Put-in on the Minnesota River below Fort Snelling in St. Paul, MN
Paddle through the Minnesota/Mississippi confluence and east towards Hastings MN
Where the Mississippi meets with the St. Croix at Prescott Wisconsin – turn left MN DNR Mississippi Map – St. Paul to Hastings
Paddle north on the St. Croix to the source and portage near Solon Springs Wisconsin NPS map of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers – the left fork on the map leads to the Brule Portage – the right fork to the Namekagon River
Portage to the springs and source of the Bois Brule River Brule River and Brule River State Forest
Bois Brule River to Lake Superior -turn right Douglas County WI Brule to Lake Superior
Paddle to, along, and around the Bayfield Penninsula to La Pointe on Madeline Island Bayfield County WI Along the South Shore of Superior to La Pointe Ashland County WI Around the Penninsula to La Pointe
Arrive La Pointe around o5/31/2010
But first…some scenery…
Historic River Trails
Substitute term “river” for “highway” and looking at a map of the the States you get a sense of how people got around without modern roads for centuries before and years after Europeans first arrived.
I’ll be paddling the section of river trail that connects the interior of the upper mid-west by way of the Minnesota, Mississippi and their tributaries with Lake Superior and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south.
I’ll begin below historic Fort Snelling. The confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi River below the fort is a historical home to the Mdewakanton Dakota and a significant spiritual site.
The trip ends at La Pointe Wisconsin, Madeline Island, in Lake Superior, a historical fur trading center and a spiritual home of the Anishanaabe people.
- James Taylor Dunn, Minnesota Historian and Author and why he’s making me do this trip….just kidding, Mr. Dunn.
- James Taylor Dunn wrote his loving chronical, The St. Croix, Midwest Border River in 1965 with new material added in 1979. Part geology, mostly history but also preservationists’ call to honor and protect the few remaining “wild rivers” in the United States; those rivers mostly undammed and undeveloped. The St. Croix, in its entirety, is neither of these but what wildness remained was threatened by development and plans for more. River Preservation – Preservationists and legislators acted to restrict future degradation by including the St. Croix as one of the first protected rivers under the Wild and Scenic Riverways Act, October 2nd, 1968. Here’s a map which includes the lower St. Croix later included in the Wild River designation.
On the map guide page above, tap the “see map” tab at the top left for a nice overview with zoom capability of the entire Scenic river waterway. At the bottom of the map page you can see maps of specific river sections. Then, to view the Lower St. Croix, Mississippi (to St. Paul) and Minnesota rivers try Boater\’s Guide to Lower St. Croix, Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers
Two natural springs can be found just north of Solon Springs, Wisconsin. From the bubbling waters of Brule Spring flows the Bois Brule to the north. Bushwack 5oo yards to the southwest and you may find Big Spring, the source of the St. Croix where it begins its journey south. In the final chapter of Dunn’s book he and canoe partner Donald G. Holmquist set out and canoe 115 miles of the most pristine stretch from the headwaters of the St. Croix near Solon Springs Wisconsin to St. Croix Falls. Good reading and honest reporting.
By the time I read Dunn’s book in the late 1990’s I’d been canoeing stretches of the mostly lower St. Croix for a dozen years and thinking about a more extensive trip. Dunn’s chapter on the early explorations sealed the deal.
The Brule – St.Croix – Mississippi – Minnesota river trail was well-known to the Native population of the region by the time the Frenchman, Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Luth followed the route in June of 1680. He heard about it from Native American paddlers while exploring Lake Superior. Du Luth\’s Explorations
Jump ahead one hundred and fifty two years of paddles dipped and portages cursed when Henry Schoolcraft explores the river trail beginning on the Minnesota River near Fort Snelling and ending at La Pointe on Madeline Island. The first party with Schoolcraft in charge move efficiently up the river. The second party struggles. Later reportage on the published journals of the trip were none too flattering to Schoolcraft using terms like “unaccountable”, “inhumane”, “UnChristianlike” when describing his impatience with the second party’s incompetence. I wonder if this really hurt Schoolcraft’s feelings.
Dunn’s third reference to the full river trail recounts an event 1839 when Native Americans are quite put out, and you can imagine why, when it’s decreed that treaty promised annuities would no longer be distributed at the Falls of St. Croix. Dunn describes a day in the third week of June, when approximately 900 Chippewa warriors headed south on the St. Croix river to American Fur Trading Company’s trading post at what is now called Mendota, MN. They came to protest the decision to change distribution to the “distant, inaccessible, Indian Agency at La Pointe on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island – a difficult and arduous trip”
“A difficult and arduous trip” – Well, if that isn’t a challenge. The more experienced, and Euro- world-weary, tired of getting jacked around Native Americans understood most intimately, the toll this route demanded. The less experienced paddler is going to find out just what they were grousing about – and I hope more. Joys? Burdens? Both? That’s what I’m counting on.