(Milepost 0 — Milepost 21)
Your trip begins as you leave the Great River Road (Highway 10) onto to C.S.A.H 21 at Point Douglas, Minnesota. (The Great River Road is a National Scenic Byway, which follows along the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area)
Point Douglas: The meeting between the waters of the St. Croix and the Mississippi. It is the beginning of the historic 1852 Point Douglas to Superior Military (or Government) Road, which is encountered in many portions of the byway. At one time Point Douglas was a bustling frontier settlement, now all that remains of the original settlement are some parts of foundations, all the buildings along the boat landing have disappeared. The first post office outside of a military installation was established here in July of 1840. There is a 510-foot swimming beach on the St. Croix River, plus a fishing pier, restrooms, changing rooms, picnic tables and barbeque grills for the public to use. From this vantage point you have a magnificent view of the St. Croix River. (Particularly, note the remains of the old draw
Continue North on County 21 and enjoy the rolling hills and pastoral countryside. This highway can be is traveled mostly by local residents getting to and from home, but by no means is it congested. Traffic may pick up as you get near the Communities.
Military Road: The Point Douglas—Superior Road: Construction began in 1852 and final government financing was received in 1858. Just over $120,600 had been spent on the road, but it was never 100 percent completed. The first U.S. mail service was carried on horseback and afoot early in 1856. Stage service had begun by 1861 and continued until 1870. The demise of the road came when the Lake Superior and Mississippi Railroad opened its line connecting St. Paul and Duluth. Many areas of the St. Croix Scenic Byway will travel on or near the section of land that was once part of the 185 mile Military Road, including about 15 miles of state Highway 95 between Stillwater and Taylors Falls.
Carpenter Nature Center: A semi-private, nature preserve for children and adults with many trails, a visitor center, points of geological interest and an historic railroad bridge.
St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park: St. Croix Bluffs Regional Park is a 579-acre regional park located on the wild and scenic lower St. Croix River. The park offers a variety of landscape types including rolling upland fields, wooded ravines and about three quarters of a mile of river frontage. Facilities include camping, picnicking with shelters, trails, play fields, children’s play structures, boat landings and a conference cottage.
Afton State Park: There are a total of six Minnesota State Parks along the St. Croix Scenic Byway; Afton State Park is the southernmost. The 1,695-acre park has scenic bluff lands, two plus miles of river frontage with a swimming beach, trails, camping area, a visitor center and wonderful contrasts between woods and prairies.
Afton Alps: A very popular recreational facility located in the St. Croix Valley and near to the Twin Cities metro area. It is privately owned and offers downhill skiing, snowboarding and a golf course.
The Village of Afton, Minnesota: Afton is a charming historic village settled in the 1840’s by New Englanders and later German and Swedish farmers. It is an unspoiled community with historic homes and buildings. Afton is home to the Afton Historical Society, the Afton House and several restaurants. Each year it hosts a unique 4th of July parade; it is one block long. Afton has three buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the Cushing Hotel—a modest frame hotel built in 1867 to lodge railroad workers, lumbermen and travelers. The Valley Creek residences: Erastus Bolles House built in 1856 by a blacksmith and the Newington Gilbert House built in 1864 by the mill owner, both are Greek
Revival dwellings remaining from an Old Stock immigrant community.
As you leave Afton follow along C.S.A.H 21 angling to the left, you will find it becomes a lovely drive with woods, hills and lots of wildflowers. Two miles up the road you will come to Belwin Environmental Nature Learning Center.
Belwin Environmental Nature Learning Center: It is a privately owned facility, which is used heavily as an outdoor classroom for school children.
You will be passing near the Communities of St. Mary’s Point, Lake St. Croix Beach, and Lakeland Shores. Continue on County Road 21 to the Interstate 94 frontage road. Turn left onto State Highway 95. (Interstate 94 will take you into Wisconsin and provide a future link to the Wisconsin St. Croix Scenic Byway). Continue on Highway 95 through the City of Lakeland and Bayport to Stillwater. Although becoming more heavily residential, a rural flavor is maintained with excellent views of the St. Croix River. Note: Interstate 94 is a major artery going from the capital of Minnesota–St. Paul to the capital of Wisconsin—Madison, traffic at times is very heavy especially during rush hour because of the commuters.
Lakeland: In its years of origin Lakeland was known as “Shanghai Cooley”, referring to a small ravine. As early as 1857 Lakeland was the center of business activity, having at one time 14 stores, shops and dwellings.
- John T Cyphers House: Located at 661 Quinnell Ave; is a small cottage with thick exterior walls of grout, (a form of early concrete construction) built by Cyphers in 1858.
- Mitchell Jackson Farm House: Located at 16376 7th St. is a Greek revival frame house built by Jackson in 1850, it documents a mid-century agricultural life style.John Oliver House: 1544 Rivercrest Rd. A Greek revival frame residence built in 1894 for Captain Oliver, a British naval officer, early Lakeland settler, and St. Croix River ferry operator.
Bayport: Once known as “south Stillwater” it is now the home of Anderson Window Corporation and the Alan S. King Power Plant. These two industries form the only industrial enclave along the route. The Anderson Corporation is located on what was the site of a Civilian Conservation Corp camp in the 1930’s. The CCC were responsible for building several of the overlooks on the river in this area. It is also the site of the State Prison Historic District—a brick prison complex built in 1910-1914 using the French “telegraph pole” plan. There were also two wardens’ residents, all designed by State Architect Clarence H. Johnson Sr. It’s located at 5500 Pickett Avenue. In 1872 the St. Croix Lumber Company was founded here. For the next six years there was a flurry of sawmill ventures, most plagued by fire or financial difficulty. The Alan S. King Power Plant is home to a pair of nesting peregrine falcons.