St. Croix Valley

Located in both eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin, the St. Croix Valley is named after the St. Croix River that flows through this region and acts as a natural boundary. Not only does the St. Croix River serve as a boundary to these two states, but it was designated as a National Scenic Riverway in 1968. The river was home to the Ojibwe and Dakota people for thousands of years before European settlement as is seen in evidence in the many sites that reflect their presence. 

Known for its stunning natural beauty with forests, rolling hills, and prairies, the St. Croix Valley is home to numerous state and local parks as well as several wildlife refuges and nature preservation areas. Additionally, numerous opportunities are enjoyed in the region’s recreational activities and in the many endearing and historical towns filled with unique character. Two of the most popular towns in the St. Croix Valley are Stillwater, Minnesota and Hudson, Wisconsin.
Known as the birthplace of Minnesota, Stillwater arrived at its name by John McKusick, a gentleman who built its first sawmill and later became a state senator. The city's name was derived from the calmness of the St. Croix River near the town which was first settled in 1843. Stillwater is one of Minnesota’s oldest towns and became a large resource to the lumber industry attracting an increasing number of men who desired work. This lumber industry was a primary force providing work in which the St. Croix River facilitated the distribution of the lumber. The collection of the lumber took place at the St. Croix Boom Site upstream about two miles and then processed in one of several city sawmills. Between 1860 to 1890 steamboats were often used, and one will still see some nostalgic steamboats that are used for entertainment purposes today. 

In 1931, construction of the Stillwater Lift bridge was completed with the cost being split equally between Minnesota and Wisconsin. It serves as one of the city’s most iconic and visible monuments but was closed to vehicle traffic in 2017 when a new bridge south of the original bridge was built to divert heavy traffic congestion through downtown Stillwater, called the St. Croix Crossing.  Now, this is a frequently used five-mile loop trail that loops both the original and new bridges.
The lumber industry was also impactful in drawing people to Hudson, Wisconsin which is located just under 10 miles south of Stillwater, Minnesota. Originally called Willow River, the city’s first mayor, Alfred D. Gray, appealed to change the city’s name to Hudson as the city, with its bluffs overlooking a beautiful river, reminded him of the Hudson River in his native New York. Hudson was settled in 1840, and a large number of settlers arrived in the 1850s and 1860s, many of whom were ancestors of some of today’s residents. 

The downtown Hudson area contains numerous historic buildings, one of which is the uniquely shaped Octagon House, built in 1855, and currently serves as an area historical museum. A class 2 trout stream, a sandy beach, prairie vestiges, and a nature center are all found in this scenic Willow River State Park along with multiple trails, hiking, fishing and camping, and it is located 5 miles northeast of Hudson. Annual events such as the Hot Air Affair in February and the Riverfront Art Festival in June are features that attract many people to the area.