We jumped in the car with the dog and drove about 100 miles north to the border city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. (Now that I am an expert on the local vernacular, I can tell you it’s pronounced “Soo” not “Salt.” Sault Ste. Marie is the sister city to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, and sits on the southern shore of the St. Mary’s River, the river that defines the US/Canada border there.
On our way north in search of Sault Ste. Marie, we had to first cross the Mackinac Bridge. (Again, since I am a local language expert, I’m going to save you a lot of embarrassment, it’s pronounced “Mack-i-naw.”) The bridge connects the two Michigan peninsulas with a 3,800′ suspension bridge over the Straight of Mackinaw. Locals in this area refer to the lower peninsula as “down state” and the upper peninsula as, well, the Upper Peninsula. The “Mac” is the third longest suspension bridge in the US, outdistanced only by the Verrazano-Narrows and Golden Gate Bridges. It seems a lot longer because its overall length, including the non-suspension span sections, is an incredible 5 miles long.
The bridge’s road deck, half solid surface and half steel grate to let air pass through, is suspended by two massive 24″ main cables that hang from her 550′ main towers. This design provides more than 155′ of vertical clearance for large commercial ships passing between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The bridge opened November 1957, and in 1998 had its 100 millionth crossing.
Another 50 miles up I-75 sits another bridge in the city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The International Bridge connects Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada over the St. Mary’s River.
International Bridge, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
The Soo Locks are located on the St. Mary’s River and since 1855 have allowed ships as long as 1,000′ to travel from as far away as the Atlantic Ocean to Duluth, Minnesota. That’s deep into the heart of the midwest by ship!
Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
The panorama photo below is a shot of a 1,000 footer that passed through the lock during our visit. The lock moves some 22 million gallons of water, without the use of pumps, to lift ships some 22′, the elevation difference between the two bodies of water. If you want to see an animation of how the lock works, click here: Soo Locks Animation
SS Stewart Cort passing through the Soo Locks on July 29, 2016
Soo Locks Viewing Platform
A visit to the locks wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Shipwreck museum, where one can learn a lot about the hundreds of shipwrecks that have occurred on the Lakes, as well as the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, a 729′ Laker that sank on November 10, 1975. No survivors were found and no bodies ever recovered.
If you want to learn more about the Edmond Fitzgerald, I recommend reading The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Fredrick Stonehouse or watching The Mystery of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
We topped of our day with a late lunch at the Lock View Restaurant where we enjoyed fresh Whitefish and Walleye, which according to the menu, “slept in Whitefish Bay the night before.”
Lock View Restaurant, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Lock View Restaurant Menu
Northern Michigan has great summer weather, beautiful scenery and a ton of places to visit. Learn more at http://www.michigan.org/