National Recreation Trails Database


Trail Description Continued

The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Water Trail (FWHWT), located on the Fox River and Lower Wisconsin River waterway, warrants national recognition as a National River Trail for its critical role in early discovery and settlement of the central United States and it's shaping of life in Wisconsin. The water trail route was selected for its significance as the exploration route of Fr. Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet.

National Recreation Trail status denotes an important contribution to the national story and ample reason for visitors from in and outside of the state to want to experience it. The designation as a National Water Trail bolsters community pride in the area's history and traditions, and in residents' interest in preserving and interpreting the landscape for future generations. It offers a collaborative approach to conservation without compromising traditional local control.

The water trail includes the Lower Fox, Upper Fox, and Lower Wisconsin rivers. It slices diagonally across the state for 280 miles from Green Bay in the northeast, through the City of Portage and on to the convergence of the Wisconsin with the Mississippi River in the southwest and takes in 15 counties and more than 40 municipalities. Approximately 250 miles of this route is considered suitable for water trail activities and paddling, although the entire route can be paddled if desired. Paddling conditions are generally easy and suitable for beginners with the exception of the Lower Fox, where extreme caution is advised near locks and dams. Paddlers traversing this part of the FWHWT should review water conditions before venturing out. The water trail includes two large lake crossings that can be paddled if desired but are generally avoided due to wind and wave conditions.. The two lakes are Lake Winnebago on the Lower Fox River and Lake Wisconsin on the Lower Wisconsin River.

Canoe/kayak landings, as well as portages have been built to support the water trail around many of the locks and dams. Signage has been installed with more trail signage and kiosks planned. Recently, a grant application was submitted in an effort to build a total of ten ADA accessible kayak landings. For the past 15 years, local paddling clubs have held public paddles and educational sessions along portions of the proposed water trail, and general interest is increasing. Other affiliated groups such as the organization Greenways are promoting biking and walking trails adjacent to the Water Trail.

It is hoped such efforts from supporters of this project and affiliated parties will lead to responsible and sustainable use that preserves and improves the water trail resource, as well as leads to overall economic vitality.


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This website provides access to the National Recreation Trail (NRT) database, a collection of information on the various trails which have been designated as NRT's. These trails are located throughout the United States and U.S. territories. The amount of information may vary from trail to trail. If you need more information than is available on this site, please use the contact(s) listed for that trail. (If no contacts, are listed, you may request help from American Trails at

The on-line database has details on the currently designated National Recreation Trails. The NRT Program online is hosted by American Trails: