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