'Something for everyone' includes camping, boating, swimming
It’s tough to stand out in a region whose parks have drawn national acclaim. But St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park can make as strong a case as any.
Nearly hidden in plain sight, it is among the region’s best kept secrets.For starters, St. Croix Bluffs offers the Regional Park System’s only direct public access to the St. Croix River, a nationally recognized wild and scenic river enjoyed by boaters, swimmers, and anglers.
And that’s just the beginning.
“This park has something for everyone,” said Connor Schaefer, a planner in Washington County Public Works.
Campsites accommodate tents, RVs
“Hikers and skiiers can enjoy the trails as they roll through a variety of landscapes (upland prairies, wooded ravines, and bluffs). Modern and rustic campgrounds are popular for families looking to spend a night under the stars. Group shelters and campsites accommodate gatherings of any size,” Schaefer said.
“There are sport fields and accessible play areas for visitors of any age and ability. The park also offers engaging nature programs every Saturday evening this summer as part of our Campfire Programs. And of course, access to the river, which is unmatched in the parks system.”
Schaefer said the park’s secluded hiking trails offer some great views of the St. Croix River Valley, and “a quick dip in the river after a long hike is a great way to cool off!”
“I love to get out on the river any chance I get. It’s an incredible natural amenity available for the whole region to enjoy,” he said. “It’s also beautiful in fall and winter.”
Park dates to the 1990s
Washington County began acquiring land for the park in the 1990s. At the time, it was in private corporate ownership. Because of its history, the park inherited a ball field, horseshoe pits, volleyball courts, a half basketball court and two tennis courts, which the county maintains.
As a publicly owned facility, the park was planned as a unique access point to the St. Croix River and to help protect the unique St. Croix Valley landscape. It still serves this purpose today as a part of the regional park system.
Now spanning 579 acres, the park fronts 3,800 feet of shoreline along the St. Croix River, including a few hundred feet of sandy shoreline fit for the youngest swimmer. The park attracted 114,500 annual visitors in 2015.
Looking ahead, parks planners aim to provide for a cross-section of recreational activities to meet current and anticipated needs of the region.
Long-term plans call for further development of the park including improvements to camping facilities and trails. A long-range vision for the park is to reestablish a diverse array of vegetation that historically thrived in the park, to preserve and enhance ecological health.
The county will also be considering an additional step to sustainably steward the land — what it calls “conservation grazing.” That is, bringing grazing livestock like cattle, goats, sheep, or bison onto public lands to mimic the beneficial effects on wildlife habitat that herds of wild grazing animals once provided.