Summer is a time when sunny skies and warm breezes beckon people of all ages to flock to their favorite swimming beaches to cool off and enjoy a relaxing time on the river or at one of the area lakes. For those heading to the St. Croix River in particular, local experts recommend taking a few extra safety precautions when planning for a safe and enjoyable day on the water.
On the Beach
Swimming and boating on the national scenic riverway requires careful attention to one’s surroundings and personal safety.
“Know your comfort level; be cautious, and get to know the area when you’re out there swimming,” deputy Tom Williams of the St. Croix County Sherriff’s Office says. “Sediment from the bottom gets stirred up, and depending on the water depth, this determines how quickly the river is moving in that area. Sandy, mucky bottoms [can] mean the river is running fast [in that area].”
When swimming at the beach with children, particularly in the river, Williams recommends never leaving children unattended. “It’s also extremely important that children are wearing life jackets,” he says. “Not everyone is an experienced swimmer, and you never know which way the current will be moving with boats on the water. The water has different depths, and you can be swept down river fairly easily.”
On the Water
Whether you’re boating, canoeing, paddle boarding or kayaking, experts advise people to be aware of boating regulations and no-wake zones, which change throughout the season with the rise and fall of water levels on the St. Croix River.
To ensure safety, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a no-wake zone policy. If the river reaches 683 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL), all watercrafts must operate at slow, no-wake speeds. If the river level goes below 683 feet, all watercrafts are expected to proceed with caution.
“If you’re not comfortable with the area or the amount of boat traffic, you should be aware of [your capabilities] and always be extra cautious,” Williams says. Other factors, such as not knowing the skill level of other boaters and the illegal consumption of alcohol while boating, can increase the likelihood of dangerous situations. “There are a lot of boats out there and different currents at different water heights. Always have the proper number of life jackets on board, take it easy, and be safe.”
Stan Linnell, boating and water safety manager for the MN DNR’s parks and trails division, agrees. “Lifejackets are recommended for all boaters, especially those in canoes and small boats, [because] falls overboard and capsizing are the leading cause of watercraft fatalities,” he says.
Local Swimming Beaches
- Big Marine Lake—Located in the Big Marine Park Reserve, this is a gentle grade lake, which makes for an ideal beach for families. 17495 Manning Trail N., Marine on St. Croix
- Square Lake Park—Designated as a regional “special recreation feature” with the cleanest and clearest lake in the seven-county metro area. 15450 Square Lake Trail N., Stillwater
- Brown’s Beach—This half-acre swimming beach on the St. Croix River is staffed with lifeguards during the summer. 600 block of Galahad Road. N., North Hudson
- Troy Beach—The seven-acre County Park along the St. Croix River, located 2 miles south of Hudson, includes a swimming beach, picnic tables, grills and horseshoe pits ($7 daily/ $25 annual fees). 490 County Road F, Hudson
- Lakefront Park—Offers picnic shelters, playground, two sand volleyball courts, a beach with summer lifeguards, a river view and more. First and Walnut streets, Hudson
- Willow River State Park—A 400-foot beach and picnic area centered on 172-acre Little Falls Lake. 1034 County Highway A, Hudson
- Lake Elmo Park Reserve—A manmade, two-acre chlorinated and filtered swimming pond with lifeguards. 1515 Keats Ave. N., Lake Elmo, Minn.
- Riverfront Park and Beach—This stretch of swimming beach along the St. Croix River offers a small play area, pavilion and public parking. Riviera Street between 19th and 20th streets, Lake St. Croix Beach, Minn.
- Afton State Park—Offers a swimming beach, campsites and trails along the St. Croix River. 6959 Peller Ave. S., Hastings, Minn.
- Additionally, there are numerous islands all along the St. Croix River.