Locks FAQs

How is the FRNSA Funded?

The Authority is funded by a combination of match funds from federal, state, and local fundraising dollars. When the authority was established, an agreement was reached in which the federal government gave funds that were earmarked to close the locks to the FRNSA on the condition the local citizens could raise additional funds. The state matched the locally donated funds.To operate the locks, the authority uses the interest on investments, lock user fees, rental income and state funding.

Why will the lock at Rapide Croche remain closed?

In accordance with state statutes, the Authority will continue to maintain a sea lamprey barrier at the Rapide Croche lock. The lock is a barrier to prevent invasive species from the Great Lakes invading the Fox River and Lake Winnebago ecosystems. Board members of the FRNSA value sport fishing on the waterway and maintain an aquatic invasive species management plan.

How a lock works

The 17 locks of the Lower Fox River have many similar features, and work on the same principle. The most surprising feature to most visitors is that each of the actions described in the graphic (right) are performed by manual labor. No electric motors, no pumps, no automatic valves. Nearly 500,000 gallons of water moved in/out during each “lockage” thanks to some clever engineering that took place over 150 years ago. And due to  the effort of the lock tenders.

Proper operation of the lock relies on the the large upper and lower gates sealing correctly when closed which holds back many tons of water. Look closely at how each pair of gates comes together, or “miters” right in the middle. This important design feature forces the two gates to seal tightly as the water level difference increases from one side of the door compared to the other.

The bad news is the lock tenders won’t even try to open the big gates and let the boats out until the water level on opposing sides has evened out. Even with a single inch of water level differential, the gates can’t be muscled open. So it can be a bit of a waiting game. Lock tenders often joke with the boaters that traveling through the locks is not the route to take if you’re in a hurry but it is the route to take if you want a one-of-a-kind experience with living history.