New book shares history of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

Collection of articles by Wisconsin writer covers National Park Service management, research, and more modern history.




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St. Croix Stories: Writings About The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway 1979-2010
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Getting a jump on next year’s 50th anniversary of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (the upper portion, that is), writer Buz Swerkstrom has collected more than 80 Riverway-related newspaper and magazine articles into a book called “St. Croix Stories: Writings About The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway 1979-2010.”

The 380-page collection, available by mail order and in both print and e-book versions from, adds up to essentially a modern history of the Riverway, which includes most of the St. Croix River and all 98 miles of its longest tributary, the Namekagon River.

Swerkstrom, a Luck area resident, may well have written more about the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (including the Lower Riverway) than anyone else during the three decades the book covers. And he wrote about significant events and topics other reporters ignored. He was the only reporter present the only time a National Park Service director visited the Riverway headquarters in St. Croix Falls in 2004, for example. He was the only newspaper reporter to witness an experimental stocking operation for one of the world’s rarest freshwater mussel species (the Winged Mapleleaf) in 2003. His thorough coverage of many management group meetings and public forums and workshops is the only existing narrative record of many of those meetings. And he is almost certainly the only reporter to have visited the St. Croix River headwaters area, near Solon Springs, with a Riverway superintendent (Tony Andersen, in 1990).

Retired Riverway staff member Ron Erickson, who served as Chief of Interpretation for several years, as well as manager of Minnesota Interstate State Park, comments that “every fan of the amazing St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers will enjoy Buz Swerkstrom’s collection of stories. Each chronicles how people changed the rivers that form the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and how the rivers changed them.”

The paperback book is liberally illustrated with approximately 180 black-and- white photos. Given the length restrictions imposed by newspapers and magazines, Swerkstrom expanded many of the stories for the book, drawing additional material from the transcripts of tape recordings he prepared for every article.

The book also is expansive in geographic scope, from the headwaters near Solon Springs and east of Cable (the Namekagon River) to the confluence of St. Croix and Mississippi rivers at Prescott, and subject scope, which ranges from celebration to such controversial issues as a new Stillwater bridge and boating restrictions imposed because of the presence of invasive zebra mussels.

“As a National Park Ranger working on the river as these stories unfolded, I was surprised by how much I learned,” Erickson remarks. “No matter the event or the location, Buz was there to describe what happened and reveal what went on behind the scenes.”

While the oldest article dates from 1979, a few stories delve into the past beyond that year. One such story traces the human history of the St. Croix Valley from the late Ice Age to the logging era. A story about the dedication of a new Riverway headquarters and visitor center in St. Croix Falls (2006) includes words of speakers, including former vice president Walter Mondale, who praised Senator Gaylord Nelson’s crucial role in having the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway included as one of eight original components of the national Wild and Scenic Rivers System in 1968.

“I want to make clear that the book is not a travel guide, or accounts of my personal experiences with the Riverway,” Swerkstrom says. “Essentially, it’s a record of most of the important Riverway-related happenings up to 2010. Most of it is reporting about recreation, research projects, management meetings, the response to the zebra mussel problem, and so forth” Swerkstrom is the author of 12 other books, including the novels “Troll Mountain Tales” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Inner Groove.”

With the Riverway’s 50th anniversary quickly approaching, in 2018, Ron Erickson believes “now is the perfect time to remember the people who protected this incredible resource full of critters large and small. . . . For all who love or want to know and understand the St. Croix River, this is a book not to be missed.”

The book has a retail price of $14.95 ($9.95 for the e-book version) and can be purchased at

Mail orders (Buz Swerkstrom, 2126 295 th Ave., Luck, WI 54853) are $15 for one copy, including shipping, and $13 each for additional copies if two or more copies are ordered at the same time.


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New book shares history of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway