This is the latest stop in the series 101 Things To Do. We took a break from weekly stops due to the pandemic, but we will highlight outdoor activities that don't conflict with health and safety recommendations.

In addition to the soothing sound of water spilling over the hydroelectric dam, Byllesby Lake Regional Park, just west of Cannon Falls, offers visitors a beautiful setting and a long list of year-round activities.

“There are so many things to do in one area,” said Mary Beth Schubert, director of communications for Dakota County Parks.

Because of the dam, the main feature of the park is Byllesby Lake which provides a sandy beach, swimming, boating, and fishing. The beach area has no lifeguards and swimming is allowed within the buoyed area.

Recent gate additions to the dam mean that the lake maintains a consistent level throughout the year.

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A walking bridge below the dam gives visitors a good view of the dam and the spill gates. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia
A walking bridge below the dam gives visitors a good view of the dam and the spill gates. Steve Gardiner / RiverTown Multimedia

“We have to maintain the pool flat,” said Josh Peterson, senior water resources engineer. “Whatever water comes into us, we have to pass it. If the river is at a certain flow rate, every gate here is open to that flow rate.”

Peterson said the old gates made it difficult to maintain a level lake, because during heavy rain or flooding, “the pool was rising, and that was because we didn’t have the capacity to pass the water. Now with these new gates, we have that capacity.”

The 500-acre park has a playground, campground, restrooms, grills, picnic shelter, and nature area. A boat ramp provides lake access for motor boats, sailboats, canoes, and kayaks. Trails give visitors the opportunity for hiking and biking.

In the winter, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, skijoring, and ice fishing are popular activities. For anyone 18 and over, a cross-country ski pass is needed for skiing, dog sledding, and skijoring, and may be purchased online, over the phone at the above number, or at the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center. Cost is $6 for a day pass or $25 for a season pass.

“I hope people who visit here leave with an enthusiasm for the outdoors and a greater appreciation for Dakota County,” Schubert said.

If you go...

Name: Byllesby Lake Regional Park

Address: 8150 295th St. E., Cannon Falls, Minn.

Phone : 952-891-7000, 651-480-7770 (campground)


Hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Admission: Free. Fees for camping.