At nearly 34,000 acres, St. Croix State Park is the largest state park in Minnesota. Located east of Hinckley, the park offers access to two rivers: the St. Croix and the Kettle. Ten other streams flow through the park; three of these, Hay Creek, Little Hay Creek, and Crooked Creek, are designated trout streams.
Fishing is a popular activity among park visitors. Anglers can fish for a variety of species in the rivers, including smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, catfish, suckers, and lake sturgeon. Crooked Creek is stocked with rainbow and brown trout annually in the spring. Hay Creek has a natural brook trout population and is considered the best trout stream in Pine County. However, the banks of Hay Creek have thick growth of brush in many places, making access and fishing difficult.
Hinckley fisheries staff have been working with park managers Rick Dunkley and Josh Zaudtke to identify areas to develop access trails and clear streamside brush along Hay Creek. What was needed was a crew that was available and willing to do the work. That’s where the Challenge Incarceration Program (CIP) came in. Based at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Willow River, CIP allows non- violent offenders to participate in a rigorous “boot camp” style program to develop life skills through educational, vocational, and restorative justice opportunities. Work crews perform a variety of tasks for community service. On May 18, a crew came to the park and cleared brush to create new trails off the park road and the Matthew Lourey State Trail. The men were very hard-working; in less than 5 hours they had created 5 new trails and access points along Hay Creek. Follow up work will be done in late summer or fall to create even more brush-free areas along the stream. These trails will
need to be maintained periodically as brush grows back.
Signs have been posted to mark the new trails; maps are available in the park office.