Monday, March 10, 2014

Hike historical lumber baron site in Minn.

St. Croix Boom Site view of St. Croix River.
Aerial photo of St. Croix Boom Site.
Families can day hike a historical remnant from the St. Croix River’s lumber baron days north of Stillwater, Minn.

The St. Croix Boom Site Trail runs a mere 0.4 miles round trip but makes for a scenic afternoon diversion. A century-and-a-half-ago ago, the site was a bustling center of activity a where men pulled logs from the St. Croix River and sent them on their way to sawmills.

To reach the trail, from downtown Stillwater drive north on Minn. Hwy. 95. Watch for the signs; after Pawnee Avenue North, there’s a turnoff for the Boom Site on the right/east. Park in the looping access road. The trailhead is south of the lot’s access road. The Boom Site is merely a 50-foot walk down a staircase to a beach.

Throughout the mid- and late-1800s, lumberjacks downed whole forests across northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, branded each log with the sawmill it was to go to, and floated the timber down the St. Croix River on its way to sawmills.

When the St. Croix Boom Company went bust upstream near Marine on St. Croix, several Stillwater lumber barons bought the business and moved it north of town. The boom company drew the timber from the river then sorted and delivered it to the correct sawmill in Stillwater. All through the 1870s, logs would back up some 15 miles on the river during midsummer as awaiting for the boom company to pull them out.

By the early 20th century, most Northwoods forests were gone, and the boom site ceased operation in 1914. As the economy changed and generations passed, the site was largely forgotten.

The National Park Service discovered it during a 1975 survey while identifying historical sites along the St. Croix. Today, it’s a National Historic Landmark in the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.

At the bottom of the stairs, hikers can head up and down the pleasant beach below the sandstone bluff. The beach peters out about 600 feet downstream and heads roughly 400 feet upstream to a nice point overlooking a river island.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.