Next time you visit Mackinaw City, cross the Mighty Mac and head to Michigan's oldest city, Sault Ste. Marie. Celebrating 350 years, it's a place that was and still is crucial for international trade.
One thing that people come from all around the world to see are the Soo Locks. FOX 17 Morning Mix was invited along to go out on one of the many tour boats to see first hand how they operate.
Before we boarded, we were greeted by a character playing Father Jacque Marquette. He explained how he was born in 1637 and came to that area from France in 1668 as a Jesuit missionary spreading his message to the native people. Sault Ste. Marie, he explained, was named by the French. A sault or soo means small rapid or waterfall. In the St. Mary's River, which connects Lake Superior and Lake Huron, there is a 21-foot drop in about a three-quarters of a mile span.
Prior to the Soo Locks being built, those moving goods had trouble navigating the river due to the drop and would have to carry their cargo around the rapids.
Across from Michigan, we learned about Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The United States and Canada separation happened after The War of 1812.
Getting through the locks is based on a first-come, first served basis. During our trips, the river was extremely backed up due to weather the prior day. So, our two-hour tour went a bit longer, but we were able to see and learn about so much!
From 1,000 foot long freighters to the Edison Sault Hydroelectric Plant, plenty of opportunities to take some great photos. A narrator on the tour boat will tell you all about the sites and some fun facts. For example, did you know that there is no charge for vessels, no matter what country, to use the locks?
Once it was our turn to get into the locks, the process was explained. The locks work all by gravity. There are culverts below the lock floors, allowing water to flow in and out, depending on which valve is open. Water will raise or lower about 1 foot every minute.
Quite a crowd can gather from an observation platform on land. To learn more about the Soo Locks and Sault Ste. Marie, click here. Be sure to visit mackinawcity.com to learn about all of the wonderful things to do while in the city and beyond.