A pen used by President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act into law has been donated to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway and is now on display at the St. Croix River Visitor Center in St. Croix Falls.
According to a news release from the National Park Service:
The St. Croix and its tributary, the Namekagon, were among the first eight rivers in the nation protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. They were also the only rivers among those eight designated as a unit of the National Park System, now known as the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
"Literally with the stroke of this pen, the United States embraced a policy of river protection, placing value on clean, free flowing water. We are deeply honored to become its caretakers,” remarked Chris Stein superintendent of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
The signing ceremony on October 2, 1968, also had other connections to the National Park System. It included legislation to establish the North Cascades and Redwood National Parks, as well as the National Trails System Act, which created a network of scenic, historic and recreation trails that includes National Park System units like the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails.
On March 14, 2012, President Barack Obama signed a bill exempting the St. Croix River Crossing from the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.
Where has the Pen Been?
President Johnson had presented the pen to then Senator Walter Mondale after the signing ceremony on October 2, 1968. Senator Mondale gave the pen to James Taylor Dunn, chief librarian of the Minnesota Historical Society from 1955 to 1972 and author of The St Croix: Midwest Border River. In 1999, Dunn donated his cabin in Marine on St. Croix to the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, the environmental research station of the Science Museum of Minnesota. The signing pen was part of that donation.
In a ceremony on December 5, Daniel Engstrom, director of the Research Station, returned the pen to Mr. Mondale who then presented it to Chris Stein, superintendent of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway.
“Given its role in the creation of the Riverway, it seems fitting that the pen should reside with the National Park Service and be available for public viewing at the visitor center,” Engstrom said.
The pen is now on display at the St. Croix River Visitor Center, located at 401 North Hamilton Street in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.
The visitor center is open daily, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with free admission. Call (715) 483-2274 for additional information.