Soo Locks

 Posted by at 12:05 am  Nick's Blog
Jul 312021

Note: I was busy making edits to my new book yesterday and time got away from me, so today I am reposting a blog about one of the most interesting places we visited during our days as fulltime RVers.  

After a lazy morning at home, playing catch up from our last few days of traveling, we spent yesterday afternoon at the Soo Locks Visitor Center, watching the huge freighters going through the locks. If you have not seen this yet, you really need to put it on your bucket list!

Every year, some 10,000 ships pass through the locks, which raise and lower vessels more than 21 feet, to bypass the rapids of the Saint Marys River between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. It is an awesome sight to see a 1,000 foot long ship raise or drop that far in a matter of minutes. To give you an idea, here is a picture of the lock gates opening, with the lock flooded.

Lock closing

And here is the lock open at the other end, once the water level has dropped.

Lock low water

The Visitor Center has several elevated viewing platforms, where visitors can get a bird’s eye view of the process.

Viewing platform

The locks were very busy yesterday, and we saw six or eight ships pass through in rapid succession. In this picture, the John J Boland (left) has just left the lock, and the Algona Discovery (right) is headed toward the lock.


As you can see, it’s a very tight fit. with no more than ten feet to spare from one side of the lock to the other.

Algona Discovery coming in

Once the ship is inside the lock, it is tied to stanchions on the dock, to hold it securely while the water level is raised or lowered.

Tying off

Algona Discovery tight fit

Here is an example of how far the ships raise or lower. The Saginaw is heading into the lock carefully. I am amazed at how skilled the captains must be to avoid rubbing the sides.

Saginaw coming in

Once inside the lock, the main deck is several feet below the level of the lock sides, and one could almost step from the lock directly onto the superstructure.

Saginaw riding low

And here is the same ship, riding high, once the lock is flooded!

Saginaw riding high

We learned some interesting bits of trivia from the more experienced ship watchers, who have spent a lot of time at the locks. For example, as ships pass through, headed up to Duluth or other ports to pick up cargo, they drop off bundles of laundry at the Soo Locks, and a local company washes it. When the ship returns a few days later, they pick the clean laundry back up! Cool, huh?


After spending about three hours observing the lock traffic, and still not getting our fill of it, hunger finally drove us away. At least a dozen blog readers had urged us to try a restaurant called the Antlers, and we’re sure glad we did! The place is amazing, with hundreds of stuffed animals, antlers, and all kinds of trash and treasures decorating the walls and hanging from the ceiling. And the food was fantastic too! Miss Terry had the Cherry Smoked Whitefish Chowder, which was served in a sourdough bread bowl, and I had the steak bites. Both were delicious, and the service was fast and friendly.

Back at the Elks Lodge campground, we visited with some of our neighbors for a while and then headed inside. Terry had taken nearly 500 pictures at the locks, so just downloading them from her digital camera’s card and sorting through them took a while.

Elks lodge campground

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Pirate Trials: Dastardly Deeds & Last Words, the first book in my friend Ken Rossignol’s Pirate Trials series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing, please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening. Note: Due to the high shipping cost of printed books and Amazon restrictions on e-books to foreign countries, only entries with US addresses and e-mail addresses are allowed.

Thought For The Day – How come dumb stuff seems so smart while you’re doing it?

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  3 Responses to “Soo Locks”

  1. We love the locks. Going through them is so awesome. It’s magical. The kids loved them. We took my parents one year. They locked the boat ride. We also took them on the railroad, Canadian side.

  2. Al Scudder
    Now that we live in Northern Michigan this is the place we take our guest to. It’s a amazing site. The best way to see how it works go to the Soo park for the history display. And take the boat rite and “lock thru” to Lake Superior the tours are just a little ways south of the park. We usually go to Auntie Osborn cg or the Elks Lodge

  3. I’ve been to the “Soo” many times, many years ago. I’ve always been fascinated by the locks, but never had the opportunity to go through on a ship. Love this place! Thanks for the memories!

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