Every summer Cannon River is filled with people cruising along the shallow water in kayaks, canoes and rafts. Many residents, and visitors, rent their crafts from Cannon Falls Canoe and Bike Rental, but not last summer.

William Lacefield, owner of Cannon Falls Canoe and Bike Rental, decided it was best to close up shop last season due to the pandemic, and the uncertainty surrounding the virus.

“Our problem was, we could control everything from our landing in Cannon Falls, but we couldn’t control down where our main landing was,” Lacefield said. “That, and our employees are high schoolers. I’m not going to explain to their mothers about how they caught COVID.”

This summer they do plan to open their doors, at the earliest, in mid-May, but the date may be subject to change depending on the river.

“I hated being closed last year, but there were too many negatives, and I wanted a summer off,” Lacefield said. 

The business offers everything needed to paddle down the river. Life vests, paddles, the boats, a place to launch them and someone to show you how to use everything, if you are unsure.

Currently, they have about 60 kayaks, 30 canoes and 40 rafts — including single person rafts. The single person rafts are fairly new, they have been around only since the 2019 season. The idea is to use them like you would use a tube, but they are more comfortable, said Lacefield.

“We had a couple of women, one time, coming down the river sitting on the front of the single person rafts and the back had come up behind them, kind of like a lawn chair,” Lacefield said. “They said they’d never go back to tubes.”

The Cannon Falls Canoe and Bike Rental does not offer guided tours, but Cannon River is quite calm, warm and shallow making it an easy ride for beginners. The rental service does include shuttle rides for hauling you and your raft, kayak or canoe back to your car.

“The river is gentle enough where a family can take a raft down the river and not tip,” Lacefield said. “Not that often, but sometimes a canoe will turn over.”

The river is usually no deeper than six feet, and how high the water is does affect your activities. If the river is six foot or below, all crafts can be taken on the river. If the water reaches between six and seven feet, only rafts can be taken out. If the river is more than seven feet deep, no crafts can launch on the river. River height does not affect lake activities or biking.

If you want to ride the river to the eight mile check point, or even the furthest, 13 miles, pack a lunch. There are plenty of small islands to stop on down the river to have a picnic.

Lacefield said he has been thinking of expanding their offers to inflatable kayaks, which are about four inches wider than normal kayaks, in order to have another option with better stability. He also is going to take advantage of a new landing being built near the Lake Byllesby dam.

“We’re also going to buy a few other flotation devices that we can rent up there for a 40 to 45 minute trip down to our landing, and that will be a lot of fun,” Lacefield said. “The river is a little faster over there compared to the rest of it, so it will be a fun thing and not a family party thing. It will be more of a joy ride thing outside the dam. After a few years of us being up there, I think that will do well too.”

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