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Fox Locks opening Saturday, two weeks early

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 5:37 PM CDT
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KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WBAY) - With the weather shaping up to be very summer-like this weekend, the Fox Locks are opening at just the right time. The entire locks system officially opens Saturday. Adding to the excitement is the opening of the Kaukauna locks this summer.

The Fox Locks are a Wisconsin treasure. The only fully restored, hand operated locks system in the country, they saw a big uptick in traffic last summer and anticipate it continuing this year.

“Last year we had about 5,000 more passengers than the year before, and we had somewhere between 800 and a thousand additional boats, so this year I think we’re expecting to see that as well increase and we’re going to be opening two weeks earlier than we did last year, so we’ve got a lot of stuff that’s coming along really nicely,” Fox River Navigational System Authority CEO Jeremy Cords said.

The Fox Locks restoration project on all 17 locks was completed in 2015. Since then, the five locks through the city of Kaukauna have sat idle because a lift bridge was broken and boats couldn’t get under it. Now that the bridge is being fixed, and will once again lift, those locks will be open by July.

“This year you’re going to see five additional miles of riverway that’s been closed off for at least 20 years. So, that’s a lot of riverway. We’re going to have 30 miles, altogether of navigable riverway that you can get through my accessing the locks,” said Cords.

The $2.2 million project was mostly funded by the state Department of Transportation. The City of Kaukauna is paying for 20 percent of the repair cost -- a small amount that it hopes reaps big benefits moving forward.

“We want boats to be able to come from Wrightstown to Menasha and we hope they’ll stop in Kaukauna. We’re looking at putting a dock below our Friends and Neighbors Park. Hopefully people will get off there, go through town, and visit our restaurants and bar and spend money in our stores,” Kaukauna Mayor Tony Penterman said.

The locks in De Pere and Little Rapids will be open 7 days a week, but the majority of the locks will only be open on Saturdays and Sundays until the beginning of September.

Find more about the locks and their operations at https://www.foxlocks.org.

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