Located upriver from De Pere, the Little Kaukauna Lock is the sixteenth Lock in the historic seventeen Lower Fox River lock system. Constructed between 1848 and the late 1870s, this system connected the Great Lakes with ports on the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.
For more than a century and a half, the Fox-Wisconsin river system was the only direct waterway from Lake Michigan to western Wisconsin and the Mississippi River. Beginning in the 1820s and 30s, the Wisconsin territory began making plans to significantly improve transportation systems throughout the region, with the construction of a lock-and-dam system and military road network.
The Little Kaukauna Lock recalls the importance of both land and water transportation systems in the early 19th century. Running south of the lock, visitors will notice a road named “Old Military Road.” This modern automobile route was once part of a 280-mile trail which connected all three military forts along the corridor, at Green Bay, Portage and Prairie du Chien. At the peak of its use, from 1830 to 1860, the Military Road acted as a supplementary transportation route through the state, helping to protect the crucial waterway and lock system from foreign interests.
The Little Kaukauna Lock has operated continuously since the 1850’s. A major upgrade was completed in the 1930’s where steel gates were added. An unoccupied 1.5 story Dutch Colonial Revival National Historic Register lock keeper house is located at the site. In 2004, the Fox River Navigational System Authority (FRNSA) was established by the State of Wisconsin to revive the system. The locks were renovated and reopened in 2006.
The lock site is located in rural area. Parking, boat launch, and portage locations available near the lock site. Contact FRNSA, for maps and more information.
National Register of Historic Places:
Part of the Little Kaukauna Lock and Dam Historic District: NR #93001332