Immigrant Trail (Milepost 38 – Milepost 53)
Fall Creek Scientific and Natural Area: Washington County’s only Scientific & Natural Area, it is a great place to observe spring flowers and the annual warbler migration.
The official byway continues north on Highway 95. Highway 95 is a two-lane road going along the St. Croix River in this area and very scenic. When the traffic from Highway 97 enters onto Highway 95, it can be heavy but thins out again at milepost 43.9 where a lot of the traffic crosses the bridge into Wisconsin.
Side Trip: If you take a short jog off from Highway 95, onto Highway 97 you will find the Community of Scandia
Scandia: Swedish immigrants settled this historic and active community in the 1850’s. It was the first Swedish settlement in Minnesota; named after the Scandinavian Peninsula where they were from. The terrain and lakes in the area reminded them of home. The Gammelgarden Museum located on Highway 3 south of town preserves the heritage of the settlers.
Cedar Bend: 1825 Treaty: Where the St. Croix angles eastward it is the general location where a “line” was drawn separating Sioux (south of the line) and Ojibwa (north of the line) in hopes of preventing further bloodshed. It didn’t.
Chisago County-Washington County Line: This could be considered the “Western Gateway to the St. Croix National Scenic Wild River Valley.
Side Trip: Turn right on State Highway 95, to Interstate Highway 243; the shortest Interstate Highway in the Nation at two miles long. At the end of Interstate Highway 243 you will come to the Village of Osceola. Turn right to go to the train station and left to go to the downtown area. Come back to State Highway 95 to continue on the St. Croix Scenic Byway.
Osceola, Wisconsin: Osceola is an historic river town with Cascade Falls; a 24-foot waterfall located in the heart of downtown. It is home to an historic working railroad train depot that offers passenger service through out the valley. The downtown district and the 1916 SOO Line Depot are listed on the National Register of Historic places. The Highway 243 Bridge is another link to the future planned Wisconsin scenic byway. On Highway 243 you will find a Minnesota Highway rest stop and Osceola Landing. Osceola Landing is one of the busiest landings on Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway with canoe landing, fishing pier, and a boat access and picnic area.
The Byway continues north on Minnesota State Highway 95.
Side Trip: Another side trip would have you make a left turn on Chisago County 26—Pleasant Valley Road.
Pleasant Valley Road: Chisago County 26, this pleasant drive heads west through rolling countryside, past and apple orchard, farms and homes leading to the Scandinavian Communities of Shafer, Center City, Lindstrom, Chisago City and the beautiful Chisago Lakes area.
If you left the byway to go pick apples or to shop reverse your route and come back to Minnesota
State Highway 95, continue north on Highway 95. You will be heading north toward the intersections of Highway 8 and 95.
Side Trip: If you like to look at Greek revival or other early American river town architecture, you should take a small side trip, on Franconia Trail. Go east, turning right on Franconia trail to the small community of Franconia; it is located on the banks of the St. Croix River. After you look around, come back to Highway 95.
Franconia National Historic District: This area of lovely homes was originally platted in 1858. This site originally housed several water-powered mills, steamboat landing and a small steamboat building industry. Franconia, located on the banks of the St. Croix was a jumping off point for many early immigrants as they traveled the St. Croix River. The Paul Munch House—Greek revival frame house built in ca 1855 and residence of Civil War veteran and miller Paul Munch is located here.
Franconia Town Hall: A typical example of the township halls dating back to the 19th century and still actively in use today.
Continue north on Highway 95 until you come to the Intersections of State Highway 8 and 95.
Your journey on the St. Croix Scenic Byway will require you to turn right heading into some of
the most spectacular views of the St. Croix River. You will pass by the Minnesota Interstate Park
and travel into the City of Taylors Falls.
Highway 8 and 95: A spectacular drive and view which leads down to the village of Taylors Falls. This section of the byway is heavily traveled, but the view is worth the trip in any season.
Franconia Sculpture Garden: An innovative attraction of sculptures, usually on the larger side and done rather “tongue in cheek”. It makes a great family outing to walk the many trails through the works of art.
Note: This Park will be changing locations in the near future. It is being relocated at a site on Highway 95 south of the Highwat 8 and Highway 95 intersections.
Side Trip: If you would like to see a large herd of elk or buffalo or are hungry for some fresh cheese you can turn left at the Highway 8 and 95 intersection and take a short drive west on Highway 8. If you go north one mile you will come to the proposed Swedish Immigrant Trail: an historic multiple use trail, planned by the Chisago Country Parks System or the Vilhem Moberg trail is to the east. Come back to the east on Highway 8 and join the St. Croix Scenic Byway for further adventure.
Minnesota Interstate Park: This is the second oldest state park in Minnesota (1895) and one of the smallest, but yet most heavily used parks in the Minnesota State Park System. It is important for the impressive location on the “Dalles of the St. Croix” and is noted for its unusual geological features of potholes. Historic, cultural, archeological, natural, scenic and recreation resources are outstanding. There are camping, picnicking, canoeing, kayaking, sightseeing, bird watching and hiking trails available. Interstate Park Campground and Stone Buildings are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. WPA workers constructed the Campground and buildings in 1938-1941 with basalt stone quarried in the park. The other buildings and structures in the Park were also made of local basalt stone, including 1920’s examples of rustic-style construction that later influenced WPA workers. Rock climbers frequently use basalt rock cliffs, along the path to the lower landing. Wisconsin Interstate Park, which can be easily reached on foot across the interstate bridge, preserves the east side of the scenic “Dalles of the St. Croix” and has an extensive trail system and a swimming lake.
Taylors Falls: A “Gateway” community known for its history of logging, lumberjacks Swedish immigration and most of all its magnificent scenery of the Dalles of the St. Croix. It’s Angel Hill National Historic District with the 1855 W. H. C. Folsom House, (a Minnesota Historical Society Site open for tours in season) the old 1861 Methodist Church (which is still in use) and many beautiful mid 19th century homes, which are an architectural gem. The small & still active public library (still on its original site) the classic Greek Revival Roos House (1854) and the John Daubney House (1869) an Italianate frame dwelling built in 1870s by local promoter as a residence and a stop for rail travelers, are on the National Register of Historic sites. Taylors Falls is the home of the first circulating library in Chisago County. The Library, listed on the National Register was a frame residence and tailor shop built in 1854 it was later acquired for use as the town library (1888).
We have been following along areas where the old military road passed. But when it came into this area, it went over the top of the bluff, past the house of William H.C. Folsom, then down along the edge of the hill to the main street of Taylors Falls. From the foot of the bluff the old road ran toward the St. Croix, then north along the bank of the river to a rocky knoll. This rock outcropping can still be seen at the Minnesota end of the XCEL Energy dam. In Taylors Falls, as elsewhere a hundred years has made many changes in the old government road and in the buildings, but the City still retains its small river town appeal.
Side Trip: Cross over the Highway 8 river bridge to see a great view of the “Dalles of the St. Croix”. (This river crossing is another possible link to the future Wisconsin Scenic Byway.) After crossing over the bridge you have two options. When you are done looking around, come back to the City of Taylors Falls.
1. Continue east to the Intersection of Highway 8 and 35, exit unto Highway 35 going south and stop at the Polk County Information Center for information about the area. About a half mile south of Highway 35 you will find the entrance to Wisconsin Interstate Park. The oldest park in the Wisconsin Park system.
2. Turn off Highway 8 and go to downtown St. Croix Falls, see the historic buildings, attend a live professional theatre performance, or at the north end of town you can stop at the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway’s Park Headquarters for a view of the river, Visitors Center, Interpretive area or talk to the Park Rangers about the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
Continue through Taylors Falls on Highway 95, until you come to Highway 16 or Wild Mountain Road, turn to the right and follow Highway 16 until you come to Highway 12.
Highway 95 through town can become backed up at times, but when you leave Highway 95 you
have left the majority of traffic behind you. Up to this point everything has been a paved, two lane
highway for the most part. You may now encounter some small areas of gravel roads, but they are well maintained.
Side Trip: Instead of turning on Highway 16, continue up the hill on Highway 95 for 0.7 miles to reach the Taylors Falls Scenic Overlook site. There you will be rewarded by magnificent views of the Lower St. Croix Scenic River to the south and the Upper St. Croix Wild and Scenic River to the north. The 1906 hydroelectric dam in the valley below you is the official dividing point for these two jurisdictions of the St. Croix. A nice view can be had of historic St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, across the valley. When you exit the overlook, turn left to return to the Highway 16 turnoff.
Wild Mountain Road: or County Highway 16. A scenic drive which gives one a view of the only remaining hydro electric dam on the St. Croix, high wooded bluffs, intriguing glimpses of the river and pastoral agricultural settings. Enjoy the route and watch for the eagles nesting in the area and other birds as they travel in their migration path along the St. Croix River.