KAUKAUNA, Wis. (WFRV) – The Fox River Navigational System will soon be opening parts of the lock system for the season.
The locks system, comprising of 17 locks, allows boaters to traverse the Fox River from the Bay of Green Bay all the way upstream to Menasha. While people can travel on the water year-round, the locks are the only way to pass through the river’s channels.
Lock tender coordinator Bill VanEvenhoven says, “The actual system is the first public works project in the state of Wisconsin, predating the state itself. There was no I-41, electricity, or cars of course, so this was the way to get inland.”
The system is the only fully restored, manually operated lock system in the country, dating back to the 1840s.
The Menasha lock, which provides access to Lake Winnebago, has been closed since 2015 in an effort to prevent an invasive species of fish, the round goby, from entering the Lake Winnebago system.
Fox River Navigational System Executive Director Phil Ramlet says, “There’s concern that when an invasive species comes in that it harms mother nature in the system, and they just don’t want to do that.”
The Fox River Navigational Authority wants the state to build an electric barrier at the Menasha lock at a cost of about $8 million. Officials also said they hope to be able to source state and federal dollars to build the barrier.
By doing that, they could open up the lock to allow boats to get through at that point.
The Fox River Locks system reopens in parts for the navigation season on Saturday, May 20th, and ends Labor Day.