phpygMc8LHow did you prepare for writing this travel guide?

I have an unvarying research path. I first review all digitized photo imagery from the MHS online photo collection: I learn a tremendous amount about life in a district by examining photographs. I copy perhaps 250 of these images, knowing I’ll need to weed the quantity down to perhaps 50 to 60 for the book. I then move to large collections such as the State Historic Preservation Office and the MHS library; regional collections like the county historical societies and the St. Croix Collection of the Stillwater Library; chambers of commerce and tourism organizations; and finally the small village historical societies that are frequently the richest source of detail of life in place and time. I call in both old and new books from all over the country, often on interlibrary loan from non-circulating or special library collections. When I feel I have grounded myself well in the story of a district, I begin my field trips and interviews. At the point where I feel I have done all I can in the field, I return to my desk and begin putting together the puzzle pieces that make up an engaging narrative and a well-planned guide for travelers.

You write about both sides of the river, from Hastings-Prescott all the way up to Danbury. Wasn’t that a lot of ground to cover?

It certainly was–the river has two shores!–but for this book I was much closer to home and was able to make many day trips over several months, starting at Hastings and moving up to St. Croix State Park, and then crossing over to Wisconsin and making my way down to Prescott.

Do you have some favorite sites out of all the places you visited?

I was deeply moved by the region south of Grantsburg west toward the river through the Governor Knowles Forest. Just near Wolf Creek is the historic site of the Nevers Dam. Standing there at the shore is indescribable, once you’ve seen the historic image of the largest wooden dam in the world in its time.

What was the most surprising bit of history you discovered in researching the book?

That a short-line railroad was built from Rush City, Minnesota, over a trestle bridge to Grantsburg, Wisconsin, where a turntable would point the small steam engine and its three passenger cars back towards Rush City. The reason for the train? To cross the river…for blueberries! The old rail embankment is still visible along Fish Lake Road, also known as Wisconsin Rustic Road No. 15.

Do you have a favorite place time of year to visit the St. Croix Riverway?

Oh, without question, the autumn! Gold, red, brown, orange leaves amid dark green pines. Apple orchards and horse farms and pumpkin pie at Crabtree’s Kitchen in Copas. Old oxcart trails become visible as the leaves fall. All the car windows are rolled down. Heaven!