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North Woods River
The St. Croix River in Upper Midwest History
Eileen M. McMahon and Theodore J. Karamanski

Wisconsin Land and Life
Arnold Alanen, Series Editor

The history of a beautiful and historic National Scenic Riverway

The St. Croix River, the free-flowing boundary between Wisconsin and Minnesota, is a federally protected National Scenic Riverway. The area’s first recorded human inhabitants were the Dakota Indians, whose lands were transformed by fur trade empires and the loggers who called it the “river of pine.” A patchwork of farms, cultivated by immigrants from many countries, followed the cutover forests. Today, the St. Croix River Valley is a tourist haven in the land of sky-blue waters and a peaceful escape for residents of the bustling Minneapolis–St. Paul metropolitan region.

North Woods River is a thoughtful biography of the river over the course of more than three hundred years. Eileen McMahon and Theodore Karamanski track the river’s social and environmental transformation as newcomers changed the river basin and, in turn, were changed by it. The history of the St. Croix revealed here offers larger lessons about the future management of beautiful and fragile wild waters.

“This excellent book will inform newcomers to the valley about the history of their new home, and it will give all readers a better understanding of how successive waves of people have interacted with and altered the natural landscapes of the area.”—Robert Gough, author of Farming the Cutover: A Social History of Northern Wisconsin, 1900–1940

Eileen M. McMahon is assistant professor of history at Lewis University. Theodore J. Karamanski is professor of history at Loyola University.

This volume has been made possible, in part, through support from Loyola University Chicago, Xcel Energy, Anderson Corporation, the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and the St. Croix Valley Foundation.


“This volume presents a thorough, carefully researched and well-written history of the St. Croix River. It should be required reading for anyone charged with managing the St. Croix and its valley in the twenty-first century.”
Environmental History

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

The cover of North Woods River features a colorized old photo of a steamboat on the St. Croix.

October 2009

LC: 2009009307 F
416 pp.   6 x 9
23 b/w illus., 9 maps

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Paper $24.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-23424-9
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To learn more about the river, visit:

• St. Croix National Scenic Riverway (National Park Service)
• St. Croix Valley Foundation


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