The St. Croix River Valley Forming a long stretch of the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, the St. Croix is one of America's most scenic Wild Rivers. Its valley is sometimes referred to as the "New England of the West."
Along with the Brule River in northern Wisconsin, the St. Croix forms a water passageway between Lake Superior and the upper Mississippi River that was well known to the Dakota and Ojibway people and became a highway of the early fur traders. In the last half of the 19th century lumbermen found the river useful for transporting logs and lumber in huge drives from the white pine forests of the north to the booming markets of the growing midwest.
Swedish novelist Fredrika Bremer saw the St. Croix valley as "just the country for a new Scandinavia," and the first of many Swedish settlers in Minnesota built their homes near here in 1850. The Minnesota territory had been organized and named just two years earlier in a convention at the river town of Stillwater, the "Birthplace of Minnesota" some six miles north of this marker.
In the 20th century the St. Croix valley has become an important recreation area for residents of the Twin Cities. Interstate Park, located north of here, was established in 1895 as a joint enterprise of Wisconsin and Minnesota. It was the first such cooperative state park in the United States. Several other parks and forest reserves now occupy much of the land on both sides of "America's Rhine," and thousands enjoy its beauty year round.
Welcome to Minnesota Known to her citizens as the North Star State or the Gopher State, Minnesota has never claimed to be the Land of the Giants. But two famous American giants do hail from Minnesota. The giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan cut the pine forest of the north that helped build America's towns and cities, and the Jolly Green Giant towers over the south's lush corn, vegetable, and soybean fields, a part of the midwest's fertile farm belt.
Like its neighbors, the thirty-second state grew as a collection of small farm communities, many settled by immigrants from Scandinavia and Germany. Two of the nation's favorite fictional small towns—Sinclair Lewis's Gopher Prairie and Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon—reflect that heritage. But the vast forests, the huge open pit iron ore mines, and the busy shipping lanes of Lake Superior attracted different settlers with different skills and made Minnesota a state of surprising diversity.
Best known for its more than 15,000 lakes, Minnesota has some 65 towns with the word "lake" in their names, not counting those whose names mean "lake" or "water in the Chippewa or Dakota Indian languages. There are also 13 "falls," 10 "rivers," 5 "rapids," and a smattering of "isles," "bays," and "beaches." Even the state name itself means "sky colored water" in Dakota. The mighty Mississippi River starts as a small stream flowing out of Minnesota's Lake Itasca, and a Minneapolis waterfall called Minnehaha inspired "The Song of Hiawatha," even though Longfellow never actually visited the falls his poem made known to every schoolchild.
Minnesotans are proud of their state's natural beauty and are leaders in resource conservation and concern for the quality of life.