HISTORY OF THE LOCK SYSTEM
When Wisconsin was still a Territory, a Congressional Act was passed, August 1846, that established and authorized a land grant necessary to trade and pay for the creation of a system of locks. The purpose of the Lock System was to facilitate the transfer of U.S. troops from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River which lead to the Gulf of Mexico. The Lock System was the first public works project in the State of Wisconsin before the State became a State in 1848.
The Fox Wisconsin Improvement Company, a private company, owned the locks from 1853 to 1866. The Green Bay and Mississippi Canal Company also a private company owned the lock system from 1866 to 1972. In 1872 the United States Federal Government bought the company and put the system under the charge of the (ACOE) Army Corps of Engineers. Riverway improvements were later outlined in the River and Harbor Act of 1873 to guide the mission of the lock system. The ACOE operated the Lock and Dam system in tandem from 1872 until 2001; 129 years.
In 2001, ownership of the Lock System was transferred to the State of Wisconsin. In 2004, the State of Wisconsin formed the (FRNSA) Fox River Navigational System Authority under Wisconsin State Statute and Chapter 237. FRNSA also known as “Fox Locks” manages, maintains and operates the entire lock system connecting over 39 miles of riverway from Lake Winnebago to the Bay of Green Bay.
• 1846-1853 – owned by the territory, then State of Wisconsin
• 1853-1866 – owned by the Fox and Wisconsin Improvement Company
• 1861 – 1865 – The Civil War
• 1866-1872 – owned by the Green Bay and Mississippi Canal Company
• 1872 – Yellowstone National Park, the first National Park was established
• 1916 – The National Park Service was created
• 1872-2001 – owned by the Federal Government and administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
• 1980s – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended shutting down the locks system
• 1984 – local leaders organize effort to save the lock system
• 2001-present – owned by the State of Wisconsin and administered by the Fox River Navigational System Authority
• 2021 – The Kaukauna Five Locks re-open with the repair of the Memorial Bridge in Kaukauna
• 2021 – 15 of the 17 Locks on the Lower Fox River are open for use