Marinas and other businesses are opening up as St. Croix River slowly recedes

Marinas and other businesses are opening up as St. Croix River slowly recedes

Marinas and other businesses are opening up as St. Croix River slowly recedes

For gondola owner John Kerschbaum and his crew, it’s a new season — and a new beginning — being able to go back out onto a slowly receding St. Croix River.

“Oh, it’s awesome,” declares Kerschbaum, owner of Gondola Romantica, celebrating its 23rd year in business. “You get back the first time, it’s like electricity with your arms on that oar. You get on the water, and you can feel everything, maneuver the boat with it. It’s always fun to be out on the water.”

The water — in this case, the St. Croix — that until recently, was flooding dikes, parks, bike paths and marinas.  

“We had to put sandbags out, just to make sure we could get into our shop,” says Mickey Kieffer, who docks his boat at Bayport Marina. “We’re high enough, so we’re pretty much protected.”   

The flooding put the marina three weeks behind schedule.

High waters covered launch platforms and roads here, leaving 200 boats sitting at drydock.

“Normally, we would be done before Memorial Day,” explains Bayport Marina General Manager Kori Derrick-Cisewski. “This time, we’ll be two weeks into June when we’re finished landing.”

The very first of those boats went into the water Friday.

Kieffer says he got lucky with the timing.

“We were actually the first one in, this morning,” he notes. “Some of the marinas downriver, they had problems when some of the boats, they didn’t put them in the water or the marina, they would self-launch. So, it was a concern.”

The Stillwater Chamber of Commerce says 60% of the city’s economic base is from tourism.

The good news? That hundreds of sandbags filled and stacked by volunteers to keep floodwaters in check did their job.  And that flooded areas are drying out.   

“Not our first rodeo,” declares Robin Anthony, President of the Greater Stillwater Chamber of Commerce. “Of course, a couple of weeks ago, it was 80 degrees, and then we got all the snow, and it’s just been up and down. But this city is prepared for the flood and when you live on a river, it just might happen.”  

Back at Kerschbaum’s gondola, we got a river view of the water — still high in places, about five feet above normal.   

Zico Stead was operating the oars for us.  

“I said to my boss, it almost looks like a World War II beachfront, with like, the sandbags,” he says.

Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski says work crews will start removing the sandbags in the next couple of days.

But for now? A kind of relief that the St. Croix is finally returning to its own self.

“You always get high water in the spring,” Kerschbaum says. “It’s just a part of living on the river. Not every year it gets high like this. But it happens often enough, and you just deal with it.”