The Saint Croix River Trip

There are few finer family river trips than that of the Saint Croix. Its popularity stems from several notable features including its gentle but challenging whitewater, its sustained water flow permitting river travel all season long, and the uniqueness of paddling along an international boundary.

The 20 miles between Vanceboro and Loon Bay provide a good alteration of gentle rapids and meadow-ringed flatwater. There are approximately 22 sets of class 2 rapids evenly split over this 2 or 3 day trip. Being all class two rapids makes this trip ideal for paddlers wishing to experience whitewater but not possessing the technical skills to handle more extreme conditions.

The series of long, serpentine lakes that feed the lower river are noted for their monstrous boulders, deposited here by glaciers thousands of years ago. The St. Croix has its place in history. In 1777 a party of 500 Indians paddled through with Colonel John Allen. They were traveling from the Saint John River near present day Fredericton, New Brunswick, to Machias, Maine. Allen was leading the Indians away from British influence and to what he promised would be more favorable living conditions. The Indians in exchange were expected to support the American side during the Revolution. Conditions were bad. The travelers had to endure low water, excessive heat, lack of food, and mosquitoes on an extremely rocky river.

In the mid to late 1800's the sole leather tanning industry of the United States operated on its banks, generating its power from the passing waters.

The first rapid is immediately at the put in and is named "Kill-me-Quick-Rips". They are fast and appropriately named. So keep alert. You soon pass under a railroad bridge that was the scene of a blundered sabotage by Werner Horn in 1915. At that time Germany and Canada were at war and Horn's effort was intended to interrupt the railroad supply line of Canadian goods to Britain.

While traveling along the 1st day's section, one will note much four foot pulp wood lying on the bottom, the result of log driving operations in the early to mid 1900's. Some of the rapids encountered on this first day are named for river drivers of this era. Other notable rapids of day 1 are Elbow, Mile, Tunnel, Joe George's, and Hall's. We have the option of camping for the night either in America or Canada.

On day 2 we encounter "Little Falls", a ledge pitch of about 7 feet extending over 300 feet. It may be portaged along a portage trail or may be run with or without the gear. Our next stop will be at the riverside grave of a baby girl thought to have been born on the train from Montreal and thrown off into the river as the train crossed over the bridge we passed under the day before. She was found along the river bank by river drivers and buried on the spot. The date was in July, 1899.

Continuing down river, rips continue on and off with some of the more notable being named Pork Rips, Tyler, Rocky, Meetinghouse, and Haycock Rips. The many rips of this part of the St. Croix prompted Moses Greenleaf, in his 1829 survey of Maine, to discourage any proposals for canals or locks on the river. It was simply too shallow and rocky. It wasn't until 1905, after canvas had replaced birch bark as a covering material for canoes, that the Saint Croix was recognized as a good canoeing river.

After running Haycock Rips, we see that the river becomes much wider as it enters Loon Bay. Grass and hay were cut here to feed the horses and oxen from nearby lumber camps. The St. Croix was once known for its mast timber used on sailing ships of old, supplying first the English market and then the West India trade. The lumber for the old statehouse in Boston was sawed from lower Saint Croix timber. This 2 or 3 day trip's take-out point is here at Loon Bay.


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