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Soo Locks by Land and by Water

On a camping trip to Michigan, we visited the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. These locks are an amazing feat of engineering that allow huge freighters passage between two of the Great Lakes.

These deep locks are a must-see when you are on an Upper Peninsula Camping Trip.

Going through the Soo Locks on a Boat

The Soo Locks are the gateway from Lake Superior to the other Great Lakes. The locks allow boats to transit the 21-foot difference in water levels. The locks operate on gravity.

The American locks handle the large freighter traffic in the area. Recreational boat traffic also goes through these world-famous locks, along with the smaller locks on the Canadian side.

The Soo Locks are maintained and operated by the Army Corp of Engineers. They are designated as a National Historic Register. You can learn all about the history and operation at the Soo Locks Visitor Center.

view of the Soo Locks from viewing platform

There is no charge for using the locks. The cost is covered with a diesel-gasoline tax from overland trucking.

Soo Locks by Land

The locks maintain a schedule of the traffic that will be moving through that day. You can call a phone number and listen to a recording telling you about the daily traffic ad better schedule your visit to make sure that a freighter will be locking through while you are there.

a freighter going through the Soo Locks

The locks have a two-level viewing platform.  Keep in mind, the locking process takes a fair amount of time so it is cool to see, but it is not fast-paced.

Soo Locks Camping

Since we stayed at the Aune-Osborn Campground along the edge of the St. Mary’s River, we saw the freighters going by. We knew when they were coming upstream because a horn would sound at a nearby ferry crossing. It is the best campground in Sault Ste Marie.

people watching a freighter passing Aune-Osborn Campground in Sault Ste Marie Michigan

Soo Locks by Water

We highly recommend taking a cruise through the locks.  You will go through both the American locks and the Canadian locks.  Being on a boat as it locks through is a neat experience.

Soo Locks Boat Tours going through the Soo Locks

We went on a tour with Soo Lock Boat Tours. The knowledgeable guide narrates the history of the locks and all the major events that have happened to and around the locks.

a lock opening at the Soo Locks as taken from a boat

The Canadian locks are much smaller. In the past, they got damaged and when they repaired them, they made them smaller. Now they service mostly non-commercial, recreational- traffic.

boat going to the Soo Locks on the Canadian side

The tour also talks about the major mining, refining, and shipping of materials in the region.

manufacturing facility in Saulte Ste. Marie Canada

Try to get to the tour early to find a seat on the top deck of the boat, because it has the best views. Since the tour takes a while, people usually move about the boat getting in different views.

Boat through the Soo Locks

By land or by water you cannot lose. Both these options offer a great perspective of the Soo Locks. It is a must-see when you Camp in the Upper Peninsula.

More Upper Peninsula Destinations

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum
Tahquamenon Falls State Park

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