Veterans Find Peace, Quiet and Camaraderie on the River
A National Park Service program offers military veterans opportunities for paddling, fishing and boat trips.
The way National Park Service ranger Jeff Butler sees it, there’s nothing new about military veterans finding refuge on the St. Croix and Namekagon Rivers. Butler says the logging camps of the nineteenth century were full of men who had come north after the Civil War to the land of white pines and wild rivers.
So it is a “no-brainer,” Butler says, that the river is still providing respite for veterans today, whether they served in World War II or Afghanistan, or anytime in between. Butler, who works for the Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway out of its Namekagon River ranger station in Trego, Wisconsin, has been central to the Park Service’s efforts to get more veterans on the water.
A veteran of the Vietnam War era himself, Butler says a day spent kayaking, canoeing or boating is good for war-weary souls.
“We’re not going to take away their combat experiences, we just put something new in the mix,” Butler says. “Something fun, some relaxation and enjoyment, some quality family time, peace and quiet, solitude.”