A matching grant challenge from the David L. and Rita E. Nelson Family Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region means construction could start soon on portages at the Lower Fox River Locks.
The challenge now is to raise the $150,000 match for the Fox River Navigational System Authority (FRNSA) to build portages, estimated at $499,000. Operators of non-motorized craft — including canoes and kayaks — now must pay a fee and wait to lock through. A safe portage would allow paddlers to carry their boats and gear around the lock, even at times when the system is closed.
“We have seen steady growth in people exploring the Fox River through the locks on kayaks and canoes,” said Phil Ramlet, executive director of FRNSA. “Improving the portages is the best thing we can do to make the river accessible to a broad range of users and this grant will help us do that.”
Portages will be designed for safety and convenience of boaters at improved access points along the lock system. Another benefit of upgrading the portages is they will help to stabilize the shoreline along the locks.
“Most people are not aware of how the swift current of the Fox River erodes and destabilizes the shoreline along the lock system,” Ramlet said. “The grant will help us support our mission of repairing and maintaining the lock system for all boaters.”
The 17 locks on the lower Fox River are the nation’s only restored, hand-operated lock system.
To donate to the match, go to cffoxvalley.org/give-online and select Fox Locks Preservation Fund.