Sault Saint Marie | The busiest lock system in the world!

Hi everyone! Welcome to the last stop on our 10-day July 4th roadtrip and this also happens to be the 100th post on my blog! If you missed the first four stops and you’re interested in hearing about how we got here you can check out the posts about Apostle Islands, Porcupine Mountains, Marquette and Tahquamenon Falls. But if you’re here for the boats, let’s get into it!

Sault Ste Marie is located on the St Marys River which connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron. The Soo Locks are a man-made lock system built to lower and raise giant freighters over rapids that would otherwise make it impassible. It is the busiest lock system in the entire world with seven to ten thousand ships passing through each year. You can see Canada just across the river and there is a bridge so you can normally cross over the border but it has been closed because of the pandemic.

The river front park and observation platform are US government property and ran by the US Army Corps of Engineers. According to their website: People have been coming to Sault Sainte Marie since the 1850s to watch boats passing through the locks. By the 1880s a public park ran alongside the canal and lock with strolling paths, a fountain and places to sit and watch the boats passing.

We stayed right on the river at The Hotel Ojibway. It opened in 1927 and is modernized but still has a lot of it’s historic charms. They claim to have hosted kings, queens, celebrities, sports stars and George H. W. Bush. We had a small room overlooking the locks and it made it such a special experience.

We found three perfect spots for watching the ships go by:

Observation Platform

The platform is within the riverfront park. No dogs allowed and there is a heavily armed security guard posted at the entrance to check bags. Expect there to be lots of kids but you do get an up close and personal look at the ships.

Karl’s Cuisine

Karl’s offers amazing locally sourced food. You can sit on the rooftop while you watch ships enter the locks. Get the jumbo pretzel and beer cheese. Not pictured because it was devoured that quickly.

Rotary Island

Rotary Island Park is just a 5 minute drive from the Observation Platform and it’s dog friendly. You can sit in your parked car or get out and walk around as you watch the ships come and go.

We ended the trip with a stop at Zac and Mac’s Chocolate Haus for some yummy ice cream. The perfect ending to the perfect trip. I’m going to pat myself on the back for my trip-planning abilities. We had a jampacked week of adventure and it’ll be hard to top next July but I’ll give it my best shot!


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