New map series: Six ways of seeing the St. Croix

Helping you better understand the river and its watershed.




2 minute read

The St. Croix River is about 200 miles long. It’s a big river, and its watershed is vast. It drains more than 7,700 square miles in Minnesota and Wisconsin — an area about the size of New Jersey. All of this land affects the river, and contributes to its wildness, ecological health, and stories.

This landscape is broad and diverse, so St. Croix 360 is launching a new series to share maps of the watershed that illustrate its various attributes. The first in this series is starting with the basics: water.

The map below shows the major tributaries and lakes of the St. Croix River watershed. The labeled lakes are larger than three square kilometers, and the labeled rivers are the significant tributaries by my own arbitrary decision.

Click to view full size.

Without all these lakes and streams, the St. Croix simply would not exist! Rain that falls on the watershed, and snow that falls and melts here, eventually finds its way to the river by traveling across the surface, or soaking in and entering groundwater, where it eventually re-emerges through springs.

This water data all comes from the U.S. Geological Survey. This federal agency is responsible for a great deal of science and information about the United States’ resources. Its National Hydrology Dataset is the authoritative source for data about lakes and rivers.

Based on this data, there are 9,402 miles of streams, and 15,314 lakes — 2,207 that are 10 acres or larger.

Top 10 largest lakes in the St. Croix River watershed (acres in parentheses):

  1. Lake Saint Croix (10,864)
  2. Namekagon Lake (4,792)
  3. Rush Lake (4,378)
  4. Nelson Lake (3,917)
  5. Shell Lake (3,601)
  6. Yellow Lake (3,282)
  7. Saint Croix Flowage (3,250)
  8. Forest Lake (3,209)
  9. Pokegama Lake (2,947)
  10. Balsam Lake (2,711)

In the coming weeks, St. Croix 360 will publish more maps of the watershed, showing attributes like geology, public land, human history and culture, land types, and more. Stay tuned!


St. Croix 360 offers commenting to support productive discussion. We don’t allow name-calling, personal attacks, or misinformation. This discussion may be heavily moderated and we reserve the right to block nonconstructive comments. Please: Be kind, give others the benefit of the doubt, read the article closely, check your assumptions, and stay curious. Thank you!

“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world.” – Bill Bullard

10 responses to “New map series: Six ways of seeing the St. Croix”

  1. David Cahoy Avatar
    David Cahoy

    I do expect that hard copies of the maps will be available for purchase or via contribution. What are your plans ?

    1. Greg Seitz Avatar
      Greg Seitz

      Possibly! It’s good to hear you are interested, since it’s a lot of work to make these and especially then to prepare them for quality printing. But knowing that there’s interest, I will definitely consider making them available in the future.

      1. Jim Cox Avatar
        Jim Cox

        Please go for it, Greg! There’s a reason my wife lovingly calls me “Map Man!”.

  2. Mark Hove Avatar
    Mark Hove

    Interesting details, thanks, Greg!

  3. Lee Lewis Avatar

    A great project!

  4. Russ Hanson Avatar
    Russ Hanson

    Excellent. The extent is much greater than the map can show as every stream has many small spring and post rain creeks that come from overflowing swamps and run off of the land. In my area NW of Cushing most of the local lakes, ponds and marshes overflow into either Wolf Creek or Trade River. The rain that falls oon our land here moves through these channels into the St Croix River too. It is fun to zoom in on the google satelilte maps and attempt to connect them all. I like to think of the early days when beaver dams held back more water. We see the remnants of these all thorugh our old cow pastures and woodland vallieys.

  5. Angela A Anderson Avatar
    Angela A Anderson

    thanks Greg for a great feature. It will hopefully make many more of us aware and concerned what happens in our watershed, such as the existing and proposed concentrated animal feeding operations CAFO’s mostly dairy and hog at this point and their immense negative impact on our water, which is the lifeblood of our communities.
    Emerald Sky Dairy in the Willow River watershed and a proposed 26000 hog factory in the Trade River watershed

  6. Jeff Butler Avatar
    Jeff Butler

    Great. I’m still working on the book
    Where Rivers Meet.
    A work in progress about the confluences of the major rivers that bring energy, creativity and connections along the entire magical Riverway.

  7. Jared Hoke Avatar
    Jared Hoke

    I would be fascinated to know how a river’s source is decided. This map shows what could be several “sources”, like the more northern extents of the Kettle River drainage. Someone decided that the Kettle is a tributary, not the source. What are the determining factors? Size/flowage/distance …. ?

  8. Angela Anderson Avatar
    Angela Anderson

    Greg, I would be very interested in buying a set of those maps. I am fascinated by maps. I own a set of colored Raven maps, landform and rivers of the US and MN. They are hanging in my hallway and I study them often. It would be nice to have a set of my watershed.


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New map series: Six ways of seeing the St. Croix