By Matt De Stasio
The abundant waterways of the Fox Cities offer hours of fun for locals and visitors alike — whether riding the wake or viewing safely from shore. Presented here, in no particular order, are our top picks for making the most of our rivers and lakes this summer.
A lack of sailing expertise needn’t limit who may enjoy this wonderful pastime. Organizations like the Neenah Yacht Club hold community events to help nautical neophytes experience the joys of sailing. Join them June 15 at Neenah’s Riverside Park from 10am–2pm for their Sail Expo and cruise with experienced sailors.
For those yearning to ‘yak but new to the sport, the North East Wisconsin Paddlers (NEWP) offer local classes for paddlers of all experience levels. For those just looking to get on the river, the Fox Valley Yakkers organize online informal meet-ups for enthusiasts of all levels.
Water Ski Show
While you may not be in the water, watching the Webfooters perform twice a week in Fremont is a novel way to enjoy the water this summer. If watching the performance gets your adrenaline going, the Webfooters’ “teach-a-kid-to-ski” class will help you get your feet wet.
Take a dip outside the community pool this summer on a real sand beach. Explore Sunset Beach in Kimberly in a lifeguard-supervised oasis. For the more daring, the unsupervised sandy beaches of Lake Winnebago located in High Cliff State Park make for a great day in the sun.
With the purchase of a Wisconsin Fishing License, enjoy hours of this great sport at your local public park along the river. High Cliff State Park offers fishing spots both on Lake Winnebago and Butterfly Pond with free equipment rentals from the park office.
Follow the winding banks of the Fox River on public hiking trails like Appleton’s Newberry Trail or Green Bay’s Fox River Trail. For a more educational experience, explore the paths of 1000 Islands Environmental Center in Kaukauna which boast signage and protected wildlife habitats.
The Fox River offers the unique experience of viewing operational commercial locks. Having been refurbished in recent years, Kaukauna, Appleton and Menasha are all home to historic locks, free to view and fun to explore. Watch the lock tender work Menasha’s hand crank lock at 2 Broad Street any day of the week.
Pontoon Boat Rentals
To enjoy a leisurely day on the lake, a pontoon boat offers a floating island of relaxation. The Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway offers guided river tours by pontoon boat, or to drift more freely, consider renting your own from Party Doll Fleet in Fremont.
If you crave excitement and are willing to make the drive, Wind Power in Fond du Lac offers windsurfing lessons for beginners and children on Lake Winnebago. Take their weekly group or private lessons to discover the rush of freedom offered by open lake windsurfing.
During high water when the dams are opened, powerful white waters form. For those boat enthusiasts, this stunning display of nature’s might is best viewed from shore. But there are always plenty of parks (Kaukauna’s Central Park) or even restaurants (Fratellos Waterfront Restaurant in Appleton) ideally located to offer a terrific view.
Bonus Idea: Canoeing
As a great way for a family to enjoy the scenic waterways, canoe through 1000 Islands Environmental Center’s wooded preserve. For group trips, consider the Fox-Wisconsin Heritage Parkway’s September Locks Paddle, launching from Appleton’s Lutz Park, or the annual Park-to-Park paddle in July from Neenah to Appleton.