“This ought to be a park. Don’t you think?” Aylmer (Barney) Code voiced this sentiment to Jackie May in 1966, as they wandered through a section of the beautiful Cannon River valley near their respective homes. Agreeing that such a valuable landscape ought to be preserved, their commitment launched several years of effort that eventually resulted in the official establishment of the Cannon River Wilderness Area (CRWA). By 1972, 13 land owners had sold or donated a total of some 850 acres, and on August 26, 1976, the CWRA was officially dedicated as part of the Rice County Parks & Facilities system.
Since then, countless residents of the region have enjoyed the opportunity to explore this unique remnant of the Big Woods ecosystem. Its five miles of trails allow exploration of a range of habitats, from maple-basswood forest to prairie, calcareous fen, and diverse plant communities along the river margins. On the west side, accessed from Hwy 3 between Faribault and Northfield on 151 St. with a parking lot, a bridge over the Cannon River, and a launch site for canoers; in winter the trails are suitable for good cross-country skiing. Accessed from Cannon City Blvd, a rustic trail on the east side leads through a valley much altered in the past 30 years by erosion but rich in wild flowers, opportunities for bird-watching, and creeks that flow into the Cannon.
For a more detailed history of the park, click here.