KIMBERLY, Wis. (WFRV) — The Northeast Wisconsin Paddlers’ final public paddle event of the summer traditionally began at Lutz Park in Appleton and ended at Kimberly’s Sunset Park, taking participants through four locks along the way.
“This would be year number seven or so,” Jeff Mazanec, President of the Northeast Wisconsin Paddlers said.
Due to high water levels along the Fox River, the tradition will look a little different this year.
“The flow is high, and it’s higher than we think is safe to go past the dams,” Mazanec said.
Chad Shaw, Chief of Fox River Operations with the US Army Corps of Engineers told Local 5 the high flow began with heavy rainfall over the past three months.
“All that rain has pushed the level of Lake Winnebago up,” Shaw said.
To reduce flooding conditions in the Lake, the Corps opened gates at the Neenah and Menasha Dams, and action Shaw said has increased the river’s flow by “about double in the last 13, 14 days.”
The increased flow is expected to cause some shoreline erosion and localized flooding and create more dangerous conditions near the system’s dams.
“Just use caution when you are approaching any one of the dams,” Shaw advised, “so that you’re not caught off guard and drawn into the hydraulic zone, where you’ll get sucked into the dam.”
Shaw told Local 5 he believes current conditions on the river will persist for a while.
“It doesn’t look promising that we’ll be into a dry period,” he said, “so I’m anticipating this flow event to last for several weeks.”
Mazanec said those conditions came into play when the Paddlers planned their final paddle of the season.
“As the water gets higher and the flow gets stronger, there’s just a little bit more danger in people getting swept into trees or branches or, again, near the dams or other structures on the river,” he said of the risks.
To adjust to the more dangerous conditions, the Paddlers changed the route: they will meet at Sunset Park in Kimberly at 9:30 Saturday morning, paddle upstream for a while, and then turn back.
“The river’s still going to be beautiful,” Mazanec said. “The colors are turning and it’s a beautiful spot on the river.”
To learn more about the Northeast Wisconsin Paddlers’ event that they’re calling the “Appleton (not) Locks Paddle,” click here.