Suzanne Lindgren

I’ve often wondered about our species’ collective obsession with water. We gravitate to shorelines for vacations and celebrations. Properties adjacent to anything larger than a puddle are coveted — no matter if they’re seaside, riverfront or lakeshore. We congregate on beaches and have invented at least 15 variations on the boat, from the humble raft to the mighty ship. 

We swim in water. We sail, surf and ski on it. We gaze at its ripples, fish its depths and, in this part of the world, we skate on it.

Our desire to be near the stuff is so universal, so unnecessary to state, that it has to be instinctual. Throughout history, our survival has depended on proximity to this elemental pairing of hydrogen and oxygen.

Of course, not everyone adores bodies of water larger than puddles. Some people are afraid of them. And they should be, if they don’t know how to swim. Or maybe, like the dark, they’re afraid of what might be hiding in it. 

But everyone drinks water. Everyone bathes in it. Everyone eats the plants and animals that, like us, need water. Constantly on the move — through our bodies, water bodies and weather cycles — water is a thread uniting all life.

Beyond these most basic things, water served as our earliest highways and energy generators.

The St. Croix River was the thoroughfare by which French explorers first traveled this region. The river was the freeway by which freshly chopped logs were delivered from St. Croix Falls and Taylors Falls to hydro-powered sawmills in Marine on St. Croix and Stillwater. Osceola is also a mill town. Having been founded by saw millers, it was later home to wheat and corn mills. After the grains were turned to flour, they were transported by steamer to St. Croix Falls to feed the lumbermen in the pineries, according to the Osceola Historical Society’s book, “Osceola: A Village Chronicle.”

The river is the reason these small towns were founded and, ultimately, the reason any of us are here.

Although it was development that drew people to this area and allowed them to prosper hundreds of years ago, our task now is different. Now, the value of the river is in its pristine state — an increasing rarity in an ever-developing world. It is a glimpse of wilderness available to everyone.  

This year we celebrate 50 years of a protected wild and scenic St. Croix River. In one of the first events to kick off a year of celebration, National Park Service superintendent for the St. Croix Riverway, Julie Galonska, will recount the history of the river and how it became one of the nation’s first river parks.

In geological time, 50 years is barely a beginning. And knowing that this place will — we hope — remain wild for millennia to come might be the biggest reason to celebrate. 

I welcome your response to this editorial column:


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