The Cannon River is one of Minnesota’s most popular canoe routes. Although most sections of the river provide paddlers with a relaxing and leisurely experience, there are scattered sections of rapids that are easy navigable by beginners. The width of the Cannon spans from 50 feet to 200 feet, which makes navigation of its channel quite simple. Sporadic logjams and down trees present a small challenge to those at the helm of the canoe.
Paddlers are drawn to the Cannon River largely due to the scenic quality of its river basin. The vistas offered to canoeists along this historic river are very diverse. Rolling hills and farmlands line the upper portion of the Cannon, but as it nears its confluence with the Mississippi, the scenery shifts to broad gorges protected by 300-foot bluffs on either side of the channel. Two popular stretches among canoeists are the Cannon Falls to Welch route (8 miles), and the float from Cannon Falls to Red Wing (18 miles).
The Minnesota DNR lists the Cannon River as a “state canoe route.” This designation has prompted the establishment of many well-maintained canoe landings along the river, and portages around the Cannon’s numerous dams. There are also five individual campsites and one campground that provide easily accessible camping opportunities for those interested in overnight paddling trips.
The DNR has also enhanced the canoeing experiences on the Cannon by designating some stretches as “Wild and Scenic River” in 1980. The Minnesota State Wild & Scenic Rivers Program was established in 1973 in order to protect rivers that have outstanding natural, scenic, geographic, historic, cultural, and recreational values. Only six Minnesota rivers have segments protected under this program. The Cannon River is protected under the Wild and Scenic Rivers classification for recreational uses and scenic qualities (MN DNR).
The picturesque Cannon River Valley has a lot to offer to those looking to explore the river on foot or bicycle. The Cannon Valley Trail is one of the Midwest’s premier “rails to trails” bike trails. The 19.7-mile trail was dedicated in 1986 and since then has attracted more than 100,000 users annually. In the winter months, the trail provides cross-country skiers a chance to ski along the Cannon.
We rent/outfit canoes, kayaks, and rafts on the beautiful cannon river in Cannon Falls, MN. We also rent bikes on the Cannon Valley Trail. Shuttles available.