2008 Midwest USA travel blog

Site 19 Aune-Osborn Camprground in Sault Ste. Marie, MI

View of the St. Mary's River and Canada from our doorstep

Sunset over the St.Mary's about 9:20 p.m. on 7-26-08

Hydro-electric plant (46 megawatts) just east of the locks. This building is...

Here you can see the lighthouse design they used for the pillars...

This is the entrance/exit to one of the four locks on the...

This shows three of the Soo Locks. The fourth one is off...

This is the Canadian side lock as we were entering it. Notice...

Close up of the small boat in the lock with us. Nice...

The lock gates closing. The water will be allowed in from Lake...

The water has risen almost enough to be level with Lake Superior

Piles of coal and limestone used in the steel making process by...

Piles of iron pellets used to make steel

One of the two furnaces used in the steel-making process

The output - rolls of steel

I included this shot to give you some perspective on how large...

Underneath look at the international bridge from U.S. to Canada - about...

A further away shot of the international bridge - this is about...

Vehicles backed up getting back in to the U.S. - This line...

We are entering lock #1 (MacArthur Lock) on the right. You can...

A closer shot of the freighter on our left

Here I am looking down at the side of the lock as...

Here I am looking up at the same point of the lock...

The large freighter is coming into lock #2 as we are exiting...

I told you she was big. She was 105 feet wide and...

The ship that was on our left in the locks is now...

Tall ship coming into the locks from Lake Huron, Foremast flag says...

Some of the crew

Don't Give Up The Ship

Ensign with only 15 stars

Valley Camp Freighter Museum Ship

The Tower of History in Sault Ste. Marie. The viewing platforms are...

Algama Steel Plant

Garden in front of the Soo Locks Visitor Center

The 670 foot freighter Michipicoten is coming into the #1 lock

The gates are starting to close behind the Michipicoten

The front half of the Michipicoten

She has now been lowered 21 feet down to the Lake Huron...


We arrived here at Aune Osborne Campground in Sault Ste. Marie Friday after a pleasant 1.5 hour drive and quickly got everything setup – DirecTV was really fast (there were no trees and I almost didn’t even need to aim the dish) and we have wireless internet through the campground. The campground is very nice – located on the St. Mary’s River which connects Lake Superior with Lake Huron. We were not able to get a riverfront site but we can easily see the river and the freighter traffic from our site

and a quick 150 foot walk will get us to the river’s edge if we want a closer look.

Sault Ste. Marie is world famous for its Soo Locks which allow the freighter traffic to get through the St. Mary’s River and go from Lake Superior to Lake Huron (and eventually the Atlantic Ocean if necessary). There is a lot of freighter traffic carrying grain and mined metals from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Western Michigan that comes through here. The St. Mary’s River also separates the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.

The Soo Locks consist of four American locks and one Canadian lock that will accept a ship and then either raise or lower its level to accommodate the 21 foot difference between Lake Superior and Lake Huron by letting water into the lock (if it is at the Lake Huron level) or draining the lock (if it is at the Lake Superior level). It takes about 15 minutes for the whole process of entering the lock, closing the doors of the lock, changing the water level in the lock, and then opening the doors to allow the ship to exit. It is all done by gravity and no pumps are necessary. The first lock was completed in 1855 so it isn’t rocket science! Before the first lock was built, the ships had to have their cargo unloaded and transported down past the rapids and then the ship had to be brought ashore and also transported past the lock, put back in the river and reloaded. This took them three months so the 15 minutes it now takes to transit the locks is a huge improvement!

Saturday we went on a Soo Locks tour boat to tour the St. Mary’s and to transit the locks. I have included several pictures of that tour so you can hopefully see the process and also some of the other sights we saw on the tour. A few of those are on the international bridge that connects the U.S. with Canada and the long line of vehicles trying to get into the U.S. The line into Canada wasn’t near as long. I don’ know if that is because of the time of day or some other reason. From what I understand Canada is just as strict as we are on entry.

After the tour we went grocery shopping. We hadn’t been since North Dakota and the larder was getting a little low. Later that afternoon we were watching the ships come through the channel and were lucky enough to see a tall ship

coming through. The Ensign on the fantail only had 15 stars and the foremast flag said “DON’T GIVE UP THE SHIP.” We would have liked to see it with sails deployed but you take what you get. Pictures are provided.

We didn’t do much Sunday but relax and enjoy each other. Today (Monday) we went to see the Valley Camp Freighter Museum

which has placed a museum in the cargo holds of a freighter that used to be owned by Republic Steel and has now been purchased by the Historical Society in Sault Ste. Marie. It was very informative and covered the complete history of freighters on the Great Lakes. We also visited the Tower of History

. It was nice to look around the complete city and way over into Canada. I took another picture of the Algama Steel Plant in Canada and from this distance I was able to get it all in one shot

. You may notice the international bridge in the foreground. The traffic coming into the U.S. was backed up all the way across its three miles this afternoon - not my idea of a good way to spend the day! The last place we went today was a visit to the Soo Locks Visitor Center

to watch a freighter come through the locks. While on the history tower we noticed that it was on its way from Lake Superior. I included a few pictures of it as well to finish off this stop

. Tomorrow we had for Kalkasa, MI which is a short distance from Traverse City, MI on the thumb of Michigan.

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