Friday, July 23, 2010


Soo Locks 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.

Elks RV parking with tall ship on the river. 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.

Big freighter heading upriver. Next in line, and the Soo Locks tour boat

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.

Europa at dock Europa plus one

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.

Freighter low in the lock. Freighter leaving the locks.

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:

View from cafe 1 View from Cafe 2

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!


  1. We love to watch the boats go through the locks here on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers..But, the sight of the tall ships going through is awesome!! We camp at a place in Thomson IL, on the Mississippi and the barges go through lots..The name of the place is Lock and Dam 13..go figure!! Enjoyed the ships!!

  2. You definitely are very lucky. That looks like an amazing place and I'm going to put it down on my list of places to see! Great story and photos.

  3. Looks like you all hit the jackpot with this one. Great site, great place and great views. I love watching the ships!! Have fun!

    Mike & Gerri (happytrails)

  4. How awesome is that! I would be very happy just watching ships/boats pass by. When Rosy and I visited Shari in Seattle, we spent a whole day practically at the locks there, just watching. It would be a memory to save to see that huge freighter go through!

  5. That would be so neat to see! Thanks for posting this story and pics. I remember watching a TV story about the Paul R. Tregurtha on Discovery Channel not too long ago - it is sure a mighty big ship!!

  6. Love your blog, Laurie. And it is great to hear what you and Odel are doing. When we were camped by the entrance to the Panama Canal, watching the ships go under the Bridge of the Americas while drinking beer on the patio of the Panama City yacht club was very similar to what you are currently describing. But there were no tall ships! We send you BIG HUGS through cyberspace. Hugs, Mary & Elaine

  7. Once again, let us say, you guys are so lucky to be right on the water watching the ships come in. While we were there, we ate at Goetz’s Lockview Restaurant and it was a fabulous view and the food was great.

    Enjoy yourselves!

  8. Large ships are always fascinating to watch & living here on the shores of Lake Huron we see the big lake freighters far out sometimes & then quite often in the Goderich harbor taking on huge loads of salt. Our neighbor works on one of the big boats & is away months at a time. Looks like you have a perfect spot for boat watching. Your in a great area for Autumn leaves if you hang around long enough:))

  9. Before full-timing, we lived in the midwest (central Indiana) our entire lives. We have never traveled farther north than the Holland, MI area. After reading your past few posts, it looks like a circumnavigation of Lake Michigan is in our future - maybe next year. We might have skipped the Soo Locks had it not been for your post. Fascinating.

  10. The "Soo" is one of our favorite places. Glad you're enjoying it. Your posting brings back lots of good memories for us.

  11. For those who want to see the tall ships, they will be in Duluth, Minnesota, soon. I recommend the outside, upper deck at Grandma's Saloon & Deli as an excellent place to watch them enter Duluth Harbor under the lift bridge.

  12. The SOO is a great place to see Great Lakes and international ships. It is even better when camped along the river.

    Great Pics.

  13. I'm so jealous you saw the tall ships! We missed them in MI but suspected they might head for Chicago (I suppose that's why they did the locks)!