History rises as river falls

092513_LogDrive Piling
The low level of the St. Croix River has exposed pilings more than 100 years old in the river north of the Lift Bridge. National Park Service Ranger Caroline Stedman said the pilings appear to be from the area’s logging era and were used to block side channels to keep logs floating in the river from getting stuck. (Photo courtesy of Jim Fischer)

Low St. Croix River level exposes old logging-era pilings

A falling St. Croix River has exposed pieces of the Valley’s logging history.
More than two weeks ago, Jim Fischer took a boating trip up the St. Croix north of the Lift Bridge and photographed some old pilings exposed in the Stillwater Islands area in the National Scenic Riverway.

“They’re still coming up. Eventually, they’ll come up all the way,” he said.
NPS Park Ranger Caroline Stedman with the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway office in St. Croix Falls, Wis., said the pilings in Fischer’s photo appear to be from the logging era “and may have been part of the Boom itself in Stillwater”

“Pilings like this are not uncommon along the riverway, the loggers often blocked off side channels to keep the lumber logs from getting stuck,” she said.

“They’ve been in there since about 100 to 125 years ago,” Fischer added.

Because the exposed pilings are north of the Boomsite in Stillwater, they are in the section of the St. Croix River overseen by the NPS, and considered of historic and cultural value to park visitors, according to Stedman.

“They should be absolutely left alone,” she said, adding that the NPS is concerned about people either vandalizing or taking the exposed pilings.

Fischer said he has noticed more of the pilings slowly being exposed by the falling river over the past several months.

“They have come up about a foot from last year,” he said.

Stedman said the pilings are just another example of what the St. Croix River gives up as its level falls during dry periods.

“It’s always interesting to see what comes up when the water gets low,” she said.
“Hopefully, we’ll get our historian out there when she gets back next week to take a look.”

Contact Erik Sandin at [email protected]