MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A new book by a Minnesota nature photographer reveals the stunning beauty of a once endangered scenic waterway.

Craig Blacklock spent the past three years documenting the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers. The three-year project coincides with the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Scenic and Wild Rivers Act.

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That legislation helped preserves the area’s natural beauty against the threat of development.

Today, it’s hard to envision the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers without the federal protections.

“The river would have been lined with houses, like so many urban rivers,” Blacklock said.

The famed Minnesota nature photographer credits the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 with saving this national water treasure.

“It’s wonderful,” he said. “We are going to do presentations to Vice President Mondale, giving him a copy of the signature edition.”

The 1968 Act was the brainchild of then Sens. Walter Mondale and Gaylord Nelson, of Wisconsin.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the passage, Blacklock paddled every inch of both waterways, capturing what the legislation preserved.

In 2014, Blacklock was severely burned in an electrical fire that destroyed a sauna at his home.

A friend suggested spending more time photographing in warmer conditions than the bitterness of Lake Superior.

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So began his interest capturing the St. Croix and Namekagon watersheds.

His camera lens would focus on images of awe – like misty spring mornings and the valley’s towering white pines. The river’s geologic features reveal impressive craggy cliffs as well as nature’s soft subtleties.

“I wanted the book to be very cinematic,” Blacklock said, while looking at the book’s massive 17-inch by 21-inch glossy color pages.

These gallery-sized images are intended to transform the viewer, to make them feel what Blacklock felt at the time.

“It’s like the big prints on the wall,” Blacklock said. “When it gets bigger than you are, it’s a very different feeling.”

Blacklock captures the rivers in all seasons and all lights. He also experiments with photographs at both the water level and the bird’s-eye level, with the help of drones.

“It’s much wilder than the boundary waters,” Blacklock said, describing the rivers. “I’ve gone two or three days without seeing another person.”

These are the photographs of foresight, based on decisions long ago to preserve nature for future enjoyment.

“You’re no longer looking at an object,” Blacklock said. “You’re immersed in it now, you’re walking into the landscape.”

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More information about the book can be found here. A portion of the purchase price will benefit the St. Croix River Association.