Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Soo Locks, LSSU and Lake Superior…

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There were two reasons we wanted to come to this part of Michigan, one was to see all the great lakes and the other was to visit the Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island area.We are glad we did because this piece of Michigan is very scenic and picturesque.

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We are currently just north of the beautiful 5 mile long Mackinac Bridge which cost us $14.00 in tolls to take a two axle motorhome towing a car.This scenic bridge crosses the  straights of Mackinac which connects Lake Michigan and Lake Huron together.Just north of the bridge on the UP’er (Upper Peninsula as the locals call it) is the small town of St. Ignace where we have been these last few days.

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We stopped here to use it as a home base to see the Soo Locks along with our last remaining Great Lake, Lake Superior. Plus we wanted to visit Mackinac Island, a place we had heard many good things about.  In fact crossing the the Mackinac Bridge  going north the beautiful Mackinac Island can be seen to the east. Now to clarify there are two spellings of Mackinac. The only place we have seen Mackinaw is in the name of the town just south of the bridge. Mackinaw City is pronounced phonetically and has a a letter “w” at the end of its name since the British occupation of the city. All the other places use the letter “c” at the end of their names such as the Mackinac Bridge, Mackinac Island and the Straights of Mackinac. There is no difference in how they are pronounced as they all will sound the same as the one with the letter “w” at its end… the letter “c” at the end came about during the time the French occupation of the area. So when we see Mackinac we just think Mackinaw…

Macinac Island MI 031Since we had seen all the Great Lakes except Lake Superior one morning we headed north toward the town Sault Ste. Marie. It lies on the northeastern end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula right on the Canadian border. Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest city in Michigan but we didn’t come here for its history because we really wanted to see the Soo Locks. The St. Mary’s River that passes through the town connect Lake Huron with Lake Superior. To us these locks weren't as impressive as the ones we saw in Canada along the Welland Canal because of the deeper drop caused by the Niagara Falls. The drop at Sault Ste. Marie is much less deep so thus less impressive in the distance upon which a ship is lowered.

Nonetheless as we watched a 75+ foot ship loaded with Iron Ore appear to barely squeeze into the Soo Locks we were so impressed at the technology and the skills of the ship pilots. We really enjoyed watching as the ship entered into one end of the lock. Next they closed the gate behind the ship after it was tied off. Slowly the water was pumped out of the lock and the ship lowered some 21 feet. The other gates opened up and the ship was untethered and  free to leave its confines… cool to watch it all as it takes place…

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Before leaving Sault Ste. Marie we stopped by LSSU or Lake Superior State University. The campus served as Ft. Brady starting in 1894 after the fort was relocated from the banks of the St. Mary’s. The fort was deactivated in 1944 and by 1946 LSSU was established to address the needs of the returning World War II veterans. What makes this an interesting stop are the 14 buildings on the National Historic Register. The salmon colored brick buildings are each distinctive and majestic as the sit along the upper banks of the St. Mary’s River and the Soo Locks below…

Before we left this part of the state we headed a bit west to a park where we took the opportunity to dip our toes into the waters of Lake Superior the last of the Great Lakes tour… Next up for us is a visit to the Island so we will be at the Tiki RV Park & Campground a while longer.


  1. Pretty cool, I would like to watch a ship go through those locks.

  2. One state we have not been to yet. Enjoy!!!

  3. WE really enjoy watching the ships go thru those locks. We once camped right on the river for a week and only left the campground to go sit in the lock galleries:)

  4. There is some great sites to see, enjoy the island when you get there too.

  5. Beautiful buildings on that campus. I wonder if the salmon colored brick is from local clay. I take it the buildings were originally part of the fort and not build by the university.