MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As the weather warms up there are a million things you can do in Minnesota. And one of those activities involves scenery, history and a riverboat.
The same family has been running Taylors Falls Scenic Boat Tours since 1806.
The route they take along the St. Croix River is the site of some pretty historic events over the years.
In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us to Chisago County where the big wheels keep on turning.
For more than a century, it’s been “all aboard” these riverboats. Yet no matter how many times the paddle wheels turn, or how many thousands of passengers have come along for the ride, the reactions never change.
“I love this,” said passenger John Monday.
“It’s just so scenic. And it’s just so refreshing to see the water and the trees,” said passenger Candace Johnson.
Seeing the Taylors Falls Princess cruise along the St. Croix at about 6 miles an hour is a rite of spring in this part of the state. And boat pilot Ryan Ramaley has become part of the current of history.
“After 30 plus years, I enjoy coming to work every day,” said Ramaley. “I love the river so much that this is what I do.”
He began driving these boats when he was 15 — navigating them between the Minnesota and Wisconsin borders and giving a name to the rock formations that Father Time has so delicately carved.
“That’s the old man of the Dalles they call it,” said Ramaley while pointing out one formation.
Ramaley has an accounting degree but gave up a cubicle and number crunching for a Coast Guard license and a history lesson.
Before tourists came along, this was the site of a major news event. And it had everything to do with the 90-degree bend in the river.
“It’s quite the problem for the loggers. It’s why we ended up with the world’s largest logjam here in 1886- because of this corner,” said Ramaley.
The jam was 7 miles long and logs were stacked 50 feet high. It was front-page news in France, and there are pictures to prove it.
“I’m 5th generation, and coming back to help run the family business and we are looking forward to banking it a few more generations,” said Dominick Raedeke.
Raedeke’s great-great-grandfather started these excursions in 1806 and there are pictures to prove that too.
The boats and captains have changed over the years and so has the St. Croix.
“The river is always changing. We have islands on the river that weren’t there 10 years ago. The river is almost a living organism, it’s always changing. It’s always a little different,” said Raedeke.
Spring, summer or fall, passengers get to see that change during this 80-minute tour.
“I don’t know why I’m drawn to the rocks and scenery with the rocks. All the nature behind it,” said passenger Maricella Herrera.
It’s a place where the river speaks and it has plenty to say.
From a time when the riverways were like busy highways, to now when serenity and beauty are the reasons you get on board.
“It’s great to meet people from other parts of the world. Young people, old people. I really enjoy that part of it. Sharing the history of the valley itself,” said Ramaley.
Along the shoreline is a bike path often referred to as the Swedish Immigrant Trail.
That’s where many Swedish immigrants got off the riverboats and started their journey to build new homes in Chisago County.
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