Founded in 1995, the Friends of the Cannon River Wilderness Area (FCRWA) is a volunteer group that aims to carry on the founding citizens’ engagement by preserving and enhancing the many natural values of the park, a unique remnant of the Big Woods ecosystem. Members have undertaken such projects as giving guided walks, publishing maps and brochures, and donating a 20 acre parcel to the east side of the CRWA. We have also worked with Rice County Parks personnel to locate trails, plant trees, eradicate buckthorn, and conduct controlled burns. Our efforts have been greatly enhanced by the work of the local Boy Scout Troop 337, research by St. Olaf and Carleton professors and students, and projects by the Minnesota Conservation Corps. Our newest undertaking is the ADOPT-A-HIGHWAY project for the stretch of County 20 (Cannon City Boulevard) nearest the park. We welcome new members to share in our endeavors!
Most of all, the FCRWA wants to encourage responsible enjoyment and appreciation of this unique resource in all seasons. The Cannon River Wilderness Area includes approximately 850 acres of wooded river valley, extending for three miles along both sides of the Cannon River between Northfield and Faribault. Many of the natural features of the park make it one of the premier areas of the entire county, with habitats that range from maple-basswood forest to prairie, calcareous fen, and river bank plant communities.
“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled, where humans are visitors who do not remain.” (adapted from The Wilderness Act of 1964, written by Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society)
The west side of the park is located at the end of 151st Street East, Northfield, MN, and is accessed from Hwy. 3, approximately five miles south of Northfield and four miles north of Faribault. The east side entrance is located on Cannon City Blvd (Hwy. 20), approximately three miles from Hwy. 3. It features a rustic trail that leads through a valley much altered in the past 30 years by erosion but rich in wild flowers and opportunities for bird-watching.
To log your own phenology observations, visit our Facebook Group.