On this page you will find a list of potential trail uses and a brief history of the area through which the trail runs:


Mill Drawing

The Mill Towns State Trail will provide a connection between public and semi-public open spaces serving three counties and six communities. It is envisioned as a recreational investment that will link these communities in a way that will ensure their continued vitality.


  1. Develop a Trail Route - Develop a trail route that can be used for hiking, biking, and snowmobiling or skiing, which links Cannon Falls, Randolph, Waterford, Northfield, Dundas and Faribault.
  2. Provide a Permanent Link - Provide a permanent trail right-of-way linking the Cannon Valley Trail at Cannon Falls and the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail at Faribault.
  3. Establish a Recreational Facility - Establish a recreational facility focused upon the communities along the proposed right-of-way.
  4. Create an Identity - Create an individual identity for the Mill Towns State Trail that will distinguish it from both adjoining trails.
  5. Establish Loop Options - Establish loop options for trail users in each of the communities along the trail.
  6. Provide Access - Identify and provide access to public spaces, historic mill sites and the cultural and natural features along the trail.
  7. Identify Trailheads - Identify trailhead sites in each community to facilitate economic development.
  8. Promote Open Space - Promote the trail as an integral element in the regional open space system.
  9. Promote Community Health - Promote the trail as a vital facility for health in the community.

Trail Uses

The trail is a multi-use trail, but limitations of which dictate that not all uses can be accommodated at all times on the entire length of the trail. The following are the recommended trail uses:

  • bicycling
  • hiking and walking
  • cross-country skiing
  • dog walking
  • running/jogging
  • in-line skating/skate skiing
  • snowmobiling
  • hunting (except where discharge of firearms is regulated by community ordinance)
  • environmental education/interpretation

Trail development will take accessibility into consideration wherever practical. Certain segments of the trail can be used for fishing access and canoe launching.


Historic Faribault

The communities along the Mill Towns Trail have both natural and cultural histories in common. They share the broad Cannon River Valley and have made use of the river's energy through the creation of a series of mill dams between 1850 and 1910. Local historian Tom Neuhaus has identified thirty mill sites that are located along the Cannon river between Cannon Falls and Faribault.

It is said that the process of hard wheat milling was perfected in Rice county. When the local mills were first milling wheat, they made flour from the hard spring wheat that grew in this area. This flour was not wholly desirable, due to impurities from specks of wheat bran.

Gold Medal Flour

Alexander Faribault learned a French milling process that milled the hard spring wheat into a finer flour. He and the LaCroix brothers, from Montreal, built a mill based on the this technique. The Archibalds, who were milling in Dundas, became interested in the new purifying process, and had the LaCroix brothers install a purifier in their mill. The Dundas flour became known for its quality, and eventually became Gold Medal Flour.

In the five communities through which the Mill Towns State Trail will pass, there are over sixty structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The downtown commercial areas of Faribault, Northfield and Cannon Falls are also listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

About this Website

This website is maintained by volunteers who support the Mill Towns Trail. Like the Trail itself, the website is not in a final state. It will continue to grow to meet the needs of the Trail community.

Tentative plans for phase two and three include:

Phase Two

  • more current pictures in the photo gallery
  • a Frequently Asked Questions page
  • a web-based content management system including a blog
  • news and event stories on the home page
  • RSS feeds

Phase Three

  • an interactive trail map
  • an interactive photo gallery

Please contact us with comments, questions and constructive criticism about this website. We value your feedback.