State Wild & Scenic Rivers


The place of rivers in our state’s heritage was recognized in 1973, when Minnesota signed into law the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to create a statewide system to preserve and protect the state’s rivers. In time, parts of six rivers – in addition to the federally designated St. Croix River – were designated under the Act. Like nationally-designated rivers, each of the six designated rivers is distinguished by their free-flowing condition, water quality and “outstandingly remarkable” scenic, recreational, historical, and wildlife values, 

Our Program

Great River Greening in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other partners began a program focused on restoring, enhancing, and providing long-term protection for Minnesota’s seven Wild and Scenic rivers. The program began with concerted effort along the St. Croix River in 2007, but has since expanded to the Rum and Cannon Rivers. Working with public and private landowners alike, Great River Greening is undertaking a diversity of activities to restore and enhance some of Minnesota’s aquatic jewels, including riverbank and riparian forest restoration, installation of erosion control measures, upland habitat restoration, and the reintroduction of wild rice.

PDF: “How private landowners and  Great River Greening can work together to restore Minnesota’s Wild & Scenic Rivers”

St. Croix
The St. Croix begins its journey in the forests of northwest Wisconsin and runs 252 miles to its confluence with the Mississippi River near Hastings, Minnesota. The upper portion of the St. Croix (headwaters to Taylors Falls) was one of the original eight rivers designated by Congress when the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Program was established in 1968; the lower portion (Taylors Falls to the Mississippi River) was added to the Program in 1972.

Rum River
The Rum River runs 89 miles from its source at Mille Lacs Lake before entering the Mississippi River within the City of Anoka. The meandering river passes through extensive backwaters and marshes, sand plains, floodplain forests and stands of red and white pine that are remnants of the vast pine forests that were logged during the late 1800s. The entire stretch of river is designated as Wild and Scenic, and was added to the program in 1978.

Cannon River
Bounded by rolling hills, bluffs, farmland and woods in its upper reaches, the Cannon enters a broad gorge below Cannon Falls, where it is flanked by bluffs up to 300 feet high, before emptying into the Mississippi River above the City of Red Wing. The portion designated as Wild and Scenic runs from the City of Faribault to the Mississippi River, and was added to the program in 1980.

Our Goals

  • Provide the high quality terrestrial and aquatic habitat necessary to support the needs of wildlife along these rivers and meet the recreational needs of those that use them.
  • Retain and ultimately enhance the water quality of the Rum and Cannon Rivers through erosion abatement, modifications to land use practices, and other practices;
  • Heighten public awareness and active participation in restoring and offering long-term protection for these rivers.


  • Restoration of 653 acres of riparian and upland habitat at 20 project areas along Wild and Scenic rivers.
  • Procurement of >$250,000 for erosion control and riparian habitat restoration work along the river.
  • Engagement of 265 volunteers through 4 on-the-ground restoration events at 3 sites.

Our Projects

  • 13 Private Lands (including Easement Properties) along St. Croix, Rum and Cannon rivers
  • Wild Rice Restoration – 3 sites
  • Public Sites 
    •  Martin’s Meadows Open Space – Andover
    • Becklin County Park and Wildlife Management Area – Cambridge
    • Franconia Bluffs SNA
    • Falls Creek SNA
    • Lost Valley SNA
    • Cedar Creek Conservation Area (67 acres)

Major Partners

Major program-level partners include Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Minnesota Land Trust. Audubon Minnesota, Washington Conservation District, National Park Service, and Cannon River Watershed Partnership are some of the partners on individual projects.

Major Funders

Funding to support Wild and Scenic River program activities has been provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund (as recommended by the Legislative and Citizens Commission on Minnesota Resources), Board of Soil and Water Resources, and Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund (as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council).