The most popular places to paddle in Dakota County are Lebanon Hills Regional Park (East sector) and the Cannon River. Of course any body of water with a public launch is fair game, and there are a lot of them!
We’ll focus here on the parks and State Water Trail (no park passes are needed in Dakota County)…
Cannon River State Water Trail
There are campsites along the river if you want to make it a multi-day trip. It’d be a great way to introduce beginners and kids to the idea before heading up to the Boundary Waters—or if you prefer to stay local. Here’s the map.
Lebanon Hills Regional Park (Eagen/Apple Valley)
Lebanon Hills offers a canoe route through 7 of its lakes, offering a taste of portaging from lake-to-lake. If you’ve ever thought of a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters, this would give you a taste of what paddling and portaging is all about.
Canoe and kayak rentals are available at the Visitor’s Center. You can either stay on Schultze Lake, or start the canoe route from there. There are 2.5 miles of canoeing if you paddle it all, not including coming back from the west end of the Park.
A great half-day excursion…or full day if you have young children and will be taking a slower pace. Bring a picnic lunch!
Be sure you get and bring the route map. It’ll show you where the portages are. Here’s the Lebanon Hills Park map. (Scroll down to the page 2)
Lake Byllesby Regional Park (Cannon Falls)
Situated on Lake Byllesby Reservoir, this Park has a motor boat launch and non-motor boat access. Canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding are all popular here. Combine your paddling with a camping trip and you’ve got a great few days ahead of you. Here’s the Lake Byllesby map.
Miesville Ravine Park Reserve (Miesville)
Little Miesville Reserve is situated along the Cannon River, which is popular for paddling. While there’s no official boat launch, you’re just a short portage away from the parking lot to the river. Here’s the map.
Minnesota River State Water Trail
The Minnesota River forms the border between several counties, including Dakota County’s north side. All 318 miles of the river is a State Water Trail. The Minnesota River’s gentle current passes through varied landscape from marsh to bluffs. Here’s the map (it takes awhile to load…be patient!).