Fox River (Wisconsin)

Course of the Fox River

The Fox River is a river in central and eastern Wisconsin in the United States.

It flows from south to north through numerous cities like Neenah, Menasha, Appleton, Little Chute, Combined Locks, Kimberly and Kaukauna. Geographically, one divides the river into an upper portion, which extends from central Wisconsin to the Lake Winnebago and a lower part which connects the Lake Winnebago to Green Bay ( Lake Michigan ). Together, the two parts have a length of 322 km (200 miles ).


After the glaciers that once held large parts of the state of Wisconsin covered, had regressed, was the Fox River as an important natural resource for numerous tribes of Indians. Archaeologists believe that the first humans already 7000 BC lived in the greater region of the Fox River.

Prior to European settlement in the late 17th century, the banks of the Fox River offered according to estimates, about half of the approximately 25,000 Indians who inhabited the land of the present-day state of Wisconsin, a home.

The first Europeans

The first Europeans reached the Fox River in 1634, when the French explored the area under the leadership of Jean Nicolet. 1673 came Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet using canoes up to Portage. The present city of Portage owes its name to the English word ( carry water or undocumented means of transportation in order to avoid obstacles in the water section can ). By land they came from the Fox River to the Wisconsin River and continued their journey on water continued and eventually paddled toward the Mississippi River. It managed to establish an important waterway between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. The waterway was known as the Fox - Wisconsin Waterway and was an important and frequently used route for fur traders during the French colonization of the Americas.

Industrial Revolution

Also in the 1850s the Fox Wisconsin Waterway lost not important. The Fox and Wisconsin Improvement Company built dams to connect the Fox River and the Wisconsin River at Portage each other. The company hoped to Green Bay as a port and as a competitor to Chicago to establish. The ambitious goal was never achieved what was certainly largely due to the low depth of the upper part of the Fox River. Larger ships could not use the passage. Instead of the planned development as the transfer of goods, the area on the lower part of the Fox River became the industrial center of the entire region.

During the 19th century, when Wisconsin was the leading producer of wheat, originated on the banks of the Fox River numerous by the force of flowing water powered ( flour ) mills. In the 1860s, Wisconsin's wheat production has decreased significantly, the (Wheat ) mills were quickly converted into paper mills. Numerous well-known paper producers, including Kimberly- Clark, Northern Paper Mills ( Quilted Northern) and the Hoberg Paper Company ( Charmin ) settled in the area.

Today there are 24 paper mills along the Fox River, which produce annually more than five million tonnes of paper and employ approximately 50,000 people.


The high concentration of paper mills and other industrial plants along the banks of the lower Fox Rivers led to a relatively strong pollution of the river. Numerous organizations such as Fox River Watch or the Fox River / Green Bay Clean Up Project have repeatedly accepted this problem.

Public debates on this subject began in 1923. Until the decision of the Federal Clean Water Act in 1972, but little or nothing was done. Since then we sat but keen to clean up the Fox River again. Despite all efforts, the problem still and the river is perceived especially by a majority of the population in the area as heavily soiled.

According to some measurements (oxygen, counts of certain species of worms ) is the lower part of the Fox River, has become much cleaner, contrary to this subjective perception of the population, at least in comparison with the years before 1972. Other measurements (phosphorus and estrogen content) as well as traces of pharmaceutical agents confirm the perception of the local population and show an increase in pollution since 1972.