Mystery Photo Friday #9 – “Puttin’ On the Canoe”

To win this week’s contest, identify the river involved in the photos provided. Send your answer in under “Comments” at the end of this post page. “Mystery River take me home.” That’s right. I’m looking for the name of this, more or less, metro area river that forms the lake in which I’m flailing about (see Monday’s post – Corey Takes A Cold Bath). Identify this river and you may win the coveted “cotton swabs. Good luck!

Folks, last Monday’s I-Movie learning curve bumped my Washington County entry from the post so I’d like to give you the short story of that section of St. Croix river valley that I called home from 1986 to 2010. A few posts back, I left you above the confluence of the Mississippi and the St. Croix at a landmark named “Catfish Bar” a former name for the hamlet of Afton and a river-landmark for Native American paddlers, traders, explorers, and sometime in early May, me.

An eatery in Afton - perhaps the landmark I'll be scouting for.

Afton -left - sandbar - let me see, right?

“Catfish Bar” is on the Wisconsin side of the river but this whole stretch of St. Croix encompassing parts of three Wisconsin counties, parallels one long, thin Minnesota counterpart, Washington County – Gen Web Project. I’ve marked Stillwater on the Google Map as the common reference point for most people in Washington County. From there you can scroll north and south, follow the river and view the whole county. Here’s the map.

The river itself and the county line/state line border extends from the “ghost town” of Point Douglas – Wiki across from Prescott, WI in the south to historical Cedar Bend, about a half mile short of Washington County’s northern border – but more on that in a bit. If you get far enough north to locate, Taylor’s Falls you’ve crossed out of Washington and into Chisago County. To the southwest, well, Woodbury and other burgs that have morphed into the suburb-metro. There are lots of other interesting interior sights, but I’ll stick to the river border here. Washington Co Scenic Byways Map is an easy-to-read map and overview of the river and county. Note the bend in the river just south of the Chisago/Washington County line. That I believe, is Cedar bend.

“One Day’s Paddle”

” One day’s paddle” This was the distance from the Lower St. Croix Lake extending north to Stillwater to Cedar Bend, about 30 miles distant. It was decided that this distance marking a day’s paddle in a canoe (long day), would be the boundary established separating the Ojibwe (Chippewa) territory to the north and Dakota (Sioux) territory to the south in an attempt to keep the peace. The border extended west into central Minnesota and east to Wisconsin. Native American skirmishes disrupted trade throughout Minnesota and in 1825 U.S. negotiators decided it was in the nation’s best interest to intercede and stop the conflict. Here’s the first paragraph of the actual Treaty of 1825 from the Ioway Nation website.

“THE United States of America have seen with much regret, that wars have for many years been carried on between the Sioux and the Chippewas, and more recently between the confederated tribes of Sacs and Foxes, and the Sioux; and also between the Ioways and Sioux; which, if not terminated, may extend to the other tribes, and involve the Indians upon the Missouri, the Mississippi, and the Lakes, in general hostilities. In order, therefore, to promote peace among these tribes, and to establish boundaries among them and the other tribes who live in their vicinity, and thereby to remove all causes of future difficulty, the United States have invited the Chippewa, Sac, and Fox, Menominie, Ioway, Sioux, Winnebago, and a portion of the Ottowa, Chippewa and Potawatomie Tribes of Indians living upon the Illinois, to assemble together, and in a spirit of mutual conciliation to accomplish these objects; and to aid therein, have appointed William Clark and Lewis Cass, Commissioners on their part, who have met the Chiefs, Warriors, and Representatives of the said tribes, and portion of tribes, at Prairie des Chiens, in the Territory of Michigan, and after full deliberation, the said tribes, and portions of tribes, have agreed with the United States, and with one another, upon the following articles.

As you can see in the account, several tribes negotiated and signed on to try to establish peaceful borders and relations. I won’t expound on the long list of treaty failures and out-right deceptions but this one too, didn’t hold. One example was the tragic encounter between Dakota and Ojibwe at the north end of downtown Stillwater, now condominiums, formerly the territorial prison ruins which I explored many times but for a long time referred to as Battle Hollow.

“Within a year of Minnesota becoming a territory, the decision was made to locate the territorial prison in Stillwater. The prison was completed by 1853 in Battle Hollow, a natural ravine north of downtown. The ravine got its name from an incident that occurred in July 1839. Both Dakota and Ojibwe parties had visited the Indian Agent at Fort Snelling. There had been a quarrel, and when the Ojibwe party started for home, the Dakota pursued them. The Dakota came upon their enemies encamped in the ravine and fired on them, killing 21. It was rather a one-sided battle, but one of the last confrontations for these two nations.” Washington County Historical Society

Upham\’s Minnesota Place Names: A Geographical Encyclopedia is a lovely source for the history of Minnesota places and a nice place to end my section on the county. From Arcola to Landfall (what’s that all about there on Highway 94, east metro) and Idlewylde to Withrow, here you can find background on the locations you zip by daily in the car or glance at on the road map in your lap.

“(Washington County) established October 27th, 1849, this county was named for George Washington, “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his country-men.” ….Thirty-two counties in as many states bear his name. This is one of the nine original counties into which Minnesota Territory was divided in 1849. Five others of these counties yet remain, namely Benton, Dakota, Itasca, Ramsey, and Wabasha, each, like Washington County, being much reduced from its original area.” (pg. 615)


lest we overemphasize our historically small blip on the timeline of St. Croix landscape, recall those folks who called the river valley home long before our Euro-American 300 year occupation. Archeological evidence suggests that the “waterway may have been open to traffic as early as 8,000 years ago.History of Colonization (pg.70) Later, the Siouans left their paintings and carvings along the basalt outcroppings dating back perhaps 1,000 to 1,500 years, some just north of Stillwater at the Iverson site – Visions in Stone.

Hmmmm…..8,000 years to present. That’s a lot of art, music, dance, raising babies and lounging in the sun – forget for a moment the battles and treaties – the heroic or tragic events we like to chronicle, and think instead for a moment about the ordinary people who lived full lives, dipping their toes in the beautiful St. Croix River.

Last Week’s Winner Revealed At Last

Okay, let’s pick a winner from last week’s Mystery Photo Friday. Here’s the photo and a supporting shot.

Got it yet?

How about now?

“Puttin’ on the Canoe?” Thanks Shawn for that one. How about, “Puttin’ on the Ritz?” I had seven, count them, seven correct answers and choosing randomly now from all the winners for the grand prize…. it goes to..Dale… by cracky, congrats!

Yes, I am in front of the Ritz theater in Nord-East Minneapolis, 1920’s era theater and current home to Ballet of the Dolls Dance Company Ritz History. But you ask, “What’s the link to this whole canoe business?” Well, Francois Ritz and Gerrard Craquerre first explored this area of the Mississippi River after being discharged from Daniel Greyson Sieur du Luth’s 1680 expedition and setting out on their own. Apparently, the expedition “tutu” had gone missing and the hand of guilt pointed towards these two. Deprived of supplies by du Luth and surviving on a Native American pounded mix of bison fat and native grains pounded into wafers and lightly baked, the pair went on to eventually settle in the area. Their descendants, after finding the hand-written accounts of their early struggles in an attic storage chest, including the “old recipe”, went on to commercial success with a product they first called the “Ritz Craquerre”, later, the Ritz Cracker…..and the rest is history….or is it? See you next week. Corey

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16 Responses to Mystery Photo Friday #9 – “Puttin’ On the Canoe”

  1. Jennifer Tworzyanski says:

    Is it the Willow River? Also, you’re a braver (crazier?) man than I am, Sir.

    • coreymohan says:

      Jennifer, Thanks for the comment. As they roll in we’ll have to see how the votes stack up. Regardless, all correct answers will qualify for the “cotton swab” drawing next Friday. Corey

  2. David Janka says:

    Would that be the “Up a Creek Without a Paddle” river?
    AKA “Oh Crap” river?


    • coreymohan says:

      Dave, I am so tempted to “unapprove” Oh, I had a paddle alright, somewhere…Hmmm…where did I put it. Let’s see..sun doesn’t shine…Cordova area…Dave’s lower unit…No that couldn’t be it.

  3. GP says:

    Lake Mallalieu, Willow river, Hudson, WI

  4. David Janka says:

    Oh and enjoyed the pictograph illustration. Thanks.
    Amazing how similar they are to ones here in Prince William Sound, Alaska.


    • coreymohan says:

      Dave, I have yet to see the pictographs myself, though I now have a better clue as to the location. They are kept quite a secret here in order to keep them from being popularized and more importantly defaced. Did you like the short history of Monsieur Ritz and company?

      • Captain Dave says:

        Yes, well….uh……at some point I will try to go beyond looking at the pictures and captions.

  5. Diane says:

    “What river is involved?” Do I get 2 boxes of q-tips if I can identify the 2 rivers “involved” with this lake? This is Lake Mallalieu in Hudseon WI, and the Willow River widens out here before it empties into the the St. Croix River. It would be a great day to be out on the water, rather than sitting at my desk!

  6. Meghan d. says:

    I’m wearing my tutu and eating Ritz crackers right now!!

  7. Polydore Vergil says:

    I’m just glad that Corey person finally took a bath. The PCA had best learn where that river is and do some serious clean-up after Mr. M’s ablutions.

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