Fox Locks, Kaukauna celebrate opening of five locks on Fox River

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 5:56 AM CDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2021 at 6:51 PM CDT
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KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WBAY) - The Fox Locks system and the City of Kaukauna are celebrating the opening five locks on the Fox River Tuesday, marking the first time in years boaters will be able to travel the river from Menasha to Kaukauna.

A ceremony was held from 3-5 p.m. Tuesday for the opening of the locks.

Veterans Memorial Lift Bridge has been repaired, and rose and lowered for boat traffic for the first time in more than 35 years.

“This project is yet another progressive move for our City and for the long-term betterment of our community,” said City of Kaukauna Mayor Tony Penterman. “Opening these five locks to boater traffic will give Kaukauna an economic boost and connection to the Fox Cities. Boaters will now be able to take in all the beautiful views the Fox River has to offer throughout Kaukauna.”

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke added, “The re-opening of this system as a whole has the possibility of being a big economic driver for this region and for the state. We’re excited to see what happens. For Kaukauna specifically, hopefully that will mean more activity downtown.”

Fox River Navigational System officials say this stretch of the Fox River features an elevation drop of 50.4 feet from the guard lock to lock 5 near Grignon Mansion.

“This is a reality we have been looking forward to for generations,” said Jeremy Cords, CEO of the Fox River Navigational System Authority. “Boats haven’t been able to travel on the Fox River from Menasha to Kaukauna for generations and this represents opening the last major stretch of the locks system since they were reconstructed in 2015.”

More and more people are taking to the water. Fox Locks officials say boat traffic has more than doubled this summer. About 30 miles of the 39-mile system will be open this year.

“Boaters can travel from the bay of Green Bay to the Rapide Croche lock just south of Wrightstown. The river is also navigable from the Rapide Croche lock south through Kaukauna, Little Chute, Appleton and into Little Lake Butte des Morts to the closed Menasha lock. Both the Menasha lock and the Rapide Croche lock are closed to prevent the spread of invasive species,” reads a statement from Fox River Navigational System Authority officials.

Fox River Navigational System Authority is also set to develop an interpretative trail along the locks for pedestrians and cyclists. The 1.3 mile trial was funded by a $300,000 grant from David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. The land is owned by the Fox River Navigational System Authority.

“Water you know, it’s like a magnet. People are always drawn. I don’t care if you’re on the river or a lake somewhere here in Wisconsin. It’s just nice to be around,” said former Kaukauna Mayor Gene Rosin.

The locks will officially open starting this weekend, and every Saturday and Sunday through September 16th.

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