Friday, February 1, 2008

Adoption site 1: A backwater basin

The first section of waterway we have adopted is a stretch of the St. Croix River which lies immediately to the south of the Highway 243 Bridge at Osceola, Wisconsin. There is a public landing and park on the Minnesota side which will serve as our launch point.

(Click on photo to enlarge.)
Why this section of the St. Croix? Each year, thousands of people take advantage of the canoe rentals available at Interstate Park near Taylors Falls, and paddle with the current roughly 19 miles to William O’Brien State Park. It is a wonderful way to spend a summer day! But most of these folks overlook this amazing collection of backwaters just south of Osceola. It is “off the beaten path,” so to speak; a bit more challenging to navigate than the main river, but worthwhile, because it is loaded with wildlife! (We made the full 20-mile trip last summer and were surrounded by dozens of other people in canoes most of the time. But when we turned into the backwater at Osceola, we had the place completely to ourselves for almost four miles! It is secluded, serene, and just plain gorgeous.)

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The challenge. The nature of these inlets and basins present some specific ecological hurdles. The current of the water into these backwaters is sufficient to carry trash and human debris into the area. But the shallow water levels and natural obstructions prevent the pollution from flowing out. So, it is a natural place for pollution to accumulate. All of this is aggravated by the fact that a heavily traveled bridge and widely used park just upstream… so the volume of litter is a bit higher than similar stretches of the northern St. Croix River Valley. The most severe accumulation tends to be on the Minnesota side, because it is the “wide” (fast flowing) side of the river.

On a later trip through the area last summer, we came across a rubber trash can that was floating along, upright, about 1/3 full of garbage. We pulled it out. This year, we decided to make it our first adoption, and will go back to finish the job.

Because the St. Croix touches both states, we filed Adopt-a-River forms with the DNR in Minnesota, as well as with the WAV program in Wisconsin. A lot of people see the St. Croix River as a boundary between the two states. My wife and I see it as a natural wonder that joins them. If you’d like to participate in one of our missions on this section of river, just drop us a note to express your interest!

There are three wonderful state parks which will serve as our “base camps” for this project. Interstate State Parks (aptly named because there is one each side of the river), as well as William O’Brien State Park (MN). So we have a placed to set-up the tent to prepare for—or recover from—each day of hard work. By the way, the photos throughout this posting came from those parks. The “Bench Rock” overhang and the “Birds in Fog” shots both came from William O’Brien. The Crane at Sunrise photo was shot from the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River at Interstate State Park, but shows geese along the opposing Wisconsin shoreline, and an island between the two. (Click on any of these images to see them in full size. Drop me a note if you’d like to receive a higher resolution copy.)

Taylors Falls Canoe Rental is also located in the neighborhood, so you don’t have to own your own canoe if you’d like to enjoy—or help clean—this gorgeous waterway. If it will be a day-trip, rather than an expedition, this site can also be reached directly from the park and public access adjacent to the Osceola Bridge.

© 2008 Mike D. Anderson, Crystal, MN.

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