Skip to main content

Upper Fox River Public Access

DNR Fisheries Areas

The Upper Fox River is a section of the historic Fox - Wisconsin Waterway. The Upper Fox River flows northwest from its headwaters to within 2 miles (3 km) of Portage. The river then curves and flows to the north - northeast about 110 river miles from Portage to Lake Winnebago. After flowing over the Neenah Dam the waterway changes names from the "Upper Fox River" to the "Lower Fox River." The Lower Fox River then runs approximately 39 river miles from the Neenah to Lake Michigan in Green Bay.

Upper Fox River Public Access properties comprise many small parcels in Columbia, Green Lake, Marquette and Winnebago Counties which were or are still locks and dams. State property in Columbia County includes a public access site along the Portage Canal. State property in Marquette County includes property along the Fox River off County Highway F in the Town of Moundville, the Andrew Krakow Public Access and Fishery Area and Montello Lock and Dam in Montello, along the river southeast of the dam in the Town of Montello and the Grand River Lock and Dam on the north side of Grand River Marsh Wildlife Area. In Green Lake County there are the Princeton Lock and Dam, White River Lock and Dam and the Berlin Lock and Dam. The state property in Winnebago County is the Eureka Lock and Dam.

History of the locks and dams

The Fox River was first used by European settlers in the late 1600s and was a primary route of travel and trade until the arrival of railroads in the region. Today DNR owns and manages the lands of several former stone lock and dam structures that were constructed in an effort to allow steamboat, tug and barge travel from Lake Butte des Morts to the Portage Canal which connected the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. The Upper Fox River contains lock & dam structures (some dams are now removed) at Governor's Bend, Montello, Grand River, Princeton, White River, Berlin and Eureka.

Most of the lock and dam structures were constructed in the late 1800s. The sites were selected so that a dam would raise the water in the river channel. This, in turn, would provide clearance for the large steamboats and barges that were expected to navigate the river. Each dam was roughly 180 feet long and was constructed of timber rock-filled cribs covered with wood planking and a concrete cap. The department has led projects to remove some of these dams or circumvent them with fish ladders (sometimes called fish-ways) to allow fish passage. Dams have been removed at the Grand River and the White River former lock locations. Fish ladders have been installed at Montello and at Eureka.

Although some dams have been removed, all the lock chambers still exist today. The lock chambers vary a little at each site, but all are constructed of massive sandstone blocks. Each lock chamber was originally lined with wood planking and often the chamber itself was about 35 - 45 feet wide and 100 feet or more long. Today most of the locks on the Upper Fox River are inoperable (Eureka has an operable lock system), but formerly each lock had two sets of gates which allowed the lock tender to raise or lower boats by flooding the chamber from above or releasing water below.

Most of the lock and dams were tended and operated for over 50 years until the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers realized that river navigation could not compete with the railroad. The railroad was far more economical for shipping goods and thus, most river travel became purely recreational. On August 1, 1962, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers transferred ownership and management responsibility of the nine locks and seven dams on the Upper Fox River to the state of Wisconsin Conservation Commission (now DNR).

Today all the Upper Fox River Public Access properties are primarily managed for recreational fishing and for providing free recreational boat access to the Upper Fox River. All of the Upper Fox River Public Access properties provide boating access (some above a dam, some below a dam and some provide both). These properties are used daily by fishing enthusiasts, wildlife watchers, canoeists/kayakers and other recreational boaters.


Various locations in Columbia, Green Lake, Marquette and Winnebago Counties.


Angling opportunities

boat launch and pier fishing.

Recreational Opportunities

  • Fishing
  • Trapping
  • Hiking (no designated trails)
  • Cross-country skiing (no designated trails)
  • Canoeing
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Bird watching
  • Berry picking

Note: On Upper Fox River Public Access properties there is walk-in access only; no motorized vehicles, no open fires (campfires), and no camping. These rules are intended to preserve the historic and scenic qualities of the river and area.


The Upper Fox River Public Access properties are managed to protect and enhance the natural resources associated with the Fox River, while providing river access, boat access and fishing opportunities.


For questions and comments contact:

Property Manager - Vacant
Fisheries Biologist - Vacant