Osceola Landing overhaul seeks balance at busy river access

National Park Service requests feedback for reconfiguring site to better handle growing and diverse uses.




4 minute read

A busy day at Osceola Landing. (NPS)

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway has released draft options for a proposed redesign of Osceola Landing, proposing different configurations to better handle the many users and different types of use at the popular site.

Osceola Landing is the busiest National Park Service-managed landing on the St. Croix River. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 people use it each year, according to the Osceola Sun.

Many users land at Osceola after completing the most popular paddle route on the river, starting upstream at Interstate Park. In addition to paddlers making their way from the water to ground transportation are outfitter employees loading canoes onto trailers. The same areas are used for other individuals launching boats, canoes, and kayaks to go upstream or downstream.

There are currently three private canoe outfitters and shuttle services operating out of the landing, with frequent shuttle bus and van visits.

“A lot of the people who visit are there for paddling experiences, motorized boat launching, or just enjoying the landing,” superintendent Julie Galonska recently said at a recent meeting in Osceola. “Because of the volume of people we have there, and because of the number of commercial service providers, we have had a lot of close calls.”

Other parts of the day-use area are popular for picnicking, shore fishing, walking, and viewing the beautiful river and the high sandstone bluffs on the other side.

Fixing a few functions

In addition to near misses between people and vehicles and other safety issues, there are also concerns about how frequently the site floods, forcing its closure, as well as the long-term viability.

The Park Service is now proposing to separate users at multiple launch sites, accommodating commercial operators, paddlecraft, and motorboats, and those users’ vehicles, by spreading them out. The project is meant to provide more space and better traffic routing to increase safety and accessibility.

It is also intended to improve the impacts of high water, and start sowing the seeds of future tree cover.

Park managers want feedback on preliminary designs before going any further.

“The National Park Service is interested in knowing if our ideas are on the right track or missing important concepts,” said Galonska.

Multiple choice

The options the Park Service is presenting now vary significantly from each other, and the existing configuration.

The current configuration has boat landing, launching, vehicle parking, and shuttle services all operating in the same area on the northern end of the site, with additional parking areas and picnic shelters across the rest of the site.

Redesign option 1 has two boat landings: one for nonmotorized craft, including both private and rental canoes and kayaks, and one for motor boats. It would keep all existing picnic shelters, and continue using the current bathroom building (though renovated) and septic mound, which was just rebuilt last year.

Option 2 offers two boat launches, with parking lots for motorized and nonmotorized users connected near the existing launch. It would require moving the septic mound.

And option 3 dedicates the northern parking lot and boat launch for commercial operators, while providing two other launch points, with one on the southern tip of the site dedicated to carry-in access.

Each design includes other attributes, like new or redeveloped walking paths, waiting and orientation areas for outfitter customers, parking areas, picnic shelters, and restrooms.

The public comment period is open until November 18.

Review and comment

Download all options (115MB PDF file)

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is asking for answers to four broad questions at this point in the process:

  1. What do you like about our draft options and would like to see implemented in the future?
  2. What don’t you like about our draft options and would not like to see implemented in the future?
  3. Are there other ideas you have that should be incorporated into the draft options?
  4. What other comments or suggestions do you have?

Comments may be submitted using any of the methods noted below.

Public Meeting:
Tuesday, November 5 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
(doors open at 5:00 p.m.; presentation begins at 5:15 p.m.)
Osceola Medical Center, 2600 65th Avenue, Osceola, Wisconsin

National Park Service Planning Site

Mark Denker
St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, Osceola Landing Project
401 N. Hamilton Street
St. Croix Falls, WI 54024


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Osceola Landing overhaul seeks balance at busy river access