The nationally designated Fabulous Fox! Water Trail straddles the border from southeast Wisconsin to northeast Illinois. The trail offers 158 miles of paddling through gorgeous Midwest towns and landscapes including prairies, forests, farms, and bluffs. There is River access at more than 70 public locations, many are in vibrant communities with restaurants, and historical and cultural amenities to enjoy. Plan your adventure today!
Designated in 2023
• View more details for this trail
in the NRT Database
• Learn about the NRT Program.
The Fabulous Fox! Water Trail (FF!WT) finds its beginnings at the headwaters of the Fox River in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. The Fox River flows for approximately 200 miles to the confluence with the Illinois River in Ottawa, Illinois. The national designation has been sought for 158 miles offering over 70 public access sites. The FF!WT is nationally significant because it is accessible to residents and tourists in the regions of two metropolitan cities, Milwaukee and Chicago, in two different states, to enjoy the diversity of landscapes from prairies, forests, and bluffs to villages and cities. The Trail also includes three state parks, one of which is located in Illinois' largest concentration of natural lakes. The FF!WT intersects with many land-based trail systems from the Fox River Trail in Wisconsin to the Fox River Trail in Illinois and numerous other trails that connect to the Fox River that offer a variety of recreational opportunities.
The FF!WT is an excellent conduit for the diverse population of the region to visit localities along the Fox River and connect with others while benefitting the local economies. Organizations, historical sites, and museums offer a variety of educational opportunities for all ages from learning how to paddle safely, and how to fish from a kayak to the rich history of the area including the imprint of the indigenous tribes, slaves seeking freedom, and European settlers. A number of architecturally significant buildings can also be viewed from a canoe or kayak as well as outdoor art exhibits.
Celebrations, festivals, and stewardship activities occur year-round, hosted by communities and organizations. "Our River Day" every September, includes dozens of activities in Wisconsin and Illinois hosted by many groups that offer everything from cleanups to yoga classes.
Access sites along the Fox River vary from dirt or gravel carry-ins to accessible launches with portages around 15 dams. The website, maps, brochure, and signage offer detailed information about safely paddling the Fox River. The FF!WT is coordinating with landowners to improve access and add amenities such as canoe/kayak lockers for frequent paddlers or those who would like to stop and grab lunch or an ice cream cone or visit a festival or cultural site. In order to be cost-effective, the FF!WT shares information with landowners about funding opportunities, innovative improvements, and contractors who have provided quality services.
Over the past several years organizations, have educated over 7,000 young people about the environmental value of the Fox River and safety when on the River. The FF!WT is partnering with local government and non-profits to apply for funding to connect at-risk youth with mentoring to teach life skills and for a tourism grant to boost the local economy. The Team is also working to provide accessible trips on the Fox River to individuals with disabilities and those living in urban areas.
Organizations along the Fox River have partnered and collaborated with each other on a wide variety of issues. None can compare with the Fox River Summit, an annual gathering of organizations, municipalities, citizens, and stakeholders building partnerships and developing an open dialog about issues important to the management of the Fox River Watershed. It's where the idea for the Fabulous Fox! Water Trail was born! After learning about the National Water Trail System, several stakeholders from both Wisconsin and Illinois teamed up to develop the FF!WT under the guidance of technical assistance from the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. The support for the FF!WT grows daily. As we go forward, each of the landowners has the authority to maintain and improve their access sites following management plans approved by their governing boards. The FF!WT Team will coordinate with landowners, providing education about innovative ways to benefit from recreation on the Fox River, offering suggestions, and when possible, funding opportunities. The Team will keep our eye on developments along the River south of the designated portion for possible addition to the FF!WT in the future.