It was on a Monday morning in mid-August when we hooked up the travel trailer to our trusty F-150 (now named the Red Rider) and headed up I-94 for four nights of camping in Hudson, Wisconsin. You see, we’ve been discerning the notion of moving closer to The Youngest, she lives and works in Minneapolis. Living in Hudson would allow us to benefit from some Wisconsin tax breaks for seniors and more importantly we wouldn’t be living around the corner from The Youngest but close enough for her to check on us once in a while as we age. In addition, housing outside the Twin City Metro area is currently less expensive than in the booming Minneapolis market. So likely a win/win for all of us.
The city of Hudson is located on the St. Croix River that serves as part of the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota. The St. Croix begins it’s journey in Douglas County, Wisconsin about 20 miles south of Lake Superior. It travels nearly 170 miles where it then flows into the Mississippi River south of the Twin Cities and Hudson. For about 120 miles of it’s length, the St. Croix serves as the border between the two states. This river served as source of food and transportation for the Ojibwe, Dakota and other Native American tribes. Later French fur traders moved in to trap the much prized beaver and establishing forts along the River. Then logging companies arrived to harvest the abundant timber resources using the St. Croix to transport cut logs to the sawmills on the lower section of the River. Next came the European immigrant farmers to clear the stumps and break up the rich soils to plant wheat, corn and other crops to feed the growing nation. The St. Croix River is a National Scenic Riverway and under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.
The city now known as Hudson was established in 1840 at the mouth of the Willow River that flows into the St. Croix. It went through a number of name changes until the first mayor changed the name to Hudson because the area along the St. Croix reminded him of the Hudson River in his native New York. In it’s early years, the city served as a retail center for the local farmers, loggers, and railroad workers. More recently, Hudson has become a tourist destination as well as a “bedroom” community for the Twin Cities area. Small and medium sized businesses are moving into the area to take advantage of positive business climate.
Before the construction of I-94 that began in the late 1950’s, the city of Hudson was supported financially by the toll bridge on Highway 12 between Wisconsin and Minnesota. It’s now become part of the walkway along the St. Croix River and is known to the locals as “The Dike.” Walkers and bikers can traverse the causeway where it ends in a beach where the bridge once crossed the River. The area along The Dike is also popular with boaters and those fishing. As noted in the photos below, we made the trek on a stunningly beautiful day with mild temps and puffy clouds against the bright blue sky.
There are a couple of boat companies that conduct water tours of the St. Croix as well as host private charters for events such as weddings, proms, corporate parties and etc.
For a city of over 14,000 people, Hudson sports a thriving downtown historic business district with several local shops and a number of excellent restaurants. For lunch one day, we dined at Pier 500, located on the riverfront. The place was packed, the food was great, and the atmosphere excellent. Here’s a couple of photos from the downtown area.
We were blown away by The Phipps Center for the Arts just off Main Street that is the area’s premier performing and visual arts center. Opened in 1983, the Center has a theatre that features plays, musical events, and other artistic performances. There is an art gallery and the Center offers classes in music, theater, dance, painting, photography and other visual arts.
Just down the street is the busy Hudson Public Library with a large collection of books, magazines, DVDs and other items. It also hosts a diverse program of programs and activities that engage local residents and visitors. I was impressed! Another check in the plus column for Hudson as a place to live.
During the summer months, the City of Hudson Parks Department sponsors Concerts in the Park at the Lakefront Park Bandshell. The evening we attended, entertainment was by The Riddle Brothers, a three piece band that sing and play Americana music. The only downside was that we could watch the threatening storm clouds move in from the southwest that likely kept the attendance down. We stayed until it started sprinkling, reaching the Red Rider just before the rain dumped on us.
During our four day stay in Hudson, we toured the YMCA (it was impressive), attended a local church service, and checked out the local grocery stores. We also took a couple drives to some of the neighboring town such as River Falls where the University of Wisconsin-River Falls is located; New Richmond (they have a nice quilt shop that my traveling partner patronized); and Stillwater, Minnesota, another river town located a few miles up the St. Croix River from Hudson where we crossed this bridge.
We camped at the Willow River State Park located just outside the city limits of Hudson. This park offers visitors several hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties in addition to one of the main features, Willow Falls. We didn’t get a chance to do much hiking and it was raining at the time wanted to check out the Falls so we’ll save that for our next visit. It was an excellent central location for us to stay for our exploration of the area.
It was a busy and fun four days checking out Hudson as a place to land in a year or two when we make a decision where we want to spend the next phase of our lives. In the meantime, we are downsizing our “stuff” so we are ready when the time comes.
Up next week, A City by the Bay and a Town by the Lake.
Until then, happy travels!