More than 100 paddlers took to the Fox River at Sunset Park in Kimberly Saturday, July 23, traveling four and a half miles downriver to Kaukauna’s Riverside Park and down nearly 50 feet in elevation.
It was Northeast Wisconsin Paddlers’ first Heart of the Valley Locks Paddle. What had been the very popular Appleton Locks Paddle, which launched at Lutz Park and ended at Sunset Park, moved downstream after several years in which the paddle event had to be delayed or re-routed due to dangerously high flows at Appleton Lock #4. Much of the he Kimberly-to-Kaukauna route is in a protected canal.
The weather of the day was unrelenting sun, high humidity and temperatures in the upper 80s. While the locks can give you the change in elevation necessary to navigate the Fox, they offer little shade.
Jeremy Cords, operations manager of the Fox River Navigational System Authority, welcomed our group. He informed us we were about to pass through a portion of the nation’s only restored, hand-operated lock system. Seventeen locks make up the Fox Locks system.
Squirting sunscreen and slamming water bottles, paddlers in about 90 kayaks, a couple canoes and one stand-up board, did four lockages and 4.5 miles in about two and a quarter hours. It was one trip where the group really was only as fast as the slowest paddler, because everyone needed to be in the lock before the trip could proceed.
Given the heat, no one complained that the paddle was too short.