What exactly is a “watershed?” A watershed is the land area that drains water to a body of water such as a stream, river or lake. It is a land feature that can be identified by tracing a line along the highest elevations between two areas on a map, often a ridge. A watershed is like a funnel – collecting all the water within the drainage area and channeling it into a water body.
The two main rivers in the Cannon River watershed are the Cannon and Straight Rivers. The Cannon River (130 miles long) originates in Shields Lake and flows west before turning south. The river turns again east as it goes through Waterville, MN and continues on to Faribault, MN where the Straight River (65 miles long) drains into it. The Straight River begins in Oak Glen Lake south of Owatonna, MN. It flows directly north before it dumps into the Cannon River. From Faribault, the Cannon flows north through Northfield, MN and finally turns west. As it travels through the Byllesby Resevoir and Cannon Falls, MN, the Cannon finally drains to the Mississippi River just north of Red Wing, MN.
The Cannon River watershed covers 946,440 acres and includes parts of six counties – Dakota, Goodhue, Le Sueur, Rice, Steele, and Waseca.