When the Chicago & North Western Railway Company made the decision to abandon its 19.7-mile railroad along the Cannon River between Cannon Falls and Red Wing, it first approached the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about purchasing the right-of-way and converting it into a recreational trail. However, legalities associated with the Cannon River’s designation as a State Scenic River prevented the DNR from being able to purchase the railway for trail use.
Knowing how important this trail would be to the local community, P&TCM wasted no time in raising $112,500 to purchase the entire railway and pay for the removal of all of its trestles, which it did on March 15, 1984. At the same time it was fundraising, P&TCM began working to identify the appropriate entity to assume ownership of the trail. The result was an agreement that created the Cannon Valley Trail Joint Powers Board with representation from Goodhue County and the municipalities of Red Wing and Cannon Falls. The joint-powers board is responsible for administering, developing and maintaining the trail.
The Cannon Valley Trail was dedicated on May 31, 1986, and the asphalt surfacing was completed in 1992. Diverse and spectacular scenery define the trail that connects the cities of Cannon Falls, Welch and Red Wing in beautiful southeastern Minnesota. Paralleling the Cannon River, the trail offers glimpses and panoramas of the valley, descending 115 feet from Cannon Falls to Red Wing. The trail is open year round for non-motorized trail use. During the winter, cross-country skiing is a common trail activity.