Nine Things You Might Not Have Known About The Soo Locks

Engineer’s Weekend in Sault Ste. Marie is June 27 – 28, 2014. This last weekend in June has something for everyone, including boat races, spectacular vistas and the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the great Soo Locks.

Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor's Bureau

Photo courtesy of Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau

Check out these nine interesting facts about the Soo Locks to inspire your visit from Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. A man-made marvel and the busiest lock system in the world, by cargo tonnage, yes the Soo Locks! On average, between seven and ten thousand ships come through the locks during the shipping season each year.  Built in 1855, these locks connect Lake Superior to Lake Huron and beyond.  We have repeat visitors every season; they call themselves Boat Nerds, that watch ships from all over the world use this free lock system.  Now here are some facts about the locking system and the St. Mary’s River. $500.4 Billion value attributed to the iron ore shipped through the Soo Locks each year. An average of 80 million tons of cargo moves through them each year. 7,000 passages each year – Crews at the Soo Locks complete these lockages during the 42- week- long navigations season. They are open 24 hours a day.  Can you take your personal boat through the locks? Yes, as long as you have permission from the lockmaster. 2,342 miles- ships from all over the world visit this port as the locks are a part of the Saint Lawrence Seaway, which connects Duluth, Minnesota to the Atlantic! 22 Million gallons of water to lift a boat. The locks are powered by gravity itself!  Water moves in and out of the lock chambers by just opening and closing valves. 1000 foot boats- There are 13-1000 footers on the Great Lakes, and the largest boat that comes through the Soo Locks is the Paul R. Tregurtha, coming in at 1013 feet which is larger than three football fields! The first vessels on the great lakes were 40 foot-long canoes.

Mikel B Classen

Photo courtesy of Mikel B Classen via Sault Ste. Marie CVB

9 hours between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, it takes a freighter about nine hours to pass through the St. Mary’s River system 21 foot drop- A thick layer of bedrock holds back the waters of Lake Superior where it joins the St. Mary’s River. This drop prevented boats from passing through. This reddish sandstone lines most of Lake Superior southern shores and is about 1000 feet-thick.   The Fairbanks Scale Company, which is still in business today, built the first permanent lock, State Lock. 3-4 cents per ton- From 1855 to 1881, this was the toll, but today it is free. The propeller in Soo Locks Park is from a steamer named the Independence, which exploded just northwest of today’s locks.  One crewman is said to have survived a trip down the rapids on a hay bale from the ship. Now that you know more about the Soo Locks, come and visit us during Engineer’s Weekend, when you can go into the locks and get up close and personal with this engineering marvel!  Engineer’s Day is always the last Friday in June, which is June 27th this year. See what Engineer’s Weekend is all about in the video below.  Have you been to the Soo Locks? Tell us about your experience!

Six Spectacular Lake Superior Cruises

Michigan’s largest lake is often an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Today, featured blogger Jesse Land of  Things to do in the U.P. describes six unique ways to experience Lake Superior by boat.

Photo courtesy of Jonathon Smith

Photo courtesy of Jonathon Smith

Lake Superior is a magical body of water. There’s just something magnetic about the largest of our great lakes that draws people to it. And those who’ve visited Superior’s waters can (and often do) attest that it’s more than a lake. Somehow, no matter where you’re from, Lake Superior feels like home.

Of course, you can hike the hills that flank the lake, swim her beaches or ride bikes along her shore, but there’s nothing quite like actually getting out on the water. This month, filmmaker Aaron Peterson released a video, produced for The Marquette County Visitor’s Bureau, that beautifully showcases the lake.

Sailing on the Coaster II (featured in the above video) is a spectacular way to see Lake Superior, but there are other cruises available, too. Below I’ll list a few of the most popular ways to see “the big lake” by boat.

Marquette

Superior Odyssey
(906) 361-3668

As you can see in this video, Superior Odyssey’s historic Coaster II is definitely one of the most unique ways to see Lake Superior, and a great way to see a side of Marquette many never do (ie. from the water). From a two hour sightseeing trip to full day and even overnight trips, you’re sure to find something in their schedule that fits your schedule!

Marquette Harbor Cruise
(906) 225-9000

Glide along Marquette’s beaches, the Blackrocks rock formation and the cliff’s of Presque Isle Park on the Isle Royale Queen III. Snacks and beverages are available, and the sights are unbeatable. And just like a cruise with Superior Odyssey, you’ll have the opportunity to see the beautiful, but often missed view of Marquette from the water.

Munising

Pictured Rocks Cruises
(906) 387-2379

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Vedua

Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Vedua

Explore the stories in stone (as their website says) with a Pictured Rocks cruise. For most folks, the Pictured Rocks cruise is the best way for them to see these regionally famous rock formations. Hop on one of their cruise ships and in just a few hours you’ll see rock formations, beaches and waterfalls that would take days to explore on foot. And even if you have the time to hike, many sections of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore are best viewed from the water.

Riptide Ride
(906) 387-8888

Riptide Ride is the Munising area’s adventure cruise. Promising “360 degree spins and amazing speed” all while touring Pictured Rocks, this boat tour is perfect for those looking to spice things up a little. But bring your camera, there are plenty of pauses for sightseeing opportunities, too!

Houghton

The Ranger III
(800) 949-2026

If you ever plan to visit Isle Royale, the two ferry’s that travel from the Upper Peninsula to Lake Superior’s largest island are also a terrific way to see the expansive waters of Superior. Operating out of Houghton, the Ranger III is the largest piece of moving equipment owned by the National Park Service. It’s 165 feet long, 34 feet wide and can carry 128 passengers. (It can also carry private boats up to 20 feet long!) The “leisurely ride” to Rock Harbor takes about six hours.

Copper Harbor

The Isle Royale Queen IV
(800) 949-2026

The other Isle Royale ferry is the Isle Royale Queen IV. Departing from Copper Harbor, the Isle Roayle Queen IV will get you to Rock Harbor in about 3 hours and fifteen minutes. And while you’re there, make a night of it by staying at the Rock Harbor Lodge.

As you can see, you’ve got options when it comes to seeing Lake Superior up close and personal. Have you taken any of the boat cruises mentioned here?

Written by Jesse Land, publisher of Things to do in the U.P. on behalf of the Marquette County Visitor’s Bureau. Find more information about the Marquette area at TravelMarquetteMichigan.com.

Eight Cool Things to Do in the Eastern U.P. During the Summer

With hidden lakes, coursing waterfalls, fresh local fare and more, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is a traveler’s ultimate escape. Today, featured blogger Jesse Land from Things to Do in the U.P. tells us about eight cool things he did in the Eastern U.P. last summer to inspire your visit. 

Photo by Louis Peeples.

Photo by Louis Peeples.

Many people forget just how big the U.P. is. For example, even though I live in Iron Mountain (roughly in the middle of the Upper Peninsula), it still takes me over four hours to get to DeTour, in the far eastern U.P. If I lived in Ironwood, it’d be more like a six hour drive!

And so it is that the far ends of the U.P. often don’t get as much attention as they should. Well, I decided to at least scratch the surface in the eastern U.P. last summer and am so glad I did. Let me just point out that this is not a “best of” list by any means. One could easily spend a few weeks over in the Eastern U.P. and not take it all in. These are just a few highlights from last summer and hopefully by the time you’re done reading this you’ll want to venture over there to check it out for yourself!

1. Kayak through the Les Cheneaux Islands

One of the highlights from last summer was definitely kayaking through a few of the Les Cheneaux Islands with Woods and Water Ecotours. Our guide Carla was a very experienced kayaker and had moved from out west to the Les Cheaneaux area to attend their famed wooden boat building school. Carla took my wife and I and two other travelers out around a few of the thirty six islands, over some really cool rock formations and even over a shallow water shipwreck.

The short paddle was just long enough for me to realize I need to plan a whole week or more in the Les Cheneaux area with my kayak. What an amazing place.

2. Have lunch at Brown’s Fish House in Paradise

Brown's Fish House. Photo courtesy of Jesse Land - Things to Do in the U.P.

Brown’s Fish House. Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

Ah, Brown’s. It almost seems to good to be true. For some reason I’m afraid that one of these times I’m going to go into Brown’s Fisheries Fish House for lunch and not have an amazing meal. Luckily, that’s never happened and I doubt it ever will. Last summer I had their lake trout basket for the first time and I think I might have found a new favorite. If you like fresh fish, put Brown’s at the top of your U.P. itinerary. (32638 West M28 Paradise, MI)

3. Visit Tahquamenon Falls (and have dinner at the brewery)

What’s a trip to to the eastern U.P. without a stop at Tahquamenon Falls? I had the chance to not only see the falls, but have a great chat with Lark Ludlow, the co-owner and brewer at the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery.

Lark’s grandfather gifted much of the land that is now Tahquamenon Falls State Park to the state of Michigan so she told my friends and I about the history of the area, what used to be where the restaurant/brewery is now and how the brewery came to be. And we capped off the evening with an excellent dinner. Next time you visit Tahquamenon Falls, make sure to stop in the brewery! Even if you’re not a fan of craft beer, they’ve got great food.

4. Discover Malloney’s Irish Pub in Sault Sainte Marie

We’d planned to visit the locally famous Antlers for dinner in Sault Sainte Marie, but ended up walking into to Maloney’s Alley Irish Pub just to check it out and were very pleasantly surprised, so we stayed for dinner. Prior to that visit I hadn’t heard of Malloney’s, but they ended up having great food and a terrific Michigan craft beer selection! I’ll definitely be back. (227 W Portage Ave. Sault Sainte Marie, MI)

5. Have a picnic lunch at the Hessel marina

Hesel Marina - Photo courtesy of Jesse Land - Things to Do in the U.P.

Hessel Marina – Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

Sometimes it’s the simple things you remember the most. My wife and I packed a cooler for a picnic lunch on our first visit to the eastern U.P. last summer but didn’t have any specific location in mind. Well, we ended up finding the perfect spot as soon as we pulled into Hessel, in the form of the Hessel marina.

We had lunch on a picnic table while gazing at antique wooden boats, water, a beach and the many islands as a few “islanders” came and went in their boats. Whether you have lunch here or not, it’s a great spot for a photo op.

6. Tour Drummond Island on ATV

Another highlight was touring Drummond Island on ATV with Beaver’s ATV Rentals. We were told that Bill Beaver knows Drummond Island as good as anyone, and he sure seemed to. Bill led my wife and I on an excellent several hour tour of various Drummond Island highlights via the island’s designated ORV trails. And once again, it was enough to make us realize we need to block off at least a few days to explore Drummond Island further. We can’t wait to get back.

7. Visit Soo Brewing

While in the Soo we made it a point to stop into Soo Brewing and really enjoyed the place. It’s an open, unassuming space with plenty of board games on hand and lots of couch and table space where friends can relax for hours. And since it’s located right downtown, it’s easy to walk from the brewery to all the other bars, restaurants and things to do in the area.

8.  Visit the Crisp Point Lighthouse

Photo courtesy of Jesse Land - Things to Do in the U.P.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Land – Things to Do in the U.P.

The Crisp Point Lighthouse is one of those places I’ve always wanted to go but for one reason or another I just wasn’t able to make it work. Well, last summer I was determined to get out there and am definitely glad I did. It’s probably the U.P.’s most remote lighthouse (at least that I’ve been to) but wow, what a place. It has a wonderful history, is beautifully restored and the view from the top is amazing!

So, those are just eight of the cool things I did in the Eastern U.P. last summer. I can’t wait to get back there so I can add to this list for next year!

What are some of your favorite things to do in the Eastern U.P.?

JesseLand21111Jesse Land owns Land Family Media and publishes the Upper Peninsula Travel blog Things to do in the U.P.