Fox River

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The Fox River is a river in eastern Wisconsin. The Fox River is divided into two sections: The Upper Fox and The Lower Fox. The Upper Fox flows northeast from Portage and flows directly into Lake Winnebago. The Lower Fox continues from the north end of Lake Winnebago and continues through several Wisconsin cities to reach its final destination, Lake Michigan. There are several Wisconsin cities that identify as the Fox cities due to their location on the banks of the Fox. These cities include Kaukauna, Neenah, Menasha, Appleton, Little Chute, and Kimberly. The Fox Cities are located on the Upper Fox rather than the Lower. The Lower Fox is location of cities such as De Pere and Green Bay (located at the lake), as well as villages of Ashwaubenon and Alloez. Although located on the Fox, these cities do not identify as Fox Cities but rather cities that are in the Fox River Valley.

View of Fox River in Green Bay, Wisconsin
View of Fox River in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Source: [


The Upper Fox River begins as a small river near that of Pardeeville, Wisconsin. It continues to flow southwest towards Portage and comes very close to that of the Wisconsin River before turning north. The river than goes northeast until reaching Lake Butte des Morts. It is here that the Upper Fox is joined by the tributary Wolf River before entering Lake Winnebago at Oshkosh. The Upper Fox River Basin drains 2,090 square miles and includes all of Marquette County and also parts of Columbia, Fond du Lac, Waushara, Adams, and Winnebago Counties.

The land use along the Upper Fox River is mostly used for agricultural purposes and forestry. However, over 10% of land along the river is considered wetland. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service owns over 4,000 acres of wildlife refuge and waterfowl production areas along the Basin. Urban development along the river is considered more to the eastern end of the basin. These cities are Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, and Neenah and Menasha. [1]

The Lower Fox River begins at the north end of Lake Winnebago. The Lower Fox flows through Neenah, Menasha, Appleton, and later through Green Bay to reach its final destination, Lake Michigan. The Lower Fox River empties a drainage basin of 6,349 square miles. The basin flows from northeastern Winnebago County to the mouth of Fox River in Brown County. From Neenah/Menasha downstream to Kaukauna, the elevation of the river drops 15 feet. Also near Neenah, Menasha and De Pere are eight rapids that influenced settlement and navigation. The river has no tributaries, so the river discharge is almost constant. The Lower Fox is characterized as a large, non-wadeable, low transparency river that is interrupted by locks and dams. [2]


The Fox River is home to many different and unique kinds of species. The species range from plantation to animals. The Fox River near De Pere, Wisconsin is primary a popular fishing destination from walleye fishers during the months of March and April. This is due to the spawning grounds of the walleye. Every spring, trophy walleye migrate from Lake Michigan to the Fox River to begin to spawn in warmer waters. Walleyes in the Fox can usually average a range from 22 to 27 inches in length but it is not uncommon to catch fish larger than 28 inches. Walleye are not the only fish targeted by anglers. Sauger, muskellunge, white bass, channel catfish, whitefish, and sturgeon are other popular fish in the river. [3]

Despite fishing being a popular theme involving the Fox River, fish are not the only species that are found associated with the river. The Fox River National Wildlife Refuge helps protect and maintain other species that inhabit the Fox. The Fox is home to many different types of birds. Some including the sandhill crane, Canadian geese, eagles, many breeds of ducks, and even pelicans. Many of these birds eat the vegetation and fish that inhabit the Fox as well. [4]

Vegetation along the Fox include deciduous forests, sedge meadows, wet prairies, marsh wetlands, and host plants such as the butterfly milkweed. These producers help maintain the ecosystem of the Fox by feeding and protecting the wildlife that lives along the Fox. [5]


The paper industry became a very vital role in social, economic, and cultural aspects of the Fox Cities and Fox Valley. The paper industry started in 1848 and continues to have a major impact with cities along the Fox. There are currently 24 paper and pulp mills along the Fox. These mills produce million of tons of paper product every year and employ a large population of people. [6] The first paper mill was actually in Milwaukee but the first paper mill in the Fox Valley was opened in Appleton. Noted in 1860, that Wisconsin was the leader in producing paper in the Midwest, and by the 1870s Wisconsin was the first state to recycle paper.

John Kimberly and Charles Clark opened their paper mill along the Fox River in Kimberly, Wisconsin in 1889. [7] By the end of the 19th century the paper industry was booming. Soon paper mills started up all along the Fox River, and Wisconsin became number one in lumber production. However, with more industries along the river, pollution started to become a growing problem that affect the river's ecosystem. Runoff and chemicals from the factories started getting into the river and contaminated it. In 1971, PCBs were banned for the use of paper mills so the mills discontinued them. This allowed safer mill practices and safer and less damaging effects to the ecosystem. But the Fox River didn't recover immediately. It took decades and present help from individuals to rid the river of PCBs from the paper mills. [8]


The Fox River made many industries prosper and make a name for themselves, but the industries caused the river's ecosystem a consequence in return. In 1954, the Fox River Valley mills began producing carbonless copy paper coated with a PCB emulsion. PCB stands for produced by chlorination of biphenyl. PCBs were released in the environment due to the manufacturing of this specific paper. It is estimated that about 30 million pounds of PCB entered the river between the years of 1954 and 1971. [9]

By the time factories stopped using PCBs in their product it was already to late for the health of the Fox. DNR estimated that over 98% of the PCBs within the Fox have been discharged and settled within the river sediments. Also, not only did the PCBs settle into the river sediments but as well as many fish and bird species in the Lower Fox River and Green Bay. [10] DNR also estimated that over 160,000 pounds of PCBs have escaped the Fox into Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Because of this it puts animals and humans at risk. People can no longer feel safe consuming fish caught in the Fox without the risk of symptoms from the PCBs. The city of Green Bay however have put notification signs near the river warning what fish to consume out of the Fox to insure safety to the consumers.

See Fox River Pollution for more information.

Clean Up

Since 1971, industries along the Fox River stopped using PCBs in their products. However, the PCB material polluted the river and made the river highly unsafe to animals and humans. Soon in the next decade people started to try to clean and rid the Fox of the hazardous PCBs. The Fox River Cleanup Project goal is to reduce risk to the environment and human health due to the PCBs in the river's sediment. The cleanup is a multi-year effort and is a very slow process. The cleanup requires methods such as dredging, capping and covering over 13 miles of the Lower Fox River. [11]

The dredging method requires removal of sediment from the riverbed. Once removed the sediment is dewatered and loaded up and travels to a landfill. Capping is adding cover above PCB sediment. This is done through the use of placing sand and gravel on the riverbed. [12]

Through cleaning up the Fox, safety remains the key focus of the project. The project goes through rigorous health and safety plans throughout the cleanup. This is to protect the workers, as well as boaters and anglers that use the river. There are facilities along the Fox that do dewatering and sediment processing of the river. Also there is a staging facility located in Ashwaubenon that supports the pipeline to the barge and manages capping and covering materials. [13]


  1. "Friends of the Fox,"Friends of the Fox, 2017,
  2. "Friends of the Fox." Friends of the Fox, 2017,
  3. "Fishing the Fox River," Wisconsin Fishing Guide Service, 2017,
  4. "U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service", Fox River National Wildlife Refuge, 2012,
  5. "U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service", Fox River National Wildlife Refuge, 2012,
  6. "Fox Cities Blog", Fox Cities Chamber of CommerceSite, 2017,
  7. "Fox Cities Blog", Fox Cities Chamber of CommerceSite, 2017,
  8. "Fox Cities Blog", Fox Cities Chamber of CommerceSite, 2017,
  9. "PCBs in the Fox River", Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Accessed 2017-05-03,
  10. "PCBs in the Fox River", Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Accessed 2017-05-03,
  11. "Diver Operation Part of 2017 Efforts", Fox River Cleanup Group, 2017,
  12. "Diver Operation Part of 2017 Efforts", Fox River Cleanup Group, 2017,
  13. "Diver Operation Part of 2017 Efforts", Fox River Cleanup Group, 2017,

Article History

Format: <nowiki> oglejj14 (2017-05-01)