Exploring the St Croix Boom Site in Stillwater MN + Hidden Waterfall
One Friday morning, my husband and I loaded our kids onto the school bus and we took off in our car to have an adventure. The goal was to finally explore the St Croix Boom Site, a few miles north of Stillwater. I’ve driven by the overlooks and boom site a dozen times, always wondering what they hid back there. This time, I was actually going to get to explore it.
Spring in Minnesota is always a challenge for me. As soon as the sun shines, I want to get out and see what was hiding under all that snow. The only problem is it can be a mud slick. The trick is finding a place that has the proper balance. In my case, the Hiking at the St Croix Boom Site was perfect.
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What is a Boom Site?
The first question I had when I saw the sign was, “What is a Boom Site?” “Did they blow up things there? “What else could a historical boom site be? It’s actually a lot tamer than my mind was spinning.
Back during logging time, in the early 1900s, logging companies marked their logs with their symbols and floated them downriver to be processed. With so many companies sending logs down, they had to figure out a way to sort them.
That is when the Boom came in. “Boom Rats”, as they called them, sorted the logs and bundled them up like rafts to go downstream to lumber mills. A boom is used to help organize the logs and get them to the right mills.
They processed here more logs than in any other similar place in this section. this gave it the name the St Croix Boom Site.
Getting to the St Croix Boom Site
If you are heading north from Stillwater along MN95, there are three turnoffs on your right. The first is the Overlook. This is a great overlook of Stillwater. There is parking for a dozen cars.
The overlook has two vantages, one covered in trees and the other by a historical marker. The marker is the northern limit of Lake St Croix. It provides a magnificent view of Stillwater.
The next turn is a Historical Marker. The historical marker marks the actual Boom Site. There is a small parking area too. North of the parking lot is a set of stairs to the riverbank. This is where you get to the river.
There is a second parking option, just north of the Historical Marker called the Wayside. This stop is more modern with lots of parking and a picnic area. If you park there, take the path South, past the informational sign, and cross the bridge to get to the same set of stairs.
Don’t forget to explore Stillwater MN. There are some amazing activities to do while you are there!
Over 28 Fun Things to do in Stillwater MN
The St Croix Boom Site in Stillwater
The Boom Site sits along the St Croix River and is pretty close to the St Croix Islands State Recreation Area on the Mississippi River. The only way to get there is to take a boat or walk on the ice.
While many people have no problem walking on ice, I am not one of those people. They include the recreation area is included in the Passport Club.
The passport stamp is at William O’Brien State Park. Since it wasn’t canoe season yet, I figured seeing the Boom Site was the next best thing to walking on the island.
The entire Boom Site is managed by the St Croix National Park Service. The cliffs alongside the river a made from layers of sandstone. This creates some incredible formations all along the river. It is one of the most scenic rivers in Minnesota.
Just to the right of the stairs (south) is the huge Sandstone cave. According to Paul Sims’ book, Guide to the Caves of Minnesota, published in 1967, it is a natural cave that was enlarged and used as a storage room during the lumbering mills. The cave is 75 feet deep, 7 feet high, and 15 feet wide. The sandstone cave has a calcite-cemented sandstone bed.
On a bright day, peering into the cave is haunting. After taking a step in and letting your eyes adjust, you’ll see that it’s a giant room filled with graffiti. There is no reason to fear what’s lurking inside.
Love the St Croix Boom Site? You will be amazed at St Paul’s Hidden Falls Regional Park in Winter
The National Scenic Riverway land extends about a half-mile in both directions from the main stairs leading to the St Croix Boom Site. From there, you can walk along the river north or south.
The entire stretch of land isn’t more than a mile or two round trips. There are plenty of places to explore, including a waterfall.
The trails are mostly sand with underground springs leading to the Saint Croix River and if you’re into fishing, grab your Collapsable Fishing Rod and Gear!
There is a hidden waterfall that flows over the cliffs near the St Croix Boom Site. I say near because you have to go off National Park Land to access the falls.
Usually, when points of interest fall out of the boundaries of the park, I don’t mention it. But when I originally shared my pictures with a Facebook group, everyone told me I should have gone to it.
After a second trip, I found the falls. Before getting to it, there was a sign saying you reached the boundaries. I saw nothing saying “No Trespassing”, “Private Property” or anything showing it was unlawful to continue. That may change.
Locals told me “go ahead” and another person told me they’d “been caught”. Go at your own risk. For more Minnesota Waterfalls you can visit and check out Waterfalls of Minnesota. It has some hidden locations.
Love natural wonders? You need to check out Boiling Springs in Savage MN
The waterfall is about a mile north of the boom site. Most of the way is on National Parkland. Once you leave their land, the trail is less traveled, narrower, and on steeper banks.
Follow the sandstone cliffs and you’ll reach the falls. You’ll know you are close when you see the open area with lots of trees. The waterfall cuts through a channel in the sandstone cliffs.
See Related: How to See Minnehaha’s Frozen Waterfall in Winter
Just after the ice was breaking up on the river was prime time to see Bald Eagles migrating. In one tree, there were upwards of five eagles in one tree. More were soaring above as well. The St Croix River is always a popular spot to see eagles, so keep an eye out.
Other things to check out near the St Croix Boom Site
After exploring the St Croix Boom Site, you have a couple of options. Go south back to Stillwater. It’s a great town with tons of fun activities. In the summer, the city explodes with visitors checking out the riverside dining, the candy store, and the fun boutique shops. I always take a day off over the spring or fall so I can visit during the week.
For a more relaxed chilled trip, go north a few miles to Marine on St Croix. It’s a small town that has erased its milling history. There is a historic walk, check out the general store, and ice cream shop, get a bit to eat at the Brookside Bar and Grill, and get some hand-painted chocolates on the way out of town.
A mile north is William O’Brien State Park. The park sits along the St Croix River and has more great trails to explore.
Spend the night in Stillwater and make a weekend of it. There is so much to see and explore, it’s almost impossible to do it all in a day. Book a VRBO by clicking here. They fill up fast on weekend!
or check out my guide on the 13 Beautiful Places to Stay in Stillwater MN
Would I go back to the St Croix Boom Site?
After visiting the St Croix Boom Site during the week with my husband, we took the kids back the next day. It was so cool for them to see it all. I would actually like to go back during the winter.
From what I can tell, there are so many more since formation as water drips from the limestone cliffs. It’s spectacular.