Nine Things You Might Not Have Known About The Soo Locks

Engineer’s Weekend in Sault Ste. Marie is the last Friday in June. There’s something for everyone, historic open houses, spectacular vistas and the opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at the great Soo Locks

Check out these nine interesting facts about the Soo Locks to inspire your visit from Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

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

Photo courtesy of 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. Marys 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 a motor and 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, in at 1013 feet 6 inches 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. Marys 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! Can’t make it that one day of the year? You can visit the Soo Locks Park anytime between late March and Mid-January to see the freighters go through the locks.

Engineer’s Day is always the last Friday in June, which falls on the 30th in 2017. See what Engineer’s Weekend is all about in the video below.

 

Have you been to the Soo Locks? Tell us about your experience!

Lake Advice from Our Fans: What to Do in the Upper Peninsula

Our Facebook fans have been giving us great advice on their favorite things to do all around Pure Michigan. Next on our list is the Upper Peninsula, home to iconic Pictured Rocks and Tahquamenon Falls. Here is a round-up of what to do and see in the U.P.

Find your lake this summer by visiting michigan.org/lakeeffect

One of my favorite places is High Rock Point–the very tip of the Keweenaw. The road to High Rock is “unimproved” which means it’s bad in the best ways possible: rocky, bumpy, rutted and muddy. It’s an adventure just to get there, and when you do, you’ll find that you are totally alone. The sights and sounds are Pure Michigan. – Marilynn Neher Bachorik

Try to catch a Northern Lights show over Lake Superior or just view the night sky on a clear night to see more stars than you’ve ever seen before. – Ray Baker

Photo Courtesy of Kevin Schneller

Northern Lights, Photo Courtesy of Kevin Schneller

Being able to catch the Northern Lights on top of Brockway Mountain right after watching the fireworks at Copper Harbor. – GR2 Photography

Wakefield is a small town (pop.~ 1850) where M28 meets US2. Wakefield is known for its friendly people and their hospitality is without question beyond extraordinary. Please visit Wakefield and see for yourself why you will be forever drawn back. – Joseph Yon

I love the beauty, the nature, the peacefulness I feel in the woods. It’s impossible to pick a favorite spot. I love the rocky beach at Whitefish Point. Next month I plan to see all the falls in the Munising area. – Shelley Lewis

Whitefish Point, Photo Courtesy of Karrie Altland

Whitefish Point, Photo Courtesy of Karrie Altland

Dog sledding at Nature’s Kennel! – Theresa Krol

The agate beaches, Curly Lewis Drive, the lighthouses, Grand Island’s Trout Bay, 12 Mile Beach, Salt Point Beach… Lots more to love! – Holly Kulhawick

Two-Hearted river. – Kelli Logan

Boating along Pictured Rocks on a hot sunny day! Stunning! – Dianne Tribfelner

The shores of Marquette. – Steph Larson Wentela

Lake in the Clouds where only one word describes it – spectacular! – Leslie Dittman Coon

Miners Falls, Photo Courtesy of Tammi Capron

Miners Falls, Photo Courtesy of Tammi Capron

The beautiful waterfalls of the U.P. (Miners Falls in Munising) – Jesse Barcega

I love to watch the boats come through the Soo Locks. – Andrea Selewski

My personal favorite is “the cove” at Presque Isle in Marquette. – Hills Anne

Anything missing? Let us know what you love to do in the Upper Peninsula by commenting below!

5 Things You Can’t Miss On a Pictured Rocks Road Trip

The untouched natural beauty of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is unlike anywhere else in the world, especially near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. This stretch of coast from Munising to Paradise is worth a visit for some of the most unbelievably beautiful adventures in the state. This is a great place for a family summer vacation, with a cool to moderate climate and unlimited things to discover. Come along as Jennifer from The Awesome Mitten shares five things that make this gorgeous area Pure Michigan.

The Upper Peninsula seems like it was made for adventures with incredible experiences available in both the summer and winter months. It’s easy to fall in love with the beauty of this area. With eighty four percent of the Upper Peninsula covered by forests and 917 miles of shoreline along the deepest of the Great Lakes – Lake Superior – this is the perfect place to get away from it all and have an unforgettable vacation. Don’t miss these unique experiences during your next trip to the Upper Peninsula.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

1. The Food

Brown Fisheries Fish House

With fresh fish caught within hours of hitting your plate, Brown Fisheries Fish House boasts the tastiest fish near Paradise. Served with either two or three pieces of fish, their ultimate meal is the Lake Superior Whitefish Baskets. It is the most delicious, flaky, perfectly flavorful fish you could imagine and all for an affordable price. This family owned and run business is very low key, so we’re letting you in on the secret of this amazing hidden gem.

Bear Trap Inn

When in the Upper Peninsula you must get a pasty, and you better know how to pronounce it! If you’re looking for a pasty near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, look no further than Bear Trap Inn. Served by some of the friendliest folks, their food is hot, tasty and filling. The unique interior is unforgettable as well, with rooms filled with taxidermy animals exclusive to the area and a bar with hundreds of numbered mugs for all of the locals.

2. Lighthouses on Every Route

Whitefish Point Lighthouse

Jutting out into Lakes Superior, Whitefish Point Lighthouse is the oldest operating light on this Great Lake. All vessels entering and leaving this treacherous shoreline of Lake Superior must pass this light. This light looks out to the “Graveyard of the Great Lakes” where more shipwrecks have occurred than any other area of the lake so it’s full of remarkable and mysterious history.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

Au Sable Light Station

This active lighthouse along Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is in the middle of astonishingly beautiful shoreline. Just west of Grand Marais, it is right around the corner from Log Slide lookout and in the opposite direction Twelve Mile Beach. The 1-1/2 mile walk along the historic U.S. coast guard road is worth the trek. With scenic overlooks of Lake Superior and areas that lead out onto Twelve Mile Beach, the beauty only increases the closer you get to Au Sable Light Station. With over 180 degree views, this landmark is a place not to be forgotten.

3. Small Town Adventures

Munising

The name Munising comes from the Ojibwe word for “island at.” This is the gateway to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore since it is the largest and closest city to the area. This city boasts small town charm and great local businesses that are exclusive to the city. You can even see the stars from this city, whether it’s on billboards advertising Kid Rock’s “Born Free” music video that was filmed in the area of the Northern Lights.

Log Slide Lookout

Located about seven miles west of Grand Marais is Log Slide lookout. This incredible place is breathtaking, with views of where loggers used to slide logs down this steep slope and into Lake Superior, where they were then hauled away and turned into products. This is also a good place to glimpse the Au Sable Light Station.

Oswald’s Bear Ranch

With 29 bears, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is the largest Bear Ranch in the entire United States. Just north of Newberry, one man, Dean Oswald, created this preserve for abandoned and orphaned bear cubs from Michigan and other states. This unique experience allows you to see these incredible animals up close and personal while giving a loving home to these bears who weren’t able to live a healthy and normal life until they came to Oswald’s. As a proud associate member of the Zoological Association of America, Oswald’s Bear Ranch is an exciting place for visitors to take part in giving these bears a sanctuary for a better life.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

4. Waterfalls All Around

Munising Falls

The majority of waterfalls in this area are the result of water running over a shelf or cliffs of hard limey sandstone called the Munising Formation. This formation extends from Tahquamenon Falls to Laughing Whitefish Falls. There are quite literally waterfalls all around you when you enter this area, especially near Munising which even has its own waterfall named after the city.  Located within the city limits of Munising, a short paved trail leads you up the cool sandstone canyon along Munising Creek to two viewing platforms at the base of the falls.

Miners Falls

Just a short hike off of Miners Castle Road is the impressively powerful Miners Falls. The gravel path is a beautiful stroll through the northwoods wilderness that ends with two incredible overlooks of the falls. Make sure to bring bug spray, because you won’t want to miss this astounding waterfall.

Tahquamenon Falls

Well known for its sheer size, the Tahquamenon Falls State Park is one of the most popular attractions in the Upper Peninsula. With 46,179 acres, it is the second largest state park in Michigan. Tahquamenon Falls’ Upper Falls has a magnificent 50 foot drop, while the Lower Falls include cascades and rapids. Bordering along Lake Superior, the majority of this state park is located in Whitefish Township.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

5. Not Your Average Tour of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Stretching for about 15 miles along Lake Superior, these incredibly bold and colorful cliffs range from 50 to 200 feet and jut out directly from the lake. There are numerous ways to see these beautiful cliffs including Miners Castle which provides a wonderful vista of Pictured Rocks. However, the best way to experience these cliffs is by water. There’s a variety of different tours to choose from, but the only vessel that will allow you to get within arm’s reach from these massive cliffs is by kayak.

One of the most popular companies is Uncle Ducky’s Paddling Michigan tours. They feature a variety of unique experiences, but the most incredible Pictured Rocks tour is probably their six hour Sunset Paddle. With the sun at a lower angle, the cliff walls are illuminated in beautiful hues of orange and reddish copper. Gliding along the crystal clear waters and feeling the waves crash into the astonishing cliffs that rise up to 200 feet above you is a humbling experience that is breathtaking and mind boggling full of natural beauty. The journey features many landmarks including Miners Castle, Bridalveil Falls, Caves of the Bloody Chiefs, Mosquito river, and circling beneath the iconic Lovers Leap Arch. Whether you’re a novice or expert kayaker this adventure is built for every skillset.

Photo Courtesy of Jennifer Polasek

The beauty of this region is almost indescribable; you just have to go live the adventure for yourself. These were the most unforgettable places I experienced along my last road trip in the Upper Peninsula that I’d recommend over and over again. It’s incredible to live in such a diverse state that offers unlimited adventures. And Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is unlike any other part of Michigan because of the unique experiences that await around every curve.

What’s your favorite landmark near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore?

AM1Jennifer Polasek is currently a student at Grand Valley State University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing. Jennifer splits her time working as a public relation and marketing intern for The Awesome Mitten and Opera Grand Rapids. She’s an avid adventurer and loves exploring the hidden gems within Michigan! She currently resides in Grand Rapids, but loves escaping to Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula during the summertime. She loves promoting Michigan because of its endless adventures and diversity. Follow her Mitten adventures on Twitter and Instagram