Fox Cities

2014 Destination Guide

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Page 26 of 35

A WATERWAY IN TRANSITION The Fox and Wisconsin Rivers are home to many rich stories, some already told, others yet to drift along. Through the years, these vital rivers have fed and clothed those who dwelled beside them, opened the country to European settlement, powered mighty factories and beckoned all around to delight in their beauty and bounty. They have provided so much while asking nothing in return. The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage waterway runs across the state of Wisconsin and connects the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River. Originally designed for steamboat traffic, this river system is home to a unique hand-operated lock system, working today as it did in the late 1800s. A majority of the locks in this 17 lock system are found in the Fox Valley. They were built to navigate around the rapids and large elevation drops that occur between Menasha and Kaukauna. The geography of the river is what makes for such effective hydro-power, and is why so many manufacturing companies are located along the banks of the Fox River. Today, the locks in Menasha, Kimberly and Appleton are open for all boat traffic, power boat to kayak, and are an experience that you will not find in many places. Reconstruction is currently underway on those in Kaukauna, and the Little Chute locks are waiting for a bridge rebuild to be operable. Next to many of the locks are lock tender houses, which have been empty for over 20 years. The Parkway is looking to restore four of the homes to their original glory with furnishings, trim and decor authentic to the time period. The first of these is found in Little Chute, at the end of Mill Street. The plan is to use the homes as vacation rentals during the summer months and select weekends throughout the year. During the school year, the homes will be open as an educational resource for school and visitor tours. Interpretive exhibits illustrating the stories of the river will be on display to help bring the stories to life. Interior demolition is set to happen this winter. The waterway has recently been awarded National Recreation Trail status as well. This means being promoted by the National Park Service as a trail worth paddling. There is much work to be done before this waterway is ready to accept visiting silent sports enthusiasts to recreate. Landing sites and additional portage points need to be constructed, as well as safety measures and mapping to be done. That work, plus adding additional landing sites to make it possible for people of all abilities to access this water trail, is the other main focus of the organization for the next 2 years. The landings will be equipped with hand rails and rollers that allow boaters to climb into a canoe or kayak and slide their watercraft in and out of the river without getting their feet wet. A few accessible landings already exist including one at Herb and Dolly Park in Neenah. The Parkway is working closely with area municipalities to choose the The Parkway is going to be ver y busy best sites for the accessible landings. The Parkway is over the next couple of years creating excited about re-opening public access to our waterways ways and places to better enj oy this and will continue to do so in the future. great river and its history. Ple ase stay tuned for progress and keep up to date by visiting them at 2014 FOX CITIES DESTINATION GUIDE 26

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