As we mentioned in our last update, Wednesday (8/1) we ended out short 4 day stay in Munising and headed east. We lifted our jacks and jumped on HWY 28 and drove it almost straight as an arrow until we reached I-75 which we drove a few miles north to Sault Saint Marie making it a 124 mile travel day.
We had heard about a campground in Sault Saint Marie called Aune Osborn that is right on the Saint Mary’s River and just a few miles from the Soo Locks that helps all types of boats traverse the 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.
Sault Ste. Marie is rather unique because it is a city that exists in both the USA and Canada. These two communities were one city until a new treaty after the War of 1812 established the border between Canada and the United States in this area at the St. Mary’s River. In the 21st century, the two cities are joined by the International Bridge, which connects Interstate 75 on the Michigan side, and Huron Street (and former Ontario Secondary Highway 550B) on the Ontario side. Shipping traffic in the Great Lakes system bypasses the Saint Mary’s Rapids via the American Soo Locks, the world’s busiest canal in terms of tonnage that passes through it, while smaller recreational and tour boats use the Canadian Sault Ste. Marie Canal.
The locks are legendary in the maritime world and have provided safe passage and a vital shipping connection within the Great Lakes for nearly 160 years.
So here we have an engineering marvel and huge ships, need I say any more about why we wanted to pay this area a visit? I think not LOL!!
The first State Lock was built in 1855. Up until then, explorers, fur traders, and Native Americans had to carry their canoes and cargoes around the rapids. And some went all out just to get their boats around.
During its first year of operation the canal was navigated by 27 vessels. In recent years, nearly 7,000 vessels pass through the Locks annually hauling 86 million tons of cargo.
There is a nice observation platform behind the Visitor Center that provides a great place to watch ships go through the locks.
· 90% of the world’s iron ore moves through the Soo Locks
· Poe Lock (the larger of the 2 operating) requires 22 million gallons of water to lift or lower a boat
· The Soo Locks close from January 15-March 25 each year for repairs
· It would take 584 train cars to move 70,000 tons of cargo or just one 1000 foot freighter’s worth of goods.
· The Paul R. Tregurtha is the largest freighter on the Great Lakes at 1013.5 feet
Our campground was also a great place to watch the ships go by. As ships were about to make a turn right by the campground they would give out one toot of their horn and campers would all scurry out to the river bank to watch them go by.
If we were to know that we were going to come through this area again we would reserve much farther in advance and get a water front site, we will making hat note on our campground info sheet.
I’m not sure just how many ships we watched go by from the campground but it had to be close to 15 or 20 in our short 3 night stay and we didn’t hang around camp all the time.
One day we took a drive out to the Point Iroquois Light Station that was first illuminated in 1857 and was deactivated in 1962, replaced by the Canadian operated Gros Cap Reefs Light, an unmanned buoy-type beacon in the St. Mary’s River channel.
We also took a stroll down the Water Street Historic Block followed by a tour of the Museum Ship Valley Camp. The 550’ SS Valley Camp is a lake freighter that served on the Great Lakes for almost 50 years before becoming a museum ship in Sault Ste. Marie.
The ship is almost unmodified from her original configuration except for the cargo hold which now houses hundreds of artifacts, paintings, shipwreck items, models, two lifeboats from the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, and exhibits of objects related to maritime history.
There is also an hour long film about the Edmund Fitzgerald and the events that occurred on November 10, 1975 which caused the tragic loss of one of the best known Great Lakes freighters.
The Valley Camp once housed a crew of 29 men in her cabins which are now viewable if you take a tour including the Captain’s Quarters.
And of course you can walk the deck as well which I couldn’t imagine doing during rough seas.
The cost to enter the museum was $14 each and we probably spent 3 hours touring the museum all together I would guess.
We also tried 2 local restaurants that were rated #1 and #2 by Trip Advisor, Karl’s Cuisine, Wine & Brewery and The Wicked Sister, both were good.
We enjoyed our short stay and can now cross one more area off our bucket list. And it was nice to see sky from our campsite for a change. The last couple campgrounds have had a thick canopy of trees over them. So thick that we were lucky to see any sky. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up in the area again.
I also have to say that we (me particularly) are enjoying the cooler temps compared to what so much of the country is having. Depending on what we think of the rest of Michigan I could see this part of the country making our list of summer places. So far Colorado is the only area that is really on it.
That pretty much does it for this update. Friday (8/4) we will be making another move. We will be headed south less than 100 miles, dropping out of the UP. We will be headed to a full hookup site which we have not had for over 3 weeks so something other than military showers will be enjoyable LOL!!