Cannon River State Water Trail

Cannon River

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Bounded by rolling hills, high bluffs, farmland and woods in its upper reaches, this river enters a broad gorge below Cannon Falls. There are a variety of wildlife and sightseeing opportunities. The Cannon is designated as a Wild and Scenic River.

Local contact and map

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Le Sueur, Rice, Dakota and Goodhue counties

Contact Parks and Trails central regional office: 651-259-5841
Contact Parks and Trails Rochester office for Cannon River downstream of Lake Byllesby: 507-206-2847

River character

Stream flow usually peaks in early April. Very heavy rains can cause the river to flood. Because there are few rapids to cause canoeists problems in low water, the level is usually sufficient for canoeing. The dam at Lake Byllesby, affects water levels and canoeing downstream. From Faribault to its mouth, the Cannon falls 280 feet, an average of 4.8 feet per mile. 


Bounded by rolling hills, bluffs, farmland and woods in its upper reaches, the Cannon enters a broad gorge below Cannon Falls, where it is flanked by bluffs up to 300 feet high. The Cannon River is underlaid with a variety of sedimentary rocks. The river valley created by cutting through these rocks produced rock outcrops of St. Peter Sandstone, the Prairie du Chein Group of dolomites and sandstone, and near the river's mouth, Jordan Sandstone and the St. Lawrence and Franconia formations.

Fish and wildlife

Eating fish from a Minnesota river or lake? Read the MN Department of Health's fish consumption advisory.

Above Faribault

  • Northern pike
  • Black crappies
  • Bluegills
  • Bullheads

Below Faribault

  • Smallmouth bass
  • Northern pike
  • Walleye

Below Cannon Falls

  • Channel catfish


  • White-tailed deer
  • Beavers
  • Otters
  • Raccoons
  • Bobcats
  • Red and gray fox
  • Coyotes
  • Bald eagles


By 1000 A.D. the Mississippian Culture, a tradition heavily dependent on agriculture, was established in southern Minnesota. The mouth of the Cannon River was a major center of this culture. In historic times Indians and traders frequently hid their canoes near the river's mouth, and so French fur traders called the stream La Riviere aux Canots, "the river of canoes." In 1877 there were 15 flour mills along the stretch of river between Faribault and Northfield alone. At Dundas, travelers still can see the aging limestone walls of the Archbald Mill.