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Residents and Rangers Protect the Saint Croix River for Future Generations

July 6, 2018


Minnehaha Creek Watershed District regularly monitors water quality in our watershed, and Master Water Stewards in our area work with people of all ages to teach them about our local waters.

Two people in a boat on a river taking water samplesOn a sunny day in June, National Park Service rangers Rick Damstra and Sam House drop anchor close to Nevers Dam on the Saint Croix River. They scoop long tubes and jugs of river water to collect samples for the Great Lakes Inventory and Monitoring Service, one of many efforts along the historic riverway that keep the Saint Croix remarkably clean.

This is no easy task since, all told, more than 7,800 square miles of land drain to the Saint Croix. Ranger Rick has been monitoring the river for more than four years. “Everyone who uses this water is so lucky,” he reflects between between measurements. “It’s incredible how unspoiled it is. They had a vision fifty years ago to preserve this, so close to the Twin Cities.”

In 1968, the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act established the Saint Croix as a National Scenic Riverway, putting over 200 miles of the Saint Croix and Namekagon Rivers into the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. While some of the riverbanks are privately owned, the park service can still restrict activities there to preserve the river.

Today, the pristine river offers remarkable recreational opportunities to residents of Minnesota and Wisconsin, but it was once a bustling hub of economic activity. “Rivers were lifeblood,” says Rick, noting that the nearby Nevers Dam boat launch was once the site of a logging dam.

The National Park Service works in partnership with regional schools, counties, and nonprofit organizations like the Saint Croix River Association to protect this unique natural resource, and Rick notes that homeowners and locals play a big role, too, through volunteer service and stormwater management on private property. While he works gathering samples, he often sees volunteers monitoring the river for aquatic invasive species.

[Read more on Clean Water MN]