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Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park is actually two parks. The west side of the river is run by Three Rivers Park District; while the east side of the river is an Anoka County Park. Three Rivers has recently approved a plan that will include a name-change in the future to help make this distinction. However, like the downtown Minneapolis river parks, this distinction matters less to visitors than park staff. The two sides are connected by the dam walkway and can be enjoyed together.
One important distinction would be where to park. Both sides of the River sometimes offer unique activities. While you can walk across the dam, you may want to find parking closer to the activity you are attending. Also, the east side charges a daily fee for parking ($6/day or $30/year), but the west side does not charge for parking - unless you are coming as a group in a bus or van.
Each side of the park also has its own visitor center and slightly different park hours (which are unlikely to effect family visits). The Coon Rapids side of the park opens an hour later than the Brooklyn Park side and closes a half-hour after sunset, while Brooklyn Park stays open until 10 p.m.
Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park - East Side
The 446-acre Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park is one of the most popular in Anoka County. It is a year-round destination, especially during the cross-country ski season. Picnicking, fishing, in-line skating, walking, and bicycling are favorite activities in the park. The boat launch is heavily used during the summer. Sign Up For Anoka County Parks Activities Here.
Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park - West Side - Soon to be Mississippi Gateway Regional Park
The Mississippi River defines the boundary of this 160-acre park and there are many opportunities to see our nation’s greatest river up close. Owned and operated by Three Rivers Park District, the actual dam spans the river between Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids. From the 12-foot-wide observation walkway on top of the dam, enjoy spectacular scenery, the roar of the water, and rainbows in the mist. The walkway is also a major bike path over the river. An accessible fishing pier and observation deck is below the dam.
Follow the more than two miles of trails along the bank of the river and disappear into the beauty and quiet of nature. Walk past several "deserted" islands and explore wetlands and woods. Look for signs of the abundant wildlife that live in or visit the park—mink, beaver, hawks, osprey, deer, turtles and river otters. In winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular activities here. Sign Up For Three Rivers Programs Here.
In September of 2018, Three Rivers approved the final master plan for Mississippi Gateway Regional Park, combining Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park and the Brooklyn Park Environmental Nature Area into one regional park facility. Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park West Side is owned and operated by Three Rivers Park District, and the Brooklyn Park Environmental Nature Area is owned and operated by the City of Brooklyn Park.
The master plan includes new features, including an education and information center, play areas, a tree canopy walk, a beginner cross-country ski loop and an area for snowshoeing. Enhancements to existing features are also planned, including picnic areas, dog off-leash area, archery range, river access for paddling and fishing, and paved trails.Some portions of the park will be left more wild, with non-paved trails and field learning stations for exploring nature.
Coon Rapids Dam Visitor Center - West Side
Since North Mississippi Regional Park was taken over completely by Minneapolis Parks in 2016, Three Rivers has been adding more offerings at Coon Rapids Dam. So, while in past years, the Brooklyn Center visitor center has closed for the winter with reduced hours in spring and fall, it has remained open year-round beginning in the winter of 2016/2017.
As with other Three Rivers visitor centers, families can find outdoor education and recreation programs and explore exhibits including the many native reptiles, amphibians, and river fish on display.
Every other Sunday is “Free Family Funday” when a free nature program is offered. Programming for preschoolers includes “My Preschooler and Me” and “Big River, Small Fry” programs. Outdoor recreation opportunities include “Snowshoe Along the Mississippi,” “Snowshoe Day Date” and “Basic Winter Survival.” The center also offers snowshoe rentals for you to explore the park on your own.
Archery at Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park - West Side
The Three Rivers portion of this park offers occasional family archery programs. At these events, experts instruct families in the basics of shooting safely and accurately. The program offers fun games for testing skills. Equipment provided. We've compiled a list of Twin Cities archery ranges here.