Friends of Belwin,

It’s been a year since Belwin presented “A Celebration of Valley Creek.” In August 2022, artists, poets, historians, local residents and Belwin supporters gathered to honor the creek. Using sculpture, poetry, and history, we recounted the many ways in which its waters sustained the lands and peoples who live(d) around it. 

  • Rachel Frank brought vessels in which we could experience the waters of Valley Creek in a “rewilding” ceremony.
  • Angie Tillges shared “The Longest Poem for the Longest River and its Tributaries” and we added stanzas that reflect our love for Valley Creek. Read it here.
  • Jean Huelster and I presented the human history of the area and how the creek created the community called “Valley Creek” (incorporated into Afton in 1971).

The slides below summarize the environmental history of the valley, the First Nations that reside(d) here and the coming of European and American colonization, the town of Valley Creek and the Valley Creek Women’s Club, the platting of Afton and Valley Branch Watershed District, and the original visit of the Bell’s family and origins of Belwin Conservancy. 

In a 1998 Minnesota Historical Society interview with Charles H. Bell about an early 1950’s visit to the Valley Creek area, Bell remembered seeing the valley and creek for the first time:

On the way down, we came off the side road … and they said, “Oh, stop here a minute. We want to show you something.” So we got out, and the snow was about that deep. We started trudging through this place and, I kept looking at it. The stream was flowing down through this thing, and the whole valley was a big wide open valley, with very high peaks. I said, “Jeez, this is a nice place.” They said, “Do you really like it?” I said, “Yes, I certainly do. I think it’s wonderful.” “We want you to buy it.” [The owner, Spreeman,] was being hounded by the developers who wanted to buy this place, and he didn’t want to sell it. He said he wanted to find somebody that had some swamp water in their veins. So he decided that I had swamp water in my veins.

Charles H. Bell

For information about the entire interview with Charles H. Bell, click here.

For an ecological and conservation history of Belwin, see this previous blogpost.

We hope you enjoy our beautiful Valley Creek!

CITATIONS FOR “A Celebration of Valley Creek”

Slide 1

Valley Creek Watershed map, “2015 – 2025 Watershed Management Plan,” Chapter 5.20, .

Slide 2

First Nations map, “Indians of North America,” Supplement to the National Geographic, 142:6, 739A.

“Margaret Bonga and Jacob Fahlstrom”, Historic Fort Snelling, 1823, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Slide 3

“Jay Kirschner in Valley Creek” and “Stream Erosion,” private family collection, used by permission.

“Cradle of MN Agriculture,” Afton Historical Museum.

Slide 4

“Valley Creek School 39” and “VC Brownie Troop,” Valley Creek Women’s Club scrapbooks, private collection, used by permission.

“VCWC First Meeting,” Afton Historical Museum.

Slide 5

“Belwin Outdoor Science Class 1970s,” Belwin Conservancy.

Map on bottom of page from Minnesota’s St. Croix River Valley and Anoka Sandplain: A Guide to Native Habitats by Daniel S. Wovcha, Barbara C. Delaney, Gerda E. Nordquist, and the MN DNR.

Slide 6

“US to Ramsey to Bolles” and “Wild Valley Creek watercress,” private family collection, used by permission.

“VCWC 4th of July,” Valley Creek Women’s Club scrapbooks, private collection, used by permission.

“Bolles Mills,” Afton Historical Museum.

“Belwin Expansion,” Belwin Conservancy.

If you enjoyed A Celebration of Valley Creek last summer, check out our other events! Visit our events page for more information.

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We spark passion for wild places through conservation, education, and immersive experiences on more than 1,500 acres in Minnesota’s Saint Croix Valley.


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