Preserving the Wild Watershed

The Important Work of the St. Croix River Association
Madeleine BienPark Partner Stories
View of the calm Cascade Creek with green trees on the banks at Saint Croix National Scenic River

For over 200 miles in northwest Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (SACN) flows through some of the most scenic and undeveloped land in the midwestern United States. Made up of the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers, SACN’s pristine waters, forested landscape, and diverse, scenic beauty have been preserved as a part of the National Park Service for nearly 50 years.

SACN will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2018, also marking the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. The St. Croix was one of the original eight Wild & Scenic Rivers and was the only one to be designated as a national park at the time of the Act’s passage. SACN flows as it has for thousands of years, unimpeded by human interruption and influenced only by the natural processes of large floodplain rivers. This has allowed for excellent water quality and the preservation of the recreational, historical, geologic, and scenic riches of its rivers.

Working to protect, restore, and celebrate the river, the St. Croix River Association (SCRA) was founded in 1911, and is the oldest citizen organization in Minnesota focused on the protection of natural resources. Its commitment to the riverway has been driven by volunteers, partners, and passionate local citizens.

Executive Director Deb Ryun notes that, “We (SCRA) understand that if future generations are going to safely enjoy our lakes and rivers for boating, fishing, and swimming as we have, and benefit from open space for hiking, birding, hunting, and quiet reflection, we must act. People have to care enough to preserve open space, and the ‘wild’ nature of our watershed.”

A kayak and 2 2-person canoes on the foggy Saint Croix National Scenic River at sunrise.
National Park Service

The association’s primary objectives are twofold: to connect more people to the St. Croix through education, stewardship, and broader communication efforts, and to protect the river and its basin through land and water initiatives.

“Now more than ever it will take action from more people like you and me to ensure that the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway remains a place in which to slow down, recharge, and build memories,” said Ryun.

Over the past seven years, SCRA has prioritized the conservation of the riverway and focused on work that promotes the greatest reduction in pollution, increased land protection, and stewardship growth. SCRA has become the go-to group for addressing issues that affect the St. Croix. SCRA is committed to connecting people directly to the SCAN in ways that provide engaging experiences and encourage everyone to protect, restore, and celebrate the riverway.

SCRA believes it is important to connect people to the river though programming such as the “Rivers are Alive” watershed program: a multi-component program teaches students about the riverway, the connectedness of living and nonliving elements, and the diversity and abundance of life living below the surface of the water.

yellow, white, and black striped monach caterpillar on a pink milkweed flower cluster
J Jacobowski/NPS

In 2016 (the program’s 10th year), over 1,600 students (ages pre-K through 5th grade) participated in “Rivers are Alive,” which was made possible through SCRA’s partnership with the National Park Service, Minnesota Interstate Park, Wisconsin Interstate Park, and Washburn County UWEX-4H.

One hundred percent of teachers surveyed said the program kept their students well engaged, that the program complemented classroom topics and learning, and that they would participate with their class again. As one young student commented after visiting the riverway, “Thank you for teaching us about zebra mussels, watersheds, macroinvertebrates, habitats, wild animals, and [that] everything is connected.”

Visit St. Croix River Association’s website to learn more about its programs and events or to support its work. And to view more information about the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, click here.

Last updated June 12, 2017.


SCRA is an amazing organization, doing important work for the river and watershed and all of us who cherish this place. It has a proud heritage going back to 1911 and it is needed, as we need the NPS and this National Riverway designation, more than ever. Dan
Having been born and raised in St. Paul, MN, and having lived in Minong, WI, I have been fortunate to canoe both the St. Croix (from Gordon, WI on down) and the Namekagon rivers (from Hayward, WI down). What a legacy beyond price! Thanks to our progressive leaders with the foresight to conserve these rivers for my grandchildren, and more, to enjoy. We have entered a political era of new struggle to conserve and hand-on these natural wonders. They ought not be for sale to privatization. They are part of the Commons of American life. Priceless!

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