KAUKAUNA, Wis. – Kaukauna's Fox Locks are opening to the public 35 years after being closed due to disrepair.

Jeremy Cords is CEO of the Fox River Navigational System Authority. They oversea the locks system. He says the Kaukauna Locks were first opened in the early 1850s. They served as the region’s critical means of transporting goods along the Fox River from the Bay of Green Bay to Lake Winnebago and beyond.

Cords says as railroads reached the American Midwest and became the dominant way people shipped goods, the locks system was no longer in demand. It was eventually transitioned into a recreational navigational system, that is until the 1980s. That’s when the neglected and soon to be permanently closed locks were closed to public use.

Since then, Cords says an effort spearheaded by people in the region who wanted to save the locks through restoration convinced the federal government to take the money already set aside for forever closing the locks and instead use the funds to restore them.

That restoration effort took years, and on Saturday, July 17, the locks will open to boaters.

“There’s so much to be told here and we’re so happy to be a part of it,” Cords said. “We’re proud of the history that we’ve got here in the state and uncover this jewel.”

There are plans to build a recreational path along the length of the Kaukauna Locks system. Cords said the locks system should connect communities along the Fox River better than ever.