Waterway Resources of the Lower Fox River MPS

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The Lower Fox drops 180 feet between the head of the river in Lake Winnebago and the mouth at Green Bay. The rapids attracted millers and paper makers to the Fox River Valley in mid 19th Century. Eventually, the Lower Fox River was dammed to take advantage of the potential energy.

After the Portage Canal was opened to connect the upper Fox River to the Wisconsin River, 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. Guard locks (located in Little Chute and Kaukauna) protect the locks from upriver surges and close the flow of water into the navigation channels when repairs are required. Guard locks also allow draining the navigation channel for the winter.

The canal at Portage, between the upper 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.

Under the guidance of the Fox River Navigational System Authority, the locks on the Lower Fox are being restored and returned to operational status. Some are in use now, and eventually, recreational mariners should be able to navigate the Fox River from Rapide Croche to Lake Winnebago by 2017.

Posted by J.R. Manning, June 21, 2017


Appleton Lock 4 Historic District (Outagamie County, Wisconsin)
One of seventeen locks on the lower Fox River
Appleton Locks 1--3 Historic District (Outagamie County, Wisconsin)
Cedars Lock and Dam Historic District (Outagamie County, Wisconsin)
One of 17 locks on the Lower Fox River
De Pere Lock and Dam Historic District (Brown County, Wisconsin)
Original lock built 1836; Modern lock built 1936
Kaukauna Locks Historic District (Outagamie County, Wisconsin)
Series of 5 locks that provide over fifty feet of lift on the Fox River
Little Chute Locks and Canal Historic District (Outagamie County, Wisconsin)
One of 17 locks on the Lower Fox and a Control Lock to regulate the navigation channel
Little Kaukauna Lock and Dam Historic District (Brown County, Wisconsin)
Originally opened for navigation in 1856, this is one of 17 locks on the Lower Fox River
Menasha Dam (Winnebago County, Wisconsin)
Once the source of power for paper making, controls the Fox and is popular for fishing
Menasha Lock (Winnebago County, Wisconsin)
First of the Lower Fox River Locks leading to Green Bay
Rapide Croche Lock and Dam Historic District (Outagamie County, Wisconsin)
Eighth lock and dam upriver from Green Bay