How-To: Have An Awesome October On and Along the St. Croix River

Autumn on the St. Croix is stunning, and winter is coming.




4 minute read

“Shadows from jutting rocks and tall trees fall upon the water in strange contrast with the sun-brightened portions where the tree-topped rock walls of the Dalles are distinctly reflected in the seemingly quiet stream, yet, of quietness, ’tis but the semblance born far below the glassy surface. Between these two walls the river flows and eddies with depth and force.” -William H. Dunne, St. Croix River tourist guidebook, 1881

Kayaking and canoeing in the fall colors on the St. Croix River

When I asked Andrew Carlson of Riverwood Canoe – a paddling rental and shuttle company based out of Osceola – what he thinks about October on the river, he gave advice and inspiration. “My wife’s comment about October paddling is dress warm,” he says. “My observation is this is the best time to be on the St Croix for so many reasons… (it’s) so peaceful and beautiful.”

Sure, the trees are wearing their most colorful clothes, but trees change almost everywhere. I would argue that, although the brilliant leaves on the bluffs are a worthy reason to head for the river, what elevates the St. Croix in fall is the experience of a truly wild and scenic river.

With summer’s crowds gone, birds migrating, and cool days dominating, a trip on the river this October is a chance to immerse yourself in nature’s complex splendor. Perhaps most importantly, it is your last chance to do so until next spring.

Here is some inspiration and information to get you out there:

Take a paddlewheeler excursion

People have been admiring the scenery on the St. Croix River since the 1850s from big, broad-beamed boats, when citizens of the Twin Cities and the valley would embark on steamboat trips for a day or three.

The experience hasn’t changed much since then, except that today you can post a photo on Instagram and all your friends will like it.

WCCO News recently “found” the beauty of a paddleboat ride at Stillwater and shared what the passengers enjoyed about the trip:

The primary departure points for paddleboats is Stillwater and Taylors Falls.

Float your own boat

Foggy paddling (Photo courtesy Andrew Carlson, Riverwood Canoe)
Foggy paddling (Photo courtesy Andrew Carlson, Riverwood Canoe)

Slip silently down the river, propelled by only your paddle and the current, and you’ll feel the peace of winter’s long sleep approaching. Many birds large and small follow the river south on their migration, and you won’t see such flitting and hear such songs except in springtime.

To plan your own paddle, download maps showing landings, distances, and other useful information at the National Park Service’s website. Find current river conditions here.

Several outfitters have canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards available to rent, as well as providing upriver transportation. Most keep going through October, but call to reserve your trip and make sure they are open the day you want to go.

  • Riverwood Canoe, Osceola
    Interstate State Park to Osceola, 6.5 miles, 2-3 hours (other trips available on weekends)
    $30 canoe/$25 kayak at four with shuttle at least four times per day
  • Wild Mountain/Taylors Falls Recreation, Taylors Falls
    Interstate State Park to Osceola (6.5 miles, 2-3 hours) or to William O’Brien State Park
    $43 canoe or kayak (group rates and military discount available)
  • Eric’s Canoe Rental, St. Croix Falls, Wild River State Park
    Interstate State Park to Osceola (other trip options available)
    $40/canoe or kayak, with discounts on multiple rentals
  • Wild River Outfitters, Grantsburg
    Fox to Highway 70, 3 hours (other trips available)
    $58 canoe/$53 kayak, with discounts on multiple reservations
  • Pardun’s Canoe Rental and Shuttle Service, St. Croix State Park and Danbury
    Thayer’s Landing (Highway 77) to state park main landing, 4 hours (other trip options available)
    $50 canoe/$50 kayak

Further fun

Featuring Pleasant Valley Orchard's new "barn quilt" as part of a Chisago County <a href="">initiative</a>.
Featuring Pleasant Valley Orchard’s new “barn quilt” as part of a Chisago County initiative.

Award-winning orchards: WCCO News recently asked its viewers to pick the best apple orchard in Minnesota and Pleasant Valley Apple Orchard in the St. Croix Valley that took the prize. It offers a few farm animals to pet, delicious food for sale, a pile of pumpkins, and yes, delicious apples you can pick from the tree.

“We are very family oriented,” co-owner Judy Erickson said. “We don’t have a lot of bells and whistles. When we started the orchard and as we grew it, we wanted to stay traditional.”

Farther downriver, Carpenter Nature Center‘s orchard perched on the bluffs in Denmark Township not only has the freshest fruit you can buy, uses sustainable methods and as little pesticides as possible.

Wildlife watching: Any Saturday evening in October, caravan through Crex Meadows Wildlife Area in Grantsburg at sunset to watch the sandhill cranes, which gather by thousands as they migrate south. Visit on Saturday, October 10 for the 10th annual crane festival.

Of course there is much more going on – check out the St. Croix 360 events calendar for information.


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How-To: Have An Awesome October On and Along the St. Croix River