About the Heritage Area

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The St. Croix River watershed of Minnesota and Wisconsin is a nationally distinctive landscape that provides the quintessential opportunity to understand and experience the rich history and cultures of America’s Upper Midwest.

At the heart of a watershed at the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, flows the St. Croix, one of the first nationally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers. This region, with the river and the large North Woods landscape that surrounds it, represents the shared history of the Upper Midwest.

In this place, pine and hardwood forests, prairies, and thousands of miles of waterways connect the Great Lakes and the Mis- sissippi, weaving together the life histories of many people through time–Ojibwe and Dakota; fur traders, loggers and farmers; European immigrants and new settlers—who traveled the rivers, traversed the land, and called this region home.

From unrestrained use of natural resources to avid conservation and recreation, the existing landscape reflects competing ideas about the constantly evolving relationship between people and the natural world. In this place, historical sites remain, traditions from centuries ago are celebrated, ancient stories are still told, and wild places endure, allowing residents and visitors to understand, appreciate, and experience this nationally significant part of America’s grand arc of history.

The St. Croix region’s contribution to our nation’s story lies in the historical journey from native homeland, to fur and logging frontier, cut over wasteland, and reinvented recreational North Woods retreat. The history of the St. Croix watershed is representative of that of the Upper Midwest Great Lakes forest of northern Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, a 57-million acre area that is one and half times the size of New England. This story unfolds on a rare landscape where three ecological zones come together with rich diversity of plants and wildlife.

The St. Croix region’s national significance lies in its ability to document this wider regional story through an unparalleled collection of more than 400 historical, cultural, natural, and recreational resources, including several whose national significance has already been established. Paramount among those is the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.