ST. CROIX FALLS - The National Park Service and the St. Croix River Association are celebrating 50 years of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway. U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Wisconsin Sen. Patty Schachtner, community leaders and young river stewards were among those gathered at the St. Croix River Visitor Center for a special event to highlight plans to celebrate the anniversary.

"Today's riverway reflects the commitment of people working together over the past 50 years," said Julie Galonska, superintendent of the riverway. "The inclusion of the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System would not have been possible without the great effort and commitment of legislative, corporate and community leaders and we want to say thank you to all."

"The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is living legacy for all Americans, which is preserving the beauty and free-flowing nature of this precious waterway for generations to come," McCollum said. "We must remain vigilant to preserve this great national treasure and our clean air and water."

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, located in northwest Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota, was established by the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. The 255-mile waterway is comprised of the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers.

Schachtner presented the National Park Service with a proclamation from the Wisconsin Senate recognizing the occasion.

"It is crucial that we invest in our natural wonders to support tourism in the region and protect our environment," Schachtner said. "I am pleased to commend the work that the St. Croix River Association, the National Park Service and others have done on this very special day."

Xcel Energy, which was Northern States Power at the time, committed to donating 24,000 acres of land along the riverway to the federal and state governments in 1969.

The Wild & Scenic Rivers Act was signed into law Oct. 2, 1968. Plans to celebrate during the year include special events along the riverway, as well as a documentary, featuring former Vice President Walter Mondale to air on Twin Cities and Wisconsin Public Television beginning in June, and a book by photographer Craig Blacklock.

"We want folks to get out and get involved along the riverway this year," said Deb Ryun, executive director of the St. Croix River Association. "Take part in one of our events this year, take up a new activity like paddling or hiking, or volunteer and help us to protect this national treasure for generations to come."