Mystery Object Emerges from the St. Croix River South of Osceola

Reader reports strange artifact jutting out of the water, confounding a couple canoeists and the National Park Service.




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Two large wands of iron anchored in the sand on the bottom of the St. Croix River recently re-appeared, previously unknown to the National Park Service. A friend and I saw it ourselves three years ago for the first time, in the middle of the long straight stretch below Osceola.

At the time, I figured somebody knew what they were. Perhaps somebody does – local knowledge of the river and its history runs deep. But a recent email in my inbox rekindled my curiosity sparked in 2013.

Jesse Hartman of New Brighton sent a photo last week of the same slabs of rusted metal we saw.

“I ran across this yesterday on the river, about 1 mile south of the Osceola boat landing. Do you know what it is? My guess is something to do with an old bridge or steam shovel….. Whatever it is, it’s heavy,” Hartman wrote.

Interestingly, the water levels are quite different between the two occasions. We saw it when the St. Croix Falls Gage was running quite low, around 1,900 cfs. But Jesse reported it on a day the water was nearly twice that flow. Perhaps it is slowly rising from the bottom. (Or maybe the gauge 10 miles upstream doesn’t directly correlate to water levels at the site.)

It was solidly placed when we found it in 2011, either buried deep and covered in waterlogged sand, or connected to something big and heavy. Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway acting superintendent Julie Galonska noted that nobody should try to move such objects.

“They could be considered cultural resources that would be protected under a variety of federal and state laws. Best thing to do is to let NPS know about them. People can call the St Croix River Visitor Center at 715-483-2274. We’ve also recently established a park tip line: 1-800-PARKTIP or 1-800-727-5847. The public can report anything of concern. In emergency situations, dial 911.”

The Park Service plans to mark the object with a buoy to prevent collisions.

Does anybody know what this is? Or want to guess? Feel free to comment or email


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13 responses to “Mystery Object Emerges from the St. Croix River South of Osceola”

  1. Gayle Avatar

    Something out of Paul Bunyan’s toolbox. He was kind of a butter-fingers, I hear!

  2. Steve Johnson Avatar
    Steve Johnson

    Quite possibly part of a previous Osceola bridge, considering location. Anyone have photos of previous bridges?

    1. mike Avatar

      absolutely they are the hinged supports I do have pictures of some just like it on the old Concord 2 Saint Paul Park toll bridge but I don’t know how to post them

  3. Ron Carlson Avatar
    Ron Carlson

    I think they are lifting links on an old dredge bucket, and if the bucket is still attached they are there forever. Or maybe Polish canoe paddles.. Bow paddler, Joy, thinks they are handles on frying pans discarded by Paul Bunyan.

    1. Wendy Avatar

      Good guessing, Ron

  4. Paul Vogel Avatar
    Paul Vogel

    Try the historic air photos through the State of Minnesota website. Should go back to the 1930’s or so. Might give a clue.

    1. jim kyndberg Avatar

      Reminds me of erector sets parts I had as a kid. Only much bigger which supports the Paul Bunyan theory mentioned before..

  5. Ginger Avatar

    I agree with previous post. It looks like part of a bridge.

  6. Tyler Avatar

    These are parts of the old swing bridge that the ice took out in 1958. They’ve been there for the 11 years we’ve been on the river. Beware, as they will easily take out a lower unit for unsuspecting boaters.

  7. James C. Avatar
    James C.

    My guess is an anchor for logs. Wasn’t the St. Croix used for transporting logs? The area seems big enough to hold a bunch of logs. I’m guessing a chain broke while trying to recover that, and they left it.

  8. Ken Martens Avatar

    Osceola was the construction site of several riverboats. Also the steam engines of old boats were salvaged and reused in new ones. Boats were also dismantled along the river when their era had come to its end.

    The pair of bars could be attached to a riverboats steam boiler and steam drive pistpn. Bars like this would have been connected as drive shafts to the paddle wheel.

    If these drive shafts are connected to a sunken boiler, river currents could have created a “scour” condition alowwing the steam engine to roll into a deeper hole than it was previously in.

    If the heavy steam engine rolled into a deeper hole created by scour the drive shafts would have tilted making their appearance above the surface of the water 100 years later.

    1. Jim Collins Avatar
      Jim Collins

      My guess is they are steam engin coupling rods

  9. Paul Avatar

    They’ve been there a long time. Saw them in the 90’s while canoeing. Kinda cool to know they’re still there.


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Mystery Object Emerges from the St. Croix River South of Osceola