Adventures in your own backyard

By:DAVID HENKE, Northfield News Writer The economy might have put a damper on your big summer vacation plans, but there are still plenty of options, locally and regionally, to get outdoors for some much-needed recreation. #1: CANOE THE CANNON RIVERWHAT: A long segment of the Cannon River is navigable by canoe. In fact, the Cannon River is listed as a state canoe route on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Web site. The proximity and accessibility of the river, and its sometimes surprising scenery make this a must for area adventurers.WHERE: Cannon Falls Canoe and Bike Rental in Cannon Falls offers eight- or 18-mile trips on the Cannon, or you could bring your own canoe and attempt the whole 80-mile length of river from Waterville to the Mississippi.COST: The all-inclusive eight-mile trip with the outfitters costs $25, while the 18-mile route costs $35.#2: BIKE SAKATAH STATE TRAILWHAT: The 32-mile length of paved trail is perfect for biking, or even horseback riding. Plenty of campgrounds, rest areas and swimming sites stud the trail’s length, turning the route into a day-long expedition.WHERE: The trail begins in Faribault and ends in Mankato. Parking for this end of the trail is located 1⁄2 mile north of Hwy. 60 on County Road 21.COST: Free#3: TUBE WELCH VILLAGEWHAT: Who wouldn’t want to go on a leisurely tube ride on a hot day? Add to that the scenic, wooded gorges and bluffs of the lower Cannon River, and you have an excellent recipe for relaxation. One caveat: on weekends, you’re likely to have lots of company.WHERE: Welch Mill Canoeing and Tubing offers one-hour or three and a half hour rides. A valid driver’s license is required to rent a tube. Canoes are also available.COST: $10 per tube.#4: HIKE CANNON RIVER WILDERNESS AREAWHAT: Just a few miles south on Hwy. 3, the Cannon River Wilderness Area is an under-appreciated gem. With five miles of hiking trails, 850 acres of wilderness and a beautiful set of river cliffs, the park makes for a great afternoon trip.WHERE: Take Hwy. 3 approximately five miles south of Northfield. Take a left on 151st St. and follow the road until you reach the park’s picnic area and parking lot.COST: Free#5: GO CAVING IN MYSTERY CAVEWHAT: Getting to Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park requires a 90-mile drive, but the location is a two-for-one package that is well worth the trip. The state park includes a 12-mile karst cave. Above ground, Forestville, a restored, 1800s-era village, is operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. WHERE: The park is located roughly six miles south of Wykoff on Fillmore County Hwy. 118.COST: Tour fees for mystery cave are $10 for adults 13 and older, $6 for children 5-12 years old and free for children under 5. State park vehicle permits are also required.#6: GO TROUT FISHING ON THE WHITEWATER RIVERWHAT: Like Mystery Cave, the Whitewater River State Park takes a little driving, but the brown, brook and rainbow trout stocked in the river and nearby Trout Run Creek make the 2,700-acre park a fly fishing enthusiast’s paradise. For those less inclined to fish, the park also includes hiking trails and a swimming beach.WHERE: The park is three miles south of Alba on State Hwy. 74.COST: A state park vehicle permit is required. A daily permit is $5, while an annual permit is $25.— David Henke can be reached at dhenke@northfieldnews.com or 645-1100.
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