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!

The Votes Are In, Upper Peninsula Crowned America’s Most Flannel City (Plus a Giveaway!)


The Upper Peninsula has been crowned America’s Most Flannel City in Duluth Trading Co.’s Flannel City Face-Off! Today, Duluth Trading shares some reasons why the U.P. took the title. Plus, see how you can win a $100 dollar gift card from Duluth Trading Co. below.

Congratulations, Yoopers! Flannel fanatics from around the country recently voted Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as America’s Most Flannel City in Duluth Trading’s Flannel City Face-Off. We know the U.P. isn’t a city, but how could we keep it off the list when residents dedicate a couple of weeks to Deer Camp to reconnect with old buddies and favorite flannels

The U.P. was a natural contender in our 16-city bracket, given all the recreational opportunities, hardworking citizens and rich lumberjack lore in the region. An outpouring of regional pride (or maybe it was all the pasties) fortified voters to win round after round when faced with opponents such as Detroit, Portland, Anchorage and Duluth. The final championship round was an epic Lake Superior brawl with voters overwhelmingly favoring the U.P. over Duluth with 13,200 votes to 4,214.

flannel_Logo_pocket_FINAL-650Throughout the Flannel City Face-Off Yoopers were quick to boast that flannel is worn year ‘round and appropriate attire for any occasion, including weddings. Fan Joseph W. takes it a step further instructing proper plaid procedures, “Yah, we already knew we were flannel champions. Red and black from late October ‘til snow is done. Then any colors but red and black.”

Our “Flannual Report” found that 40% of customers describe themselves as being “more attractive” in flannel so it’s not a leap to conclude that residents of the Most Flannel City are the nation’s most attractive of the bunch. (According to our survey, flannel-wearing Yoopers are also more inclined to eat roadkill, use an outhouse and own an axe.)

DTC Logo Black No Tag 72dpi[2]As fan Ken J. so aptly sums it up, “the Yoop is a state of mind as much as a place.” So whether you live in the U.P. or are just hankering for a visit, now would be the perfect time to grab your favorite flannel shirt and represent!

Flannel Photo Giveaway

To celebrate this special recognition, we’re rewarding our flannel-aficionado fans with the chance to win prizes from Duluth Trading Co.

Post a photo of yourself wearing your favorite flannel on Facebook and tag the Pure Michigan Facebook Page in your photo by Thursday, November 20th. We’ll randomly select 10 photo submissions to win a $100 gift card from Duluth Trading Company.

An Off the Beaten Path Fall Color Tour in the Central U.P.

Jesse Land, founder of Things to do in the U.P., a website dedicated to helping people discover the best of the Upper Peninsula, fills us in on his recommendations for taking a fall color tour around the central U.P.

Check out Jesse’s last post for tips on taking a fall color tour around one of the U.P.’s most cherished areas – the Keweenaw Peninsula. Stay tuned for additional fall color tour ideas from Jesse later this season!

When most people think of a fall color tour in the Upper Peninsula, the central U.P. (the Iron Mountain – Menominee – Escanaba area) is not what they have in mind.

Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s actually pretty cool if you know where to look!


Let’s start off with breakfast in Iron Mountain, shall we? The tourists eat at the Holiday Kitchen. I suggest you do like the locals do and pop into B’s County Café (629 S. Stephenson) for an authentic Upper Peninsula greasy spoon experience. The service is always friendly and the women bustling behind the retro countertop sure make a mean breakfast! Try the French toast on homemade bread. My stomach is growling just thinking about it.

The Morning Drive

Here’s where you leave the pack behind. Head east out of Iron Mountain on the ever popular U.S. 2, but make a right at the caution light in Vulcan (just past the Iron Mountain Iron Mine but before Northwood’s Adventures) and pick up county road 577. This smooth, curvy road is lined with hardwoods and birch and always makes for a beautiful fall drive.

Follow 577 all the way to Menominee, where I’d recommend exploring the historic downtown waterfront district for a while before heading north on M-35. This scenic route follows the coast of Lake Michigan’s Green Bay, and connects Menominee to Escanaba. There are plenty of beachside pit stop opportunities along M-35 and there’s sure to be plenty of color!


All of that sightseeing is bound to make a person hungry. If you’re in the mood for a sit down, quality (though somewhat pricey) meal, The Stonehouse is tough to beat. They’ve got consistently excellent food and terrific service. Ferdinand’s Mexican Restaurant is a great place for a casual lunch, and if you’re looking to keep on trucking, grab a couple sub sandwiches from D&M subs and hit the road.

If you feel like stretching your legs a little while in town, drive down Ludington Street until you reach Lake Michigan, then park and walk around. The Sand Point Lighthouse is probably the most popular landmark in Escanaba, but the House of Ludington is also fun to check out.

Now it gets Interesting

Kitch-iti-Kippi (say that three times fast) in Palms Brook Sate Park, also known as “Big Spring”, is a standout attraction of this general region. And from Escanaba, you’re about fifty two miles away. Follow U.S. 2 east to county road 442 and then follow the signs from there. You’ll enjoy gazing down at huge trout as you float over Michigan’s largest natural spring. The water is crystal clear and the sand “erupting” below as water bursts upward through the ground is really something to see!

In my opinion, the Garden Peninsula is one of the most overlooked parts of the Upper Peninsula, and that’s where you’re headed next.

From Kitch-iti-Kippi, backtrack a couple miles on U.S. 2 then head south on county road 183, the road that heads to Fayette State Park. You’ll pass both the Garden Bay Winery and Threefold Vine Winery (wine tour, anyone?), as well as a couple art galleries. Of course, the standout feature here is Fayette Historic State Park, but one could just as easily spend the rest of the day exploring the Garden Peninsula’s other gems and beautiful fall colors.

County road 183 is a wonderful drive and the colors in this area are gorgeous in the fall. But best of all, since this is an off the beaten path fall color tour, you’ll have it all to yourself!

Jesse Land is the founder of Things to do in the U.P., a website dedicated to helping people discover the best of the Upper Peninsula. To learn about the best things to do in the U.P., follow Jesse on Facebook at