(WFRV) – One of the nation’s most unique transportation experiences is located right in northeast Wisconsin and has opened for the summer on May 21.

The Fox River Locks were first built in 1850. Since being repaired in 2015, they are the only fully restored and hand-operated locks in operation throughout the entire United States.

The 17-lock system is located throughout the upper fox river, with locks in De Pere, Kaukauna, Little Chute, Appleton, and Menasha.

In 2020 the Fox Locks system had just over 21,000 passengers go through the locks, that number has increased each of the past three years. With 16 of the 17 locks fully open, Menasha’s location remains closed to prevent the spread of the invasive round goby fish, it is likely that they will see an increase in passengers yet again.

With kayak and canoe portages available, and $10 day passes, a day on the water can be spent soaking in both nature and a piece of history. If you plan to participate either on the locks or on any body of water over the summer, remember to stay safe and wear a life jacket.

Day passes, as well as season passes, are only available to be purchased online.

A lock system is used in order to help make a river more traversable in either direction or to allow a canal to cross land that is not level.

Elevation map of the Fox River Locks system

Each lock holds about 250,000 gallons of water and can take about 12-15 minutes to fill and open.

To watch a video about how the Fox River Locks work, click here.

Water safety tips, provided by the Wisconsin DNR:

  • Sign up for an online boater education course.
  • Always wear a properly fitted life jacket that has a snug fit and is fastened when you’re on or near the water.
  • Enjoy the waters sober and know your limits. Alcohol blurs a person’s judgement, reaction time, and abilities.
  • River shorelines and sandbars pose unseen dangers. Higher, fast-moving water can tax an individual’s boating, paddling, and swimming skills.
  • Keep an eye on the weather.
  • Always let someone know where you are going.
  • More safety tips can be found here.