Little Kaukauna Lock and Dam Historic District

Fox R. at Mill Rd., De Pere, Wisconsin

Originally opened for navigation in 1856, this is one of 17 locks on the Lower Fox River



The Lower Fox drops 180 feet between the head of the river in Lake Winnebago and the mouth at Green Bay. The rapids is what attracted millers and paper makers to the Fox River Valley. Eventually, the Lower Fox River was dammed to take advantage of the potential energy.

After the Portage Canal was opened to connect the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, it was possible to go from the Green Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. That navigation was made possible on the Lower Fox with the building of 17 lift locks and 2 guard locks between Menasha and De Pere. Lift locks physically carry watercraft between levels and guard locks (located in Combined Locks and Kaukauna) close the flow of water into the navigation channels when repairs are required.

The canal at Portage, between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, closed in 1951. The locks in the Upper Fox then fell into disuse. In the 1970s, the locks on the Lower Fox were falling into disuse and disrepair. The locks were closed in 1983 and in 1988, the lock at Rapide Croche was sealed to prevent Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) from entering the Lake Winnebago ecosystem.

Ownership and operation of the locks on the Lower Fox were transferred from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the State of Wisconsin in 2004, although the COE continues to operate the dams.

The Little Kaukauna Lock was opened for navigation in 1856 and was rebuilt in 1931. The lock was washed away in the floods of the 1930 and in 1939,the current lock was built as a replacement.

It is located about six miles south of DePere, near the town of Little Rapids and is sometimes referred to as the "Little Rapids Lock." It is located at mile 13 on the Fox River and lifts about 6 feet.

The lock is in operation (in season) Thursday through Monday and is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on December 7, 1993
Reference number
Areas of significance
Transportation; Engineering
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Water-related; Single dwelling
Current function
Period of significance
Significant years
1939; 1927
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 1
Contributing structures: 3
Non-contributing buildings: 4

Update Log 

  • November 29, 2015: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated Status and Added Description