Locks Paddle finally goes with the flow
With good boats under us, friends at our sides and a solid wind at our backs, the 2021 Appleton Locks Paddle on Sept. 25 ended three years of disappointment, replacing them with a great day on the water.
The Appleton Locks Paddle – normally a leisurely 6-mile jaunt from Appleton’s Lutz Park to Kimberly’s Sunset Park including stops of about 15 minutes in each of the four Appleton locks – has been snakebit in recent years. Last year it was canceled by COVID, as they all were, and, in the prior two years, mid-summer rains drove up the flow in the Fox River to higher levels than you want drawing you from a lock entrance to a drop over a dam. Appleton Lock 4, in particular, has the potential to do that when the flow in the Fox River exceeds 6,000 cubic feet per second.
In those high-flow years, instead of learning history from the inside out by paddling through four of the 17 locks making up the only restored, hand-operated lock system in THE NATION, we had to ask paddlers to settle for an out-and-back from Sunset Park in Kimberly upstream to Appleton’s Telulah Park.
But not this year.
We did the research. We checked historical records to identify the weekend in the second half of summer most likely to give us flow well below the 6,000 CFS safety limit. That date, unequivocally proven by history, was Aug. 22. When that date rolled around, the river was running at near 9,000 CFS and the paddle had to be postponed.
But then came our conventional date, traditionally the same as Appleton’s Octoberfest, with the temperature in the mid-60s, flow below 4,000 and smiles everywhere, it was worth the wait. The trip included 45 boats, plus the Fire Department water safety boats from Appleton and Kimberly as our escorts, which we greatly appreciate.
It’s not the hundreds we’ve packed into the locks on past trips, but we are back flowing in the right direction.