Launch: Lutz Park, Appleton
Takeout: Sunset Point ParkDistance: 6.4 miles
The first really good forecast of the series of 12 day trips on the Fox River helps to draw 116 participants last Sunday for the paddle from Lutz Park in Appleton to Kimberly’s Sunset Point Park, the site of the village’s centennial celebration.
Sun and upper 70s accompany the paddlers on the trip through the living history of the four hand-operated Appleton locks, now restored to their 19th century glory.
As a bonus, we get a demonstration of another historic bit of technology.
The residual of the high water levels that caused the delay of this and two other segments of the journey reduced the clearance under the railroad bridge downstream of Lawe Street enough to prevent the 28-foot voyageur canoe from passing under.
The center-pivot bridge is designed to swing out of the way of boat traffic, and would have, if not for the whistle of the approaching train. So we sit waiting, part of the group having already slipped under, heads pressed to decks, and others still waiting.
When the engineer passes the rare sight of a river full of boats, paddlers wave and he waves back. The bridge swings open and on we go.
There is some drama as we approach lock four. A kayaker drifts too close to the water inlet to the hydroelectric generator there. The current sweeps him in and knocks him from his boat. The grate over the inlet stops him from going any farther, but the force of the water pins him there.
The call of “man down” brings the Appleton Fire Department and Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department rescue boats and paddle organizers immediately. Three men pull him free. Uninjured and undeterred, he gets back into his kayak on the other side of the lock and finishes the trip.