Sault Ste. Marie (locally known as “The Soo”) doesn’t have a fraction of the panache of Petoskey, but it does have a feature I find fascinating, the Soo Locks. At the Sault Ste. Marie Elks Lodge (click here to read our review and see photos of our great site), we are perfectly positioned to take advantage of the action.
This photo (courtesy of the internet) shows the St. Mary’s River, the waterway connecting Lake Huron (downriver, towards the top of the photo) to Lake Superior (upriver, towards the bottom of the photo). The river marks the boundary between the U.S. (on the right) and Canada (on the left). Midway in this photo is the International Bridge from one country to the other.
On the U.S. (right) side, above the International Bridge in this photo, you can see the four locks that allow boats and ships of all sizes – from the smallest ski boat to the 1013-foot-6-inch-long Paul R. Tregurtha, largest ship on the Great Lakes - to navigate the 21 foot elevation difference between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. It is a fascinating process (to me) and, guess what? It is FREE to the vessels using the locks.
As I mentioned in my prior blog, we knew that the Tall Ships sailing the Great Lakes this summer would need to pass through the Soo Locks on their way to Duluth, MN from Bay City, MI – and we hoped we’d be able to see them if we snagged one of the four sites at the Elks Lodge in Sault Ste. Marie. Our plan worked!
From our site at the Elks Lodge, a couple miles down river from downtown Soo and the Locks, we can watch all the action as ships move up and down the river, and some of the Tall Ships were among them (look closely at this photo and you will see one of the ships passing us by on the river). I’ve spent hours sitting in my lounge chair in front of Scoopy, watching the action.
Yesterday, we walked into town to visit the Locks and to eat lunch. There was a lot of action on the river and we watched the Tall Ship Europa go through Lock #2 while a 700 foot long freighter went through the adjacent lock. Tall, covered viewing platforms are provided for us tourists to watch the action.
Tall Ship Europa docked for viewing.
Another Tall Ship arrives, motoring upriver
Freighter enters the lock from the “low” side, then the lock is filled with water.
Raised 21 feet, the freighter leaves the lock heading upriver.
In the Visitor’s Center, we learned that the largest ship to travel the Great Lakes, the Paul R. Tregurtha, was awaiting entry to the locks. Just one of the four locks can accommodate this huge ship, and we felt lucky to have the chance to watch. But it was lunch time, and we were hungry! We could see the Tregurtha just downriver, but when a crane and barge entered the one lock large enough for the huge freighter, we knew we had a little time. We went across the street to a small cafe and were lucky enough to snag a window seat. Look what we saw from our window while eating:
The Kroonborg begins to exit Lock #1
Yes, the lock is right next to the road!
After lunch, we got back to the locks in time to watch the Tregurtha pass through, completely filling the lock from one end to the other. Quite a sight!
Glancing out our big front window towards Canada as I write this on a cool, foggy morning, boats pass by continuously: tour boats, freighters, tugs, barges, recreational fishing boats. Odel is on the golf course, I have a cup of tea by my side, music on the radio… what could be better? I know this stop will go into my memory banks as one of the highlights of this summer, and probably of our travels. Once again, I feel sooooooo lucky!