A new foot bridge was recently lifted into place over ravines along the St. Croix River near Taylors Falls, marking a major milestone in work on Chisago County’s Swedish Immigrant Trail. The walking and biking path will eventually connect the Dalles communities to the Chisago Lakes area and beyond, where many immigrants from Sweden settled in the 19th century.
The new bridges are located on top of the bluffs in Minnesota’s Interstate State Park. They are part of a new segment under construction between Wildwood Campground at the top of the bluff to the popular state park, the river, and Taylors Falls.
Construction on the segment of trail through Interstate Park was started in March. The DNR reported the route was carefully selected to avoid several sites with sensitive plant species and cultural features. It also avoids a stand of mature sugar maples that have historically been used for syrup production.
The state has contributed significant funding to the project from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which primarily comes from lottery ticket sales.
When completed, the Swedish Immigrant Trail will run for 20 miles west to the city of Wyoming. There, it will connect with the north-south Sunrise Prairie Trail. In Taylors Falls, the city will construct a trailhead area next to city hall.
The trail will also connect with the Gateway State Trail, if and when it is eventually extended north from near Stillwater. Midway along the Swedish Immigrant Trail, in the towns of Center City, Chisago City, and Lindstrom, trail users could feasibly connect with the Chisago Lakes Water Trail, providing paddle routes through the area’s interconnected lakes.
On the St. Croix end of the trail, the possibilities of combining paddling and pedaling are also exciting. Or perhaps cyclists will just enjoy cooling off in the river at the end of a ride, or camping the night, or enjoying a meal at the town’s restaurants.
“The project Master Plan illustrates connections including a state park, six cities and a private campground, currently connected to the trail,” Chisago County says. “Scenic attractions include the famous Eichten’s Cheese & Bison Farm with smoked string cheese and bison burgers. Enjoy scenic views at Interstate State Park and tour the Franconia Sculpture Park, free admission and open dawn to dusk year round.”
The trail, as its name makes clear, is intended to celebrate the story of Swedes who settled in what is now Chisago County beginning about 1850. Before that, it was the home of Dakota and Ojibwe people, and still bears an Ojibwe name that translates roughly to “fair and lovely lakes.”
Many settlers arrived by river boat to Taylors Falls, setting out on foot to the prairies and lakes a few miles west, where the farming was good.
Tourists from Sweden already enjoy trips to the area to learn more about where their ancestors had emigrated to, and fulfill a general curiosity about their country’s place in American history. The trail could be another attraction, and introduce them to the wild and wonderful St. Croix River that once conveyed their relations to their new home.