Park given pen that signed rivers act
ST. CROIX FALLS, Wis. — A pen used by President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act into law was donated to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and is on display at the St. Croix River Visitor Center.
President Johnson had presented the pen to then U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale after the Oct. 2, 1968, signing ceremony. Mondale gave the pen to James Taylor Dunn, chief librarian of the Minnesota Historical Society from 1955 to 1972 and author of “The St Croix: Midwest Border River.”
Dunn had a deep love of the St. Croix River Valley and owned a family cabin in Marine on St. Croix. In 1999, Dunn donated the cabin to the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, the environmental research station of the Science Museum of Minnesota. The signing pen was part of that donation.
In a Dec. 5 ceremony, Research Station Director Daniel Engstrom returned the pen to Mondale, who then presented it to Chris Stein, superintendent of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
“Given its role in the creation of the Riverway, it seems fitting that the pen should reside with the National Park Service and be available for public viewing at the visitor center,” Engstrom said.
The St. Croix and its tributary, the Namekagon River, were among the first eight rivers in the United States protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. They were also the only rivers among those eight designated as a unit of the National Park System, now known as the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
“Literally with the stroke of this pen, the United States embraced a policy of river protection, placing value on clean, free flowing water. We are deeply honored to become its caretakers,” Stein said.
The Oct. 2, 1968, signing ceremony also had other connections to the National Park System. It included legislation to establish the North Cascades and Redwood National parks, as well as the National Trails System Act, which created a network of scenic, historic and recreation trails that includes National Park System units like the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic trails.
The pen displayed at the St. Croix River Visitor Center, at 401 North Hamilton St. in St. Croix Falls. The center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free admission. It will be closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Call 715-483-2274 for additional information. Learn more at www.nps.gov/sacn.