Back in 2016, we did a Soo Locks Boat Tour as part of our Epic Michigan Road Trip. While staying in St. Ignace at Straits State Park over Labor Day, we decided to take my brother and sister-in-law to the Soo since neither of them had been. It is a 45-minute drive from St. Ignace to Sault Ste. Marie and is an easy day trip.
We started at the Locks viewing area where we called the hotline and found out that a freighter, G3 Marquis (above), would be coming through soon. After watching the ship lower to meet the water level of Lake Huron, we decided that our family needed to experience the Locks firsthand, so we booked a Soo Locks Boat tour.
We drove through downtown Sault Ste. Marie and headed to Famous Soo Locks Boat Tours near the historic St. Mary Falls Power Plant and the Museum Ship Valley Camp. Back in 2016, we did the tour with Original Soo Locks Boat Tours, which is located a little farther out of town, and we were under the impression this was one company with two docks, but after some internet sleuthing we learned that they have always been separate companies but they used to share docks and operated as a single company outwardly. But, in 2022 The Original Soo Locks Boat Tours was bought by the company that also runs the S.S. Badger Carferry and now the two tour companies run completely separate businesses.
The Soo Locks are an engineering marvel! The locks allow ships to bypass the dangerous St. Mary’s rapids by adjusting the water level for the 21-foot difference between Lake Huron and Lake Superior. The locks are maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and are free for use by commercial or personal watercraft. There are two functioning locks on the U.S. side with a third lock under construction and slated for completion in 2030. It is estimated that 10,000 ships go through the locks each year, but many newer ships no longer fit in the smaller MacArthur Lock, so Great Lakes marine traffic should speed up when the new lock opens. There is one lock on the Canadian side that is not large enough for commercial freighters and is only used for pleasure craft. Our tour did not go through it last summer because of Canada’s strict COVID regulations. Hopefully, the tours will be able to use it again next summer because it was fun to go back through a different lock.
If you are spending any time in the Eastern UP, definitely make the drive to Sault Ste. Marie. Call the Soo Locks Hotline ((906) 632-3366) to make sure you time your visit with an incoming freighter. If you have the time, a boat tour is definitely worth it to get to experience the changing water levels for yourself. There are currently two options, Famous Soo Locks Tours and Original Soo Locks Tours, they do the same route. I would pick based on the time that works best for you.
Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! For my list of gadgets to make your travels easier, click here. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.
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