Sault Ste Marie Locks

September 2002

Mackinac Bridge is a five-mile-long bridge connecting Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas crossing the deep blue Straights of Mackinac. The waterway between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. In the foreground can be seen the historic Fort Michilimackinac at Mackinaw City.


The name Sault Ste Marie is a combination of the French word, "Sault," meaning rapids of falls, and the name of "Sainte Marie," the patron saint of the first Jesuit missionaries who visited the area. Over the years, passing sailors have anglicized this to "Soo," a popular nickname which has given the region world wide recognition. The St. Marys River is the only water connection between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. Known as the St. Marys Rapids, falls about 21 feet from the level of Lake Superior to the level of the lower lakes. The natural barrier to vessel navigation made necessary the construction of the locks project known as the St. Marys Falls Ship Canal. In the late 1700's a Canadian company built a lock on the Canadian side of the river that was destroyed in the War of 1812. A private American company built locks on the U.S. side of the river in 1853. These locks were turned over to the State of Michigan in 1855. In 1881 the locks were transferred to the U.S. government giving jurisdiction to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Currently, the Corps operates the locks toll free to any vessel wishing to pass through the St. Marys Falls Canal. More than 11,000 vessels, carrying up to 90 million tons of cargo pass through these locks every year. Vessels varying in size from small passenger vessels and workboats to large 1,000 foot ships carrying more than 72,000 tons of freight in a single load. The channels are maintained at a draft of 25.5 feet at low water datum. The lock system is inspected for structural soundness during the winter when lock operations close.


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Nancy, Craig and Tamara watching the locks from the viewing area.

This freighter is 1,000 feet long and 105 feet wide, and is coming from upper Lake Superior.

The locks are 110 feet wide, and this freighter is now down 21 feet to enter Lake Huron.

We decided it would be fun to take the tour boat through the locks. Craig, Tamara and David on the tour boat.

That is the Canadian side of the St Marys River.

This tug boat is pushing a large barge.

We will enter the Locks on the U.S. side.

Entering the locks from Lake Huron.

The viewing platform where we were earlier.

The lock gates close behind us and start to fill.

Here the lock is about half full.

The lock is full but a train is crossing the bridge so we have to wait for the train to pass and the bridge to go up.

The lock opens but the bridge is still down. The bridge on top is the international bridge for vehicles going and coming to Canada.

Here the bridge is almost all the way up so the tour boat can pass under the bridge.

The tour boat goes close to a steel factory in Canada.

Here a freighter is unloading coal for the steel factory.

The coal goes up this conveyer to the dock.

The tour boat returns through the Canadian lock.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear Dunes covers an area of ten square miles.


Long ago, in the land that today is Wisconsin, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. They swam and swam, but soon the cubs tired and lagged far behind, Mother bear finally reached the opposite shore and climbed to the top of a bluff to watch and wait for her offspring. But the cubs drowned. Today "Sleeping Bear", a solitary dune in Michigan overlooking Lake Michigan, marks the spot where mother bear waited. Her hapless cubs are the Manitou Islands.


On the way to Sleeping Bear Dunes the truck quit. It's Friday afternoon.

We had it towed to Buds in Honor, but it was after closing time.

So we stayed overnight at a motel with brick hard mattress. They would fix it Saturday morning.

While they fixed the truck we checked out an old car show. This model "T" has a stuffed pair of pants under it.

Wow! a real woody.

This Model "T" had a sign that said "Fords last longer, this proves it".

Sleeping Bear Dune goes right down to Lake Michigan.

Some are dumb enough to climb down to the lake, then huff and puff back up 650 paces of the sand dune.

We were so tired from not sleeping well in the motel that we left the dunes early for the two hour drive back to our trailer.

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