What do you do on a beautiful day in the north? A road trip is always a good idea! Rick and I decided to head north to Sault Saint Marie, Michigan and the site of the famous Soo Locks. Here we are, two happy travelers!
We started the morning at the Mackinaw City restaurant, Darrows, where we met up with our friends from home, blogger/writers John Schneider (Waiting for Home: The Richard Prangley Story") and Sharon Emery ("It's Hard Being You: A Primer on Being Happy Anyway"). Time with John and Sharon is always fun and it was a great way to start the day.
Then it was off across the Mackinac Bridge, Open in 1957, the bridge connects Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas over the Straits of Mackinac, where Great Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. It is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere and ranks 27th in the world for length. I'll tell you, it can be both beautiful and harrowing to go over this bridge. They close it during windy days. I was on it once during one and shortly after me, a car flew off the bridge. It makes me nervous!
Needless to say, I was pleased to see this sign!
Sault Saint Marie in Michigan's farthest northeast point in the UP, as we call the upper peninsula. It is located on the St. Mary's River, which separates it from the Ontario city of the same name. In French, who christened it with that name, Sault Saint Marie means "The rapids of Saint Mary's." It is now one of the busiest shipping areas in the U.S.
Sault Saint Marie is a city of 17,000 and was bustling. We headed straight to the Soo Locks boat touring company to get our tickets!
Then we waited!
You couldn't ask for a better day for a boat ride -- and this was a good one, going about two hours. This photo from the visitor's center gives and overview of the locks, which can easily handle 1,000-foot freighters.
Early on we passed the city's Cloverland hydroelectric plant, which was built 1898-1902 and is the second largest hydroelectric facility in the U.S. after Niagara Falls. It's a magnificent building.(We didn't tour this but the tour sounds fascinating.) Because the river drops 21 feet in less than a mile at the locks, it is an ideal location for generating hydroelectric power.
Note the pillars. They were designed to be shaped like lighthouses.
Then it was on to the locks. We reached the first of them, on the U.S. side of the river. It was fascinating. The river is 21 feet lower on one side than the other and consequently, for a boat to get through, the water must be leveled. Note how low the water is on that wall.
As our boats pulled in, we were tied up and the gates closed behind us.
The lock began filling with water. Water flows from the lock level to a
You can see here how the water has almost come up to an opening in the wall. In a few moments it will be even higher (which you can see by the watermarks.)
When the water reaches the appropriate height of 53 feet, the gate at the far end of the lock is opened and the boats pass through.
We cruised by the bridge that connects the US and Canada and then past industrial areas. Our guide was able to explain all that we saw clearly and with good humor. I wonder how many times a season he has to make the same spiel!
Rick checked it out. He's all for any structure that will get him to Canada! (He leaves for his trip to Ottawa this week.)
We turned around and returned to the Canadian side of the river, passing through the Canadian locks. This one was far prettier than the US side with parkland around one side and the city close to the other! The procedure of raising the water reverses as you return to this side of the rapids and the water is lowered from 53 to 21 feet so boats can proceed.
It was over all too soon as we cruised back into port, where another tour was just leaving.
After that, we drove into town and to the visitor center where a viewing platform allowed more of an overhead view of the locks.
You really get a much better perspective of how massive this operation is.
While we were there, a freighter came through one side. And believe me, those things are long. How long? The visitor's center says that they are about four-fifths the length as the Empire State Building is tall. Or five football fields, end on end! Or seven Statues of Liberty, piled one on top of the next one's head!
This one had a cabin at the end (obviously, I couldn't fit the whole freighter into one photo!).
I loved that little cabin section until it released it's ugly black smoke!
They are building a third lock to accommodate water traffic and I'm happy to say, thanks to the Biden infrastructure bill, we American taxpayers all have a part in making this work!
I should also mention that the visitor's center had some lovely garden in the front!
Lunch time -- We found a picnic table in the shade and enjoyed our lunch, joined by some very polite gulls.
They were really handsome birds and more or less left us -- and each other -- alone.
Then Rick tossed the corner of a Triscuit to one. A food fight ensued!
They were scrappy but lovely.
The rest of the afternoon was spent browsing trash and trinket stores and a very good bookstore with loads of used books (and yes, I made a few purchases.) Then on to dinner at Lock View Restaurant for fish. Because when you are near fresh caught fish, why order anything else?
Home again. As we approached the Mackinac Bridge this time, we couldn't help but notice a gorgeous sunset.
And, with little traffic, even the bridge felt less scary and much more beautiful.
All in all, a fabulous day.
Now, off we go to whatever new adventure awaits!