Soo Locks Boat Tour

Aug/6/2011 6 Malia Lane

I so enjoyed watching the huge ships go through the Soo Locks in Sault Ste. Marie, I wondered what it was like actually going into and through the locks.  And I saw the way to do that was with Soo Locks Boat Tour.

I was excited to see The Hiawatha approach the docks and Captain Gordie welcomed me aboard!

I wondered if we’d get close to any big ships along the way and I didn’t have to wonder long…

I couldn’t believe how close we got to the 858′ cargo ship, the Roger Blough, being “serviced” by the tugboat Ojibway.

Really great deckside view here!

Then on to the main attraction, we approach and enter the lock:

It was way cool to feel, as well as just watch, the process of the water rising to match the level of the St. Mary’s River that we were going through from this perspective.  We were in the Poe Lock, the further lock away from the observation tower I had viewed the other day.

Also our narrator, here Katy is wrapping the mooring line around the cleat.  She explained:  “It is a safety protocol that ships must tie up to the lock when locking through. In the past there have been accidents where boats have rammed the gates. Also on windy days the boat feels like a rubber ducky in a huge maelstrom. It can be tricky to maneuver and not hit the walls if you aren’t tied up!

Some years back, a few entrepreneuring young gentlemen on jet skis were going through the American locks and decided to untie themselves from the lock wall so they could zip around inside the lock while they waited. Well, the lock master did not appreciate that so now jet skies are banned from the American Locks. No one got hurt, but if protocol isn’t respected there may be consequences!”

In the book I got at the gift shop, “The Soo Locks Guide” it told the story of the “Lock Accident of 1909” where due to a miscommunication between ships entering the locks, one ship hit a lower gate of the lock which caused the north gate to fall over “and a wall of water with the power of Lake Superior behind it gave way.”  All kinds of mayhem ensued with damage to both ships but no injuries to passengers or crew.  This is an interesting little booklet with great pictures and illustrations – a good read before you take this trip.

All clear and we’re about to pass under the International Bridge to Canada and the Railroad Bridge.

Since bridges are some of my most favorite man-made things, I really enjoyed all the views you can get of them from the tour.

On the Canadian side, you can get up close and personal with their “historical” industrial area.  Katy explained this is the Algoma Steel Corporation owned by Essar Corporation of India.  It is the main industry of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, employing approximately 3,000 people. It was started by Francis H. Clergue at the turn of the 20th century and Clergue Park is named after him. He also founded the St. Mary’s Paper Mill and portions of the Algoma Central Railway.

While these “antique” plants are still operating, the modern industrial area is now located more inland.


I found it hard to believe this massive, very intimidating looking ship, the “Ironmaster” was being towed by this little tiny tugboat!  Katy remarked that these tugboats are just “all engine” but still, it’s amazing to me…

We went through the Canadian lock on the way back and it was interesting to see things closeup that I’d been seeing from the American side and now to see the American shore from their vantage point.

The large ship on the left, The M.S. Norgoma, is being fitted to become a bed & breakfast!

So I definitely enjoyed this tour and if you’re lucky enough to visit Sault Ste. Marie, don’t miss seeing the Soo Locks from both vantage points!