Locals Love It: Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park
We asked locals what their favorite spots are in Minneapolis Northwest, and Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park received a lot of love. So I had to go check it out! Read about my experience and get recommendations on the top things to do while you're here.
Today I went out to explore one of our best Minneapolis Northwest parks— Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park. The park spans both banks of the Mississippi: Brooklyn Park on the west and Coon Rapids on the east, bridged by the dam, of course. The west bank of the park is operated by the Three Rivers Park District, and the east bank is operated by Anoka County Parks.
On weekends you can usually find me out on one of the many lakes in the Minneapolis area or riding one of our regional bike trails, but I had yet to visit Coon Rapids Dam. I’d heard great things about this unique park and was excited to finally check it out! Getting the chance to explore our area attractions and events has been one of the best parts of my job so far, and I love receiving recommendations like this from locals.
The gate attendant gave me the lowdown on the park when I arrived. The first thing I discovered was that the dam itself was closed due to construction, and that I wouldn’t be able to walk across the Mississippi River today. Bummer. They’re improving the dam and protecting against the migration of invasive fish species, which has been a top priority for the Minnesota DNR over the past couple years. The good news is that after over 2 years of being closed, the dam will be having its grand re-opening on Wednesday, July 1st!
With the pedestrian walkway over the dam being closed, this was a good chance for me to see what else there is to do here. I walked along a smaller dam on the east channel and enjoyed watching people fish. I’m told this park is an excellent spot for fishing! This stretch of the MIssissippi is good for bass, crappies, and carp, to name a few. Plus, further south on the Coon Rapids side is Cenaiko Lake, a stocked trout lake with multiple fishing docks.
The park has miles of paved trails, but I decided to go for a walk on some of the less traveled trails that lead to the river banks. There’s a whole wooded area along the shore to explore. It’s a great area for kids to run around in. The inner child in me wanted to climb the trees, make a fort, and run around in the woods (ok, so I did climb one tree, but it was for this cool photo op!).
The river was very peaceful over here as it was off the main channel. I even saw some mallards and a crane… or maybe a blue heron… I should probably take a birding class, but regardless, there was lots of wildlife to be seen!
My tips & recommendations for how best to explore this park:
- Pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic along the river.
- Don’t forget the fishing poles! The visitor center on the Coon Rapids side of the river sells bait and limited tackle if you need it.
- Pop into the visitor center on the Brooklyn Park side to check out their aquarium containing river fish, turtles, reptiles and more
- Hike or bike the trails, but don’t forget to take some time to just wander along the shoreline
- I’ve been told that when the water levels are low, you can actually walk out to some of the islands south of the dam.
- If you’re a cyclist, Rush Creek Regional Trail connects Coon Rapids Dam to Elm Creek Park Reserve. It’s a 9.64 mile ride one-way, so it’s totally do-able to explore both parks in one day!
- There’s more parking available on the Coon Rapids side, but admission is free via the Brooklyn Park side. It’s $5 to access the park through Coon Rapids, simply because Three Rivers Park District and Anoka County Parks are funded differently.
Mark your calendars—Wednesday, July 1, from 5:00-7:00pm, Coon Rapids Dam walkway officially reopens to the public! Free ice cream to all who cross the walkway!
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About the Author
- Becca Schaar
Minneapolis Northwest native and freelance blogger