Portage Canal

This short (about 1-1/2 mile) canal connected the headwaters of the Fox River (which flows the the Great lakes and St. Lawrence River) with the Wisconsin (which flows into the Mississippi River); at normal levels, the Wisconsin is about 3 feet higher than the Fox. The canal was constructed in the 1850s, shortly after Wisconsin became a state, and was taken over by the US Army Corps of Engineers around the turn of the 20th century.

While there were great hopes for the potential of this link, trying to maintain a channel in the shifting sand bottom of the Wisconsin River proved impossible. In 1951, Congress de-funded the project, maintenance was halted and the canal was abandoned.


BNSF - Portage Canal Lift Bridge (Columbia County, Wisconsin)
Former vertical-lift bridge over navigation canal, now fixed
Open to traffic

Portage Lock (Columbia County, Wisconsin)
Built to replace original lock sometime in the 1930s. Abandoned in 1951
Abandoned lock on Portage Canal
Abandoned