Lock System Overview
We have preserved the heritage of one of the nation’s most unique transportation systems—the Fox River lock system. The locks are a gateway to the vibrant downtowns, attractions, and quaint small towns along the banks of the river. The system links Lake Winnebago to the Fox River Valley, through the Bay of Green Bay to the ports of the Great Lakes—and through the St. Lawrence Seaway to anywhere in the world!
For a daytrip or a vacation explore the locks!
- Pedestrians are welcome! Watch living history in action at the locks in DePere, Little Chute, or Appleton’s lock 4 at Riverheath.
- Kayak and canoe the locks with portages available at many of the individual locks.
- Explore via boat and tie up at many public docks at several locks and boat launches to explore the picturesque towns.
- Hike miles of public trails connecting the locks with area parks and downtowns.
- Tie up at area locks and access Appleton’s vibrant downtown with shops, restaurants, museums and more!
- Sample the charming ethnic heritage of regional towns: Dutch, Irish, German and French cultures come to life in local events and cuisine!
Most of the 17 locks were originally installed in the mid-1800s to transport Wisconsin goods to market via the waterway, and recent efforts have restored the operation of the locks opening large portions of the Fox River to full navigation. Visitors can enjoy the locks and watch the lock tenders open and close the locks or visit nearby trails, parks and picnic areas at most of the locks. Use this site as a guide for navigating the lock sytem by water or by land.
The system of locks covers 39 miles and drops in elevation 168 feet—a vertical drop equal in height to the total drop of Niagara Falls. Kaukauna features the steepest drop in elevation: a drop of 50.4 feet in just over one mile.