTION. Magnolia Warbler*

CREDIT. Randy Mehoves

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IMAGE and TEXT: Hooded Merganser

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background.

SYNOPSIS. A side-view of a Hooded Merganser standing to the left with a crayfish in its mouth at the eight o’clock position in the collage of riverway birds.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. The Hooded Merganser is a short round bird, with a thin black beak holding a crayfish. The bird has fluffy black head feathers with a large white spot on the side of its head in the shape of a filled-in capitol D. A piercing orange eye penetrates out from the black face and beak of the bird. The chest of the bird is white with two black strips on its shoulder leading to a brown and black wing with black and white stripes on the tip of the wing. The merganser has black tail feathers and two orange webbed feet.

CAPTION. Hooded Mergansers (above) migrate mostly short distances. They are popular Riverway waterfowl.

CREDIT. Bill Horn

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IMAGE and TEXT: Great Blue Heron

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background. 

SYNOPSIS. A side-view of a Great Blue Heron facing to the left and standing at alert at the 11 o’clock position in the collage of riverway birds. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. The Great Blue Heron is a long-necked slender bird with a long orange beak and blue-gray body on long black legs with knobby knees. The heron has a white head with a black stripe above its eye, sweeping to two long black feathers off the back of its head. Its long gray and brown neck forms an “S” shape leading down to blue feathers fluffing out from its chest. Its back and wing are long and oval shaped with accents of black towards its shoulder and the tip of the wing.  

CAPTION. Great Blue Heron

CREDIT. Mark S. Wurst

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IMAGE and TEXT: Belted Kingfisher

DESCRIBING: A color photograph of a bird without a background.

SYNOPSIS. A side-view of a Belted Kingfisher facing left in flight at the twelve o’clock position in the collage of riverway birds.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. The Belted Kingfisher is in flight with its black and yellow beak open. It has a gray head and white belt or ring of feathers on its throat. Its body is gray, and the tips of its wings are black with white stripes. The Belted Kingfisher’s wings are out to the side, in a flight motion, with its tail fanned out showing off the faint white and black barring on each tail feather. 

CAPTION. Belted Kingfisher

CREDIT. James Neiger

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IMAGES and TEXT: People and the Rivers

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TEXT: People and the Rivers

People and the Rivers.

It is possible to witness centuries of history along the Riverway. You can see sites that reflect the cultures of prehistoric people, American Indians, and European Americans. Structures in the rivers illustrate the logging and navigation past. Other sites demonstrate more recent conservation and recreation history.

The St. Croix and Namekagon remain focal points for people who live in and visit the area. The rivers attract paddlers, boaters, and anglers. Historic river towns bustle with activity. The scenery and wildlife draw hikers, artists, and nature enthusiasts.

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TEXT: 12000 Years Ago

12,000 Years Ago.

People have lived here for at least 12,000 years, since the end of the last ice age. They found abundant food and materials and used these rivers as trade routes.

Ojibwe and Dakota.

The rivers remain important to American Indians, especially Dakota (Sioux) and Ojibwe (Chippewa). People of both tribes live nearby.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Berry Season Trip

DESCRIBING: A small sepia toned photograph.

SYNOPSIS. A horizontal historic photograph of people and a birchbark canoe on a lake's edge.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. A tribal, birchbark canoe sits on grass at the reedy shore of a lake. Two indigenous adults are standing to the left of the canoe, each with a paddle in hand. To the right of the canoe are bushes. In the midground is light color of the lake, and in the background is a darker stripe indicating the far shoreline with trees.  “Berry season trip”. is in white print on lower right corner of the image.

CAPTION. Berry season trip

CREDIT. Wisconsin Historical Society

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IMAGE and TEXT: Gathering Wild Rice

DESCRIBING: A small vertical colored photograph

SYNOPSIS. A modern vertical color photograph of a young boy in a boat in a field of wild rice. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION. In the center of the image is a young brown-haired boy sitting in a canoe surrounded by light green thin plants from the bottom of the image to the top. The boy is wearing a blue life jacket over a white t-shirt, blue jeans and is sitting on a bright orange cushion. He is holding up long pointed sticks with orange handles in each hand, called ricing sticks used for harvesting wild rice. “Gathering wild rice” is in white print on the lower right edge of the image.

CAPTION. Gathering wild rice

CREDIT. Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission

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TEXT: The Fur Trade

The Fur Trade

Beginning in the late 1600s, Europeans came to the area seeking furs of beaver and other animals. They traveled the rivers to trade with Indians.

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IMAGE and TEXT: French-Indian Fur Trader

DESCRIBING: A small vertical sepia photograph.

SYNOPSIS: A formal portrait of a French-Indian fur trader from 1890. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: This historic sepia colored photo is a portrait of a light-skinned male with a thin mustache looking straight into the camera. A rounded wispy dark fur hat with a tail hanging to the side of his right ear sits upon his head.   He is wearing a light-colored shirt with a satin bowtie under a dark wool coat with lush fur lapels. His right arm is bent out leaving the impression his right hand is on his hip. “French-Indian fur trader” is in white print on lower right corner of the image. The edges of the image are faded.

CAPTION: French-Indian fur trader

Image credit: Minnesota Historical Society

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TEXT: Extensive Pine Forests

Extensive Pine Forests

Logging became the economic driver after the 1837 treaty opened the area to European American settlement. The new arrivals began cutting the pine forest. They and other settlers spurred development in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Their work supplied lumber to the Midwest. Look for the remains of logging camps, dams, other water control structures, sawmills, boom sites, and river towns that tell the story of this era.

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TEXT: A New Appreciation

A New Appreciation

Logging brought tourists to the St. Croix area. They came to see massive logjams caused by the vast quantities of logs floating down the rivers. As people experienced the scenic beauty and recreational opportunities here, a new appreciation for the rivers developed. Resorts opened, city residents built summer cabins, and fishing, paddling, and boating emerged as popular pastimes.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Logjam on the St. Croix River, 1886

DESCRIBING: A small horizontal sepia photograph of a river log jam. 

SYNOPSIS: A horizonal historic photograph of a log jam on the St. Croix River. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: From the bottom of the image to about three quarters to the top is a pile of innumerable logs that are strewn in every direction, including some that are vertical. These logs cover any view of the river, making navigation impossible.  There are two groups of people at the bottom of the image, standing on the jammed logs.  In the background, top quarter of image, is a thin arched bridge extending from the right side to almost the left side of the image where there is a rectangular building and rock bluffs. Behind and to the right of the bridge are a white building, trees and rock bluffs. “Logjam on the St. Croix River, 1886” is in white on the bottom right of the image.

CAPTION: Logjam on the St. Croix River, 1886.

Image credit: Wisconsin Historical Society

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TEXT: River Protection

River Protection

By the late 1890s, people were interested in preserving the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers. In 1895 Minnesota Interstate State Park was established to protect a short stretch of the St. Croix. Seventy years later, the river was one of the original rivers named in the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. People instrumental to passing this law, like senators Walter Mondale and Gaylord Nelson, had deep ties to both rivers. Their efforts ensured that you can still enjoy this historic and healthy Riverway.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Autumn on the St. Croix River

DESCRIBING: A small horizontal colored photograph

SYNOPSIS: A modern color horizontal photograph of fall colors next to the St. Croix River. 

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION:  A horizontal rectangular photograph.  About two thirds of the right of the photo is of orange leafed trees on a shore lined with orange and green plants. To the left of those trees, the calm blue river, slightly reflecting the trees, winds between them and darker trees to the left. A pale blue sky is above the trees.

CAPTION: Autumn on the St. Croix River

Photo credit: NPS

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OVERVIEW: Back Side of Brochure

The back side of the brochure contains practical information on exploring the Riverway. It is dominated by an overview of a wayfinding map showing the course of the Riverway. This side of the brochure also has an inset photo of a family camping.

Detailed river maps are available online in the Riverway website.

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TEXT: Exploring the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

Boaters and Paddlers

All watercraft must be equipped with a US Coast Guard approved lifesaving device for each person aboard. Children under age 13 must wear a properly fitted life jacket if vessels—including canoes, kayaks, and inner tubes—are moving. The National Park Service recommends non-swimmers always wear a life jacket. Everyone should wear one in high water conditions or when running rapids. Check water levels before trips, especially on upper stretches, by visiting the Riverway website. Don’t overload your craft. If you capsize, stay upstream of your vessel. Boaters, watch your wake near canoes and your prop near swimmers.

Swimmers and Inner-tube Floaters

Do not swim alone, at night, or in unfamiliar places. To jump or dive from bridges is illegal. Swimming between US 8 and the public boat launch at Wisconsin Interstate Park is prohibited. Entering the river from shore in Minnesota Interstate Park to swim is prohibited. Watch children closely near water. There are no lifeguards or supervised beaches on the Riverway. Wear a lifesaving device when on an inner tube, float with others, and navigate rapids feet first.

Your Safety

Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to prevent sunburn. To protect bare feet, all glass containers are prohibited at Riverway landings. Shoes that can get wet are a good precaution. Bring your own drinking water to protect against Giardia. Use caution near high cliffs. Hunting is allowed in season. For firearms and other regulations, check the park website.


A fishing license is required on the Riverway; state regulations apply. On the Namekagon and northernmost 25 miles of the St. Croix, a Wisconsin license is required. Where the St. Croix River is the boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin, a license from either state is valid. State conservation officers and park rangers enforce regulations.

Fires and Firewood

Build fires only in steel fire rings or grills. Dead and down wood may be collected except from islands. Use local wood. Moving firewood can transport pests that kill trees. The possession of firewood that originates over 25 miles from the Riverway is prohibited. Fires must be out and ashes cold before you leave the area.

Lodging and Supplies

Nearby communities offer lodging and supplies. Outfitters supply river recreation equipment, paddleboat trips, vehicle shuttle service, and guide services. A list of authorized outfitters is on the park website.


The St. Croix River Visitor Center in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, and the Namekagon River Visitor Center in Trego, Wisconsin, are open seasonally. Park headquarters is open year-round, but make arrangements with staff for entry when the St. Croix River Visitor Center is closed. Many picnic areas line the Riverway. The largest are Earl Park Landing on the Namekagon and Osceola Landing on the St. Croix. Drinking water is available at limited locations. See below for camping facilities.


There are no use fees for federally owned land or facilities. State parks charge entrance and camp fees. You can buy daily or annual state parks permits.

Private Property

Private property exists along the Riverway. Please observe the rights of property owners by not trespassing or using facilities without the landowner’s permission.

Cultural and Natural Features

Disturbing features like rock formations, Indian burial mounds, or remnants of historic structures is illegal. Picking wildflowers or picking up artifacts is prohibited. Do not disturb freshwater mussels or their empty shells. Gathering fruits, nuts, or plants for commercial purposes is illegal.

Special Water Use Regulations

Special “Slow speed” and “Slow—No Wake” zones exist for boaters on the St. Croix River between St. Croix Falls hydroelectric dam and the Mississippi River. Personal watercraft (PWC) like Jet Skis® are prohibited north of Stillwater, Minnesota. A checkpoint at mile 29.5, High Bridge, prohibits upstream travel to prevent the spread of zebra mussels. In some zones water skiing is prohibited after noon on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. Complete regulations are found at marinas and state parks, on the park website, and posted at Riverway access points.

Lyme Disease

Deer ticks are prevalent and can carry Lyme disease. Check yourself daily for ticks. Take precautions and know symptoms of infection.

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OVERVIEW: More Information

Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway 

401 North Hamilton Street 

Saint Croix Falls, Wisconsin five four zero two four

Reach us by calling: seven one five - four eight three - two two seven four. 

Visit our website for more information.

Follow us on social media by using the hashtag @StCroixNSR

The National Park Service manages 230 miles of the Riverway. Learn more about national parks at

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OVERVIEW: Accessibility

We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website. Service animals are welcome.

Stop at the visitor center for a braille version of this brochure. Accessible river maps can be found by visiting the maps page on the Riverway website.  

Assisted listening devices are available for the park film at the two visitor centers during the summer months.

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Map: Exploring the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

DESCRIBING: A large, detailed map of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. 

SYNOPSIS: This is a general overview map for orientation and is oriented with north at the top. The map displays the Namekagon and St. Croix rivers, highways and roads, location of two National Park Service visitor centers, and area state parks and forests. This map displays the entire Riverway that is approximately 255 miles in length. 


Most of side two of the brochure is a map of St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and the surrounding area. The park itself consists of the St. Croix River and its primary tributary, the Namekagon River, along with some land property. The map shows the entire riverway with park trails, visitor centers, picnic areas, parking areas, campsites, and river landings with boat launches as well as roads, bridges, trails, towns, and other state, county, and town parks and state forests outside the park boundaries.

The map is oriented with north at the top and includes Minnesota on the Northwest and Western border, and Wisconsin occupying the rest of the map. The map includes 10 shadow boxes along the river, separating different sections of the riverway. Each shadow box has a corresponding detailed map, provided in pdf form on the park website and handouts, that shows each campsite, landing, and trail with river mile markers as well as river rapid indicators so a river user can trip plan and navigate the river. 

Near the center of the map is the Namekagon River Visitor Center in the town of Trego, Wisconsin. Viewing from this point at about the two o’clock position, the Namekagon River begins at the Namekagon dam and flows southwest in a not-so-straight line through the towns of Cable (11 miles down), Hayward (22 more miles) and Trego (another 29 miles). The river crosses under highway 53 in Trego, near the park visitor center, before shifting northwest and connecting to the St. Croix River (another 37 miles). 

From the Namekagon River Visitor Center at about the 11 o’clock position, the Gordon dam marks the start of the national scenic riverway on the St. Croix River. From Gordan Dam, the St. Croix flows down about 20 miles to where the Namekagon River empties into. Just past the confluence the St. Croix River becomes the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota, curving southwest for about 50 miles flowing by St. Croix State Forest, St. Croix State Park and Chengwatana State Forest on the Minnesota side. The river continues to flow almost due south for 100 miles passing by Governor Knowles State Forest on the Wisconsin side, Wild River State Park in Minnesota, and over a massive dam in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin and Taylors Falls, Minnesota. After the dam, the river continues on its course south passing Minnesota Interstate State Park and Wisconsin Interstate State Park, the town of Osceola, Wisconsin (about 8 miles further south), William O’Brien State Park in Marine on the St. Croix, Minnesota (9 miles south) to Stillwater, Minnesota (12 more miles). On the north end of Stillwater is the boundary between the federally managed zone of the park and the state-managed zone south to the Mississippi. For the last 30 miles in the state zone, the river widens for about 10 miles from Stillwater south, flowing past Hudson, Wisconsin, the Interstate 94 bridge, Afton State Park in Minnesota, Kinnickinnic State Park in Wisconsin, and to Prescott, Wisconsin at the confluence with the Mississippi River near Hastings, Minnesota.     

Related text:

This map shows the entire Riverway but is not intended for river navigation. Instead, use individual accessible section maps of the river that give details of road access, services, and all facilities. Obtain these maps at visitor centers and other information sites or from the park website

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IMAGE and TEXT: Family Camping

DESCRIBING: A horizontal color photograph.

SYNOPSIS: A family prepares a meal at their river campsite on a sunny day.

IN-DEPTH DESCRIPTION: This horizontal color photo focuses on a family camping trip in the foreground on a sunny day. On the grassy riverbank, behind the family, sits red canoe with drying clothes draped over the edges of its left tip. In front of the canoe, the group of people prepare a meal. A lightly tanned man crouches down to pour food from a bag into a pan, which sits on top of an outdoor gas stove. He wears a baseball cap, glasses, a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. To his right, a boy with brown hair and ivory skin wears long-sleeved electric blue pajamas. He stands in front of the red canoe holding a white frisbee to his body with his left arm. He looks down at an ivory skinned woman in the bottom right corner of the photo. She is crouching with her back to us. She has short brown hair and wears a black and red one-piece bathing suit with a strap on her left shoulder. Her arms are bent above a cooler in front of her. A blue cutting board sits atop the cooler. On the woman's left, a toddler with a patterned long-sleeved romper and sunbonnet faces right and stands next to the cooler. Further back, two round tents dot the landscape, with a tree-lined river and four kayaks parked along its edge soaked in sunlight.

Photo credit: Jean van Tatenhove.

Related text: Camping and Campsites.

Linger and savor the Riverway environment by camping along its banks. There are over 100 primitive shoreline campsites on the Riverway, and most are reached only by boat. Not all of these sites are shown on this map, but are shown on the river section maps. Go to the park website for those maps and other details about camping. The numerous campsites and landings provide opportunities for multiday and even multiweek river trips.

Camping is restricted to designated sites except for the Stillwater Islands area. Individual campsites accommodate a maximum of eight people and three tents. Group sites accommodate a maximum of 16 people and six tents. All sites are first-come, first-served and have stay limits.

A camping permit is required for camping on the St. Croix between the St. Croix Falls hydroelectric dam and High Bridge. Camping amenities and availability of toilet facilities vary along the Riverway. Please check our website or with park staff for information specific to the stretch of river you are visiting. Bring your own drinking water to protect against Giardia.

State parks and forests offer car camping facilities near the rivers. Find state camping information at either Minnesota DNR or Wisconsin DNR.

We encourage Leave No Trace camping practices and require that you pack out all trash. 

Join the park community by visiting the National Park Foundation online

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