White Pines (Milepost 89 — 124)
The Chisago County-Pine County Line: Continue north on 361 toward the county line past farms and prairies to Rock Creek
Rock Creek: One of the first areas to be settled in Pine County in the 1870’s first by the Swedes and later by the Czechs. It was originally a lumbering and sawmill center. The old main street of the village quickly takes one back to the 1870’s. As you drive north to Pine City you will cross the creek for which the Village and Township were named.
The byway continues north on Highway 361 to Pine City. Highway 361 is blacktop and has very
little traffic, as the majority of the traffic heading north will be using the Interstate System.
Side Trip: Highway 70: If you turn right and head east on Highway 70 towards the St. Croix River you will gain access to the National Park Service’s Marshland Center. Amenities near the Center include hiking trails, canoeing, fishing and the bridge over the St. Croix to Grantsburg, Wisconsin—a link to the future Wisconsin Scenic Byway. Just east of Grantsburg you will find Crex Meadows, a large natural area of marshland and water. It is a wonder place to watch birds and animals.
Chengwatana State Forest: It is located east of Pine City on Highway 70. Its name relates to the pineries of the past and was the name of an old Indian village.
Pine City: This is the County seat of Pine County. At one time it was an important rail and logging enter. Prior to settlement this whole area had been important to the fur trade that went on in the early and mid 19th Century. The Snake River runs through town providing many recreational opportunities.
If you would like to travel to the Northwest Company Fur Trading Post, go west of Pine City on County 7, for several miles.
Side Trip: Northwest Company Fur Post: This reconstructed winter trading post was built on the site of the original post; built 1804-1805. It is currently operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. It is several miles west of Pine City on County 7, but it provides a unique look at the fur trade, the trappers, voyageurs, and Native Americans who traded at the post. The Interpretive Center at the Fort gives a very historic look into the background of the trading post.
Note: State Highway 361, which is old Highway 61, turns into Pine County Highway 61 at Pine City.
Lake Pokegoma: Played an historic role in the lives of the Dakota and Ojibwa. Many battles were fought here and for several years this was the site of a mission and a rural school. Continue to the north on County Highway 61.
Hinckley: This community had its beginning in the logging and pineries industry. In fact Pine County originally had 665,000-forested acres out of its 906,366 acres. It was the site of the disastrous 1894 forest fire, which destroyed an area of 4,400 square miles and took 600, plus human lives. It has an excellent fire museum, housed in the Northern Pacific Depot, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Plus, Hinckley also has several other memorials to honor the victims of the tragedy. Today, Hinckley is renown for its fine restaurants and the casino, operated by the Mill Lac Band of Ojibwa.
Northern Pacific Depot: A frame wood depot built in 1895 after the same plans that were used to build the original depot that was lost in the 1894 fire. The depot features a dining room and a second-story stationmaster’s quarters. The depot is currently home to the Hinckley Fire Museum.
St. Croix State Park: This is Minnesota’s largest State Park with 34,000 plus, acres and the largest trail system of all the Minnesota State Parks. The rustic stone/log facilities were built by the CCC and WPA workers and have been listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The St. Croix River, which forms the parks southern boundary, is a National Scenic and Wild River and the Kettle River, in the western section is a State Wild and Scenic River. The majority of the buildings and structures in the park were created in 1934-1943.
If you cross over the river here to Danbury, you will have another link to the Wisconsin St. Croix Scenic Byway.
Side Trip: Northwood’s Audubon Center: This unique facility is located three miles west of Pine City on County Highway 27 on the south end of Lake Pokegama. It is an environmental learning center operated by the Audubon Society.
Come back to Highway 61 and follow it as it takes an easterly turn.
Sandstone: The community was organized in 1889, and is located on the Kettle River. It was noted for its St. Croix sandstone “touted to be the world’s finest building stone.” It is noted for the beauty of its cliffs and rugged scenery along the Kettle and for the white water canoeing and kayaking on the river. Sandstone was burned over during the Hinckley fire. One of the first houses to be built was the Hinckley Fire Relief House, which is a small frame house with a lean-to, a type built by the state and commissioned to aid survivors of the 1894 forest fire. It is located at Court Avenue and 6th Street and listed on the National Register of Historic places. Another building on the National Register is the Minneapolis Trust Company Building. A development company that helped to rebuild the town completed this commercial building, constructed of Kettle River Sandstone, shortly after the forest fire.
Another Side Trip: would take you to the Sandstone National Wildlife Refuge: A wildlife refuge located north and east of Hinckley.
Continue east on County Highway 61.
Take a turn off County Highway 61 to Highway 23 and then return back to Highway 61.
Side Trip: Banning State Park: This is the last state park located on the St. Croix Scenic Byway and it has both great scenic and historic interest. It includes over 6,000 acres of forestland plus, the Hells Gate rapids of the Kettle and the home of its “Hells Gate World Class Kayaking” event. It also contains the remains of the old quarry and an excellent trail system and scenery for which our state parks are so well known.
Kettle River Sandstone Company Quarry: Site of State’s most extensive sandstone quarry. It was in operation from 1885-1919 and because of its location it led to the platting of town of Sandstone.
The northern most terminus of the St. Croix Scenic Byway is located here, at the intersections of County Road 61 and Interstate Highway 35. It is also the southern most terminus of Minnesota’s first scenic byway: The Evergreen Memorial Highway, established in 1948 as a Memorial to the Veterans of World War II.
Hope you have enjoyed your birds-eye-view of the historic, cultural, archeological, natural, scenic and recreational values of the area.