The Cannon River watershed is located south of the Twin Cities and encompasses areas of Dakota, Goodhue, Le Sueur, Steele, Rice and Waseca counties. The watershed drains approximately 1,460 square miles through two main channels, the Cannon and Straight Rivers, to the Mississippi at Red Wing.
The Cannon River watershed represents a transition between the driftless terrain of the southeast Minnesota and the glaciated lands of south-central Minnesota. This watershed is located at the intersection of three different ecoregions: North Central Hardwoods, Western Cornbelt Plains, and the Driftless Area. It encompasses a diverse landscape that supports productive farms and growing urban centers. There are It includes 90 lakes and 107 wetlands of 10 acres or more in size, numerous rivers and streams, and groundwater that is sensitive to pollution. More than 70% of the land area is in cultivation.
The Cannon River watershed consists of two river systems: the Cannon River and the Straight River.
- From the south, the Straight River headwaters begin as a fan of smaller streams and ditches and connects with the Cannon River in Faribault.
- The Cannon River begins as the outflow of Shields Lake then flows east connecting with a number of other lakes, streams, and the Straight River, Continuing east, it flows through the Cannon Lake Reservoir and the Byllesby Reservoir. Once it reaches the Driftless Area, the river flows past scenic limestone bluffs until it finally empties into the Mississippi River north of Red Wing. Minnesota has designated the Cannon River, from Faribault to the Mississippi, as a Wild and Scenic River.
The MPCA conducted initial reviews of the Cannon River Watershed from 2011 to 2017. A second cycle is set to begin in 2023, with planning already underway with local partners.
What's being done
Monitoring and assessment
- Cannon River Watershed Monitoring and Assessment Report (wq-ws3-0704002b)
- Summary of Cannon River Watershed monitoring and assessment report (wq-ws3-0704002c)
- 2015 Follow-up stream assessments for three reaches in the Cannon River Watershed (wq-ws3-0704002f)
- Cannon River Watershed Stressor Identification Report (wq-ws5-07040002a)
- Lake Byllesby Site Specific Standard (wq-iw9-10h)
Strategies for restoration and protection
- Cannon River Watershed WRAPS (wq-ws4-23a) (MPCA approval 10/20/2016)
- Summary of Cannon River Watershed WRAPS report (wq-ws4-23b)
- Cannon River Watershed TMDL (wq-iw9-19e) (EPA approval 2/16/2017)
- Cannon River Watershed TMDL: EPA approval letter (wq-iw9-19g)
Other TMDL projects
- Jefferson-German Lake Chain TMDL report (wq-iw9-11e) (EPA approval 9/2/2014)
- Jefferson-German Lake Chain TMDL: EPA approval letter (wq-iw9-11g)
- Lake Volney TMDL report (wq-iw9-14e) (EPA approval 9/2/2014)
- Lake Volney TMDL: EPA approval letter (wq-iw9-14g)
- Lower Cannon River turbidity TMDL: Fact sheet (wq-iw9-04a)
- Lower Cannon turbidity TMDL report (wq-iw9-04e) (EPA approval 7/13/2007)
- Lower Cannon turbidity TMDL report: EPA approval letter (wq-iw9-04g)
- Lower Cannon River turbidity TMDL implementation plan (wq-iw9-04c)
Water quality model supporting documents
- HSPF Model: Scenarios for Cannon River watershed restoration and protection (wq-ws4-23c)
- Cannon River Watershed HSPF Model Development Project (wq-ws4-23d)
- Building a picture of a watershed — modeling with a computer simulation program (more information about using the HSPF tool)
The MPCA and local partners have also completed:
- A special study of Rice Creek, a trout stream in Rice County.
- A study of the Straight River watershed, which included an examination of the stream and river channels in that watershed, and construction of a model for use in future implementation planning.
- Cannon River Comprehensive Watershed Management Plan
- Clean River Partners
- Water Resources Center, Minnesota State University Mankato,
- Watershed project manager Kristen Dieterman, 507-206-2626