We made the trip to commemorate the 150th year of the opening of the locks and the establishment of Sault Ste. Marie. If youre interested in a road trip, Labor Day weekend marks the final locks celebration of the summer.
The Soo, as its called, is still a relatively undeveloped area, although there are signs that modern-day entrepreneurs are at work building large condo units overlooking the locks. Two nearby Indian casinos attract a lot of visitors and
theres some traffic action on the International Bridge that links the two Sault Ste. Maries: Canadian and American.
However, the city on the American side
of the border is still low key and mainly dependent upon the traffic that goes through the locks,
along with jobs related to the shipping industry
Of note, there is no charge for the use of the locks, either for pleasure craft or commercial traffic, and there are sightseeing boats on both sides of the St. Marys River offering day trips and dinner and lunch cruises through the locks.
Staying at the Best Western on the
1-75 business route, we were out of town but still within minutes of it and the areas tourist attractions. One is the Tower of History, which gives one beautiful views of the town and the St. Marys River.
Also worth a visit are the Ship Museum Valley Camp, and the docks where the sightseeing boats are moored.
We had made a dinner cruise through the Locks from the Canadian Soo a few years ago on the Chief Shingwauk, a double-decker boat. This summer, we took the 272-passenger Voyageur whose sisters Holiday, Hiawatha and Bide a Wee are also 65 feet long, 25 feet wide. Its about a two-hour tour which costs $18.50 per person.
We went along the St. Marys River to the Locks passing several freighters. We were informed of the various points of interest as we went by the four-story hydroelectric power plant. Behind us was the 670 foot long vessel Saginaw on its way north to get a load of steel.
We were told that 120 persons man the four locks. The first of the locks also has the largest capacity; its the 1,200 foot long Poe Lock. At 12:30 p.m. our boat turned around to return through the Canadian locks and we could see the Ontario Steel Mills with lights blazing and piles of stone, rock, coal and crushed limestone piled high outside.
For dining in the Soo, a visit to Antlers near the locks is a must. The AAA Tourbook says of it: More than two dozen mounted animals and a bell and whistle display lend to the casual ambience of the large noisy restaurant. A tasty homemade bbq sauce wakes up the flavor of the slow-cooked baby back ribs.
Sure enough, there were racks of antlers, deer, moose, cougars, bears, several lions, a framed wild turkey and a boa constrictor, but what my wife Ellen liked best were the Detroit street signs reminding her of the area in which she grew up.
We had a garlic shrimp appetizer at $3.95, passing up the salmon steak for $9.95. We tried
one of four homemade soups at $3.75, the vegetable beef with big chunks of Babe the Blue Ox
-- very good!
Another delightful place to eat is right down by the locks. Freighters offers good food and a spectacular view of the ships passing through the channels in front of you.
Located in the Ramada Hotel in downtown Sault Ste. Marie, overlooking a little park, the AAA Tourbook rates the restaurant at Two Diamonds, saying, The intimate restaurant is a comfortable spot for casual upscale dining with succulent prime rib Sunday night. We sat on the upper level of Freighters, looking out on the locks and the International Bridge. As we watched, a ship appeared downbound and soon another upbound through the lock.
Before making the return trip home, we stopped at the Museum Ship Valley Camp which gives an idea of the shipping industry. It actually is a converted freighter filled with artifacts of the area and the ships that pass through it. You can journey from the captains quarters to the engine room (which still retains the smell of fuel), to the huge hold which once carried tons of ore. There are aquariums along one wall, and many items of interest including the automatic wheel of the ship. The sounds are eerie as the waves slap up against her, and one can almost imagine what it might have been like on the Great Lakes.
150th Celebration closing ceremonies will be held September 2, including a Soo Locks Open House, VIP reception and anniversary ball with all state governors and the President invited to attend.