“An unspoiled river is a very rare thing in this Nation today. Their flow and vitality have been harnessed by dams and too often they have been turned into open sewers by communities and by industries. It makes us all very fearful that all rivers will go this way unless somebody acts now to try to balance our river development.
So we are establishing a National Wild and Scenic Rivers System which will complement our river development with a policy to preserve sections of selected rivers in their free-flowing conditions and to protect their water quality and other vital conservation values.”
– President Lyndon Johnson’s remarks on signing the 1968 Wild & Scenic Rivers Act
Via the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway:
A pen used by President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act into law has been donated to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and is now on display at the St. Croix River Visitor Center.
President Johnson had presented the pen to then Senator Walter Mondale after the signing ceremony on October 2, 1968. Senator 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. Mr. Dunn had a deep love of the St. Croix River Valley and owned a family cabin in Marine on St. Croix. In 1999, Mr. 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 ceremony on December 5, Daniel Engstrom, director of the Research Station, returned the pen to Mr. 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,” said Dr. Engstrom.
The St. Croix and its tributary, the Namekagon, were among the first eight rivers in the nation 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,” remarked Superintendent Stein.
The signing ceremony on October 2, 1968, 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 is now on display at the St. Croix River Visitor Center, located at 401 North Hamilton Street in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin. The visitor center is open daily, 9:00 to 4:00, with free admission. It will be closed on December 25 and January 1. Please call (715) 483-2274 for additional information.