Soo Locks

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Aerial view of the Soo Locks, looking west

155 years of maritime history are found at the Soo Locks, where freighters, barges, tugboats and more traverse the 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron every day. Wondering what you’ll enjoy most at this U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility? Here’s a list of the top four attractions.

Ships, ships, and more ships

The two active Locks, the MacArthur and the Poe, handle an average of 10,000 vessel passages per year, which means visitors are almost certain to get a glimpse of one or more of the many ships that ply the Great Lakes. From viewing stands situated at the Lock’s edge, enjoy an up-close-and-personal glimpse of life aboard freshwater and ocean-going freighters, some of which can carry as much as 72,000 tons of cargo in a single pass. In 2008, a stunning 80.6 million tons of cargo passed through this engineering marvel. Unique vessels are occasionally sighted, including tall ships, sailboats, cruise ships, and military crafts.

A stroll in the park

A few steps from the water’s edge, a serene park of shady grass, defined walkways, manicured gardens and a democracy of trees representing those found throughout the Upper Peninsula await you. Take command of a comfortable benche for freighter watching or stroll the length and breadth of this beautiful green space.

History comes alive

The story of the Soo Locks is a fascinating history lesson that comes alive in the Soo Locks Visitors Center. Illustrative displays and scheduled films tell the story of Native Americans, French explorers, fur traders and others who portaged canoes and cargo around the impassable rapids until the discovery of iron ore and copper in the Lake Superior basin led to the push for a more cost-efficient means of bypassing the rapids. This free facility is a must-see location, but don’t worry about missing some of the action in the Locks. The helpful staff monitor radio transmissions and are willing to share news of an arriving freighter.

Music to your ears

It is the definition of the perfect summer evening. The warmest months bring a certain artistic flair to the Soo Locks, when a weekly concert series is featured at the eastern end of the park. Free to the public, the annual series features a variety of music groups and entertainers. Bring a lawn chair and a sweater (this is the Soo, after all) and find your own grassy vantage point that combines music, water, and ships. The colorful, dancing waters of a nearby fountain provide a romantic backdrop and a not-to-be-missed photo op. When the concert is complete, there’s always an ice cream parlor or fudge shop beckoning from nearby.

To visit the Sault Ste. Marie Convention and Vistitors Bureau web site, with more information about the Soo Locks and the surrounding area, please click here.

Travel writer Angela Nebel contributed to this article.