There’s a new way to enjoy the natural beauty of the St. Croix Valley. Belwin Conservancy’s newest trail system, Oxbow Trails, officially opened for public hiking in June. The idyllic 1.25-mile chipped trail in Afton takes visitors through wooded ridges, under shaded groves and along Valley Creek.
“Part of what, in my mind, is so beautiful about Oxbow Trails is the way that, between the wetlands, the forest and the river, you get this really unique, lovely ecosystem living together in a relatively small area,” says David Freeman, communications specialist at Belwin Conservancy. “By taking this short hike, you can just see so many different kinds of life and nature.”
The creation of the trail and purchase of the 19-acre site was made possible by a partnership between Belwin Conservancy, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the City of Afton and Washington County. Funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund allowed restoration on the land to begin in 2022.
The community came together on social media to name the trail, with the result coming from the area’s oxbow wetland— a U-shaped meandering pool that has been cut off from a river. The wetland filters and stores water, preventing flooding and providing wildlife habitat.
“My favorite part of the trail is the chipped path that runs along the river,” Freeman says. “It’s really gorgeous, especially in the morning when the sun is coming up; the sun hits the water in a really beautiful way just coming over the ridge through the trees.”
The trail is open dawn to dusk, from spring until the first major snowstorm of winter. For more information about Oxbow Trails and other ongoing projects, visit belwin.org