St Croix Falls Interstate Park – Fall Color
Interstate Park, a cooperative effort of Wisconsin, Minnesota and the National Park Service, is located on the St. Croix Wild and National Scenic River which forms part of the state line dividing the northern part of Wisconsin and Minnesota south of Duluth. It is actually two parks. There is the Wisconsin Interstate Park (St. Croix, Wisconsin) on the east side of the river and the Minnesota Interstate Park (Taylor Falls, Minnesota) located on the west bank. It is located about 60 miles north, along the Great River Road extension from Prescott, Wisconsin. The best route is to cross the river at Prescott and drive along the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River to Taylor Falls.
At Prescott the St. Croix River joins the Mississippi doubling the size of the Great River. At this point the Mississippi River Road leaves the Wisconsin-Minnesota border and heads towards the St. Paul, Minnesota. If you are driving the Great River Road, we recommend continuing along the shores of the St. Croix as it is a more scenic drive and you’ll not see anything as spectacular as the St. Croix River Gorge if you stayed on the Mississippi Road and continued on to St. Paul.
Our favorite season for Interstate Park is fall. The dramatic cliffs and formations of the Dalles of the St. Croix make it an outstanding scenic area. In fall its beauty is supplemented by terrific fall color displays. The St. Croix River Valley with its mixture of oaks, maples, birch, hickory, ash and many other species typical of a northern hardwoods forest provide an abundance of hues of reds, golds, and oranges.
Some Pictures – Click on image for a larger view
Recreational and Camping Facilities and Attractions
The parks are open all year. In the winter on the Wisconsin side there are 12 miles of cross-country skiing/snowshoeing trails; on the Minnesota side no x-c trails but they do offer some snowshoeing trails. Other times of the year Wisconsin offers 12 hiking trails totaling about 8 miles, whereas the Minnesota side has 6 trails, some of which include very unique geological formations. The parks are most popular in the summer offering rock climbing, hiking, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, swimming, and camping. The Wisconsin side has the largest campground sites (2 areas) but the Minnesota side is the only campground offering RV hookups. RV users on the Wisconsin side will need to “dry camp” but there is a dump station near the ice age center. See our links at the bottom of the page for maps and other information on recreational and educational attractions offered by the Interstate Parks.
The unique dalles, potholes, and cliffs are the result of several earthquakes and lava flows occuring over eons combined with the thawing, about 10, 000 years ago, of Glacial Lake Duluth. When its massive ice dam (located south of the current city of Superior, Wisconsin near Solon Springs) broke the meltwaters carved out the current St. Croix River valley. Only very resistant basalts from the lava flows were able to partially withstand the torrent and the unique geological formations were the result.
The original waterfalls and rapids which were the original St. Croix Falls are now buried underneath the “lake” created by the St. Croix Hydroelectric Dam located about one half mile north of the bridge. Above the dam the river is wider, more quiet, and lake-like. Below the dam the river runs faster with some rapids.
The outstanding scenery and geological formations led to a joint effort by Wisconsin and Minnesota to preserve the area for the use of the public. Established between 1895 and 1900 it was the nations first cooperative park established by two states. Because the St. Croix River, which divides the two state parks, is part of the National Wild and Scenic River system and the park is also part of the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve recreation passes of the National Park Service are honored at Interstate Park. Also each state honors the annual and day pass stickers of the other state. Staying at the northside Wisconsin campground it is only a short hike to the bride to walk across to the nature and hiking trails on the Minnesota side or to downtown Taylor Falls for that matter. If you stay at the Minnesota campground, you may need to drive your car to visit the Wisconsin side as it is a 1.5 mile hike just to get to the bridge.
Other National Parks along the Upper Mississippi River you might enjoy visiting
See our National Parks Resource page for more ScenicPathways National Parks profiles.