The biggest St. Croix River stories of 2012

The most popular stories on St. Croix 360 this year ran the spectrum from mining to wildlife photos, history to fish.

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What mattered most in St. Croix River country this year? Look at St. Croix 360’s website traffic and the answer is pretty clear: sand and gravel mining.

An unprecedented accident at a mine near Grantsburg spilled fine sediment into the river for at least four days, and controversy grew over a gravel mine proposal by the same company in Scandia. All this was against the backdrop of the frac sand industry growing incredibly fast in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

But it was hardly all bad news for the river in 2012. Other popular posts covered people who celebrate its beauty, volunteer to open up its history, and study and manage its amazing fishery. And then there are the many wonderful photos shared and loved on the St. Croix River Facebook page.

10. Sand mine spill prosecution (June 14)

Grantsburg frac sand mine aerial photo
The Wisconsin DNR recommended the case for prosecution to the state Attorney General, and the maximum fine possible seems to be $50,000. The post also included new information about the spill’s possible impacts on the river’s mussels and fish.

 

9. Second fall at Arcola Mills (August 16)

Arcola Mills main house, built in 1847
The historic mansion, built in 1847, was opened to the public for September and October this year, drawing in thousands of visitors to experience beauty on the banks of the St. Croix.

 

8. Photos of eagles making nest (Feb. 13)

A bald eagle carries a branch to its nest along the St. Croix River
Talented St. Croix Falls photographer Gary Noren happened to be out walking one winter morning when he got some amazing photos of two bald eagles getting ready for spring.

 

7. Lincoln avenger’s fiery fate (Feb. 18)

Boston Corbett
The strange story of the strange man who happened to shoot John Wilkes Booth came to an end on the banks of the Kettle River in the 1894 Hinckley fire.

 

6. Zebra mussels disappear (April 5)

Zebra mussels
It came as a surprise to everyone, though ultimately the finding seems to have probably been a fluke. The sudden disappearance was attributed to high water and other short-term factors. But still, good news is good news.

 

5. Sand mining presentation (April 17)

Frac sand mine in Grantsburg, WI near the St. Croix River
A community presentation in St. Croix Falls happened to occur only days before the Grantsburg sand mine spill, making the meeting an almost eerie hint of what was to come.

 

4. Fish sampling trip report (August 5)

St. Croix River fish sampling smallmouth bass
The outing provided a chance to see what swims beneath the St. Croix’s surface as well as insights into the work of scientists and managers who are in charge of keeping it healthy. A beautiful office and a lot of hard work.

 

3. Remote-controlled plane video (Feb. 23)

arcola-video
Swooping and soaring over the braided channels of the broad river, this video provided a view of the valley not seen by many people before.

 

2. Scandia mine proposal (April 9)

Area neighboring the proposed Tiller-Zavoral gravel mine in Scandia.
Laurie Allmann’s column definitely received the most comments of any post this year. She included out a list of concerns about the proposal, and a couple lyrical paragraphs about what is at stake. (The issue should be resolved in early 2013 when the City Council votes on a permit for the mine.)

 

1. Grantsburg sand mine spill (May 16)

A stream flowing into the St. Croix River near Grantsburg runs brown with sediment from a silica (frac) sand mine
It wasn’t even close. This story captured people’s attention in a big way — and ended up being covered extensively by the press in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and even nationally. Read the post that spawned a thousand “likes”…

 

Honorable Mention: Kayaks & birds (August 23)

Kayaking St. Croix River backwaters
This didn’t make it into the most-viewed list, but probably the favorite thing I wrote this year was about when I joined two National Park Service rangers and a few other kayakers on a float down the river in August. We saw a few birds, and got a glimpse behind the river’s misty veil.

 

What did we miss?

This list is based solely on website traffic. What stories do you think were most interesting or important this year? Please leave your thoughts in the comments. Onward to 2013!

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