Friday, September 30, 2011

A Sweet Vacation Part 4

The next stop on our family adventure was in Sault Ste. Marie, the second oldest city in the U.S. (St. Augustine, Florida is older). Sault Ste Marie, or the Soo as we call it, was named by the French explorers that were shown the treacherous rapids by the Ojibwa Indians. "Sault" means rapids in French so Sault Ste. Marie loosely translated is "Rapids on the St. Mary's".

We went on the Soo Locks boat tour on Sunday morning, into the afternoon. It is a 2 1/2 hour tour of the beautiful St. Mary's River, the Soo Canal and the locks.  The locks were built in the mid 1850's to help commerce on the Great Lakes.  When it was completed in 1855 it immediately allowed the "Lakers" (freighters) and the "Salties" (ocean-going vessels) to travel the 21 foot drop between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  The mines of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan could now ship the ore much more easily (iron and copper) to the mills of the northeast.  This was also a great help to the North during the Civil War.

There were four locks, however, the Poe (1968) and MacArthur (1943) locks are the only locks in operation at this time.  They can hold the 1000 ft. lakers that are used for shipping today.  The Davis (1918) and Sabin (1919) locks are too shallow for today's shipping.  A groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 30, 2009 to begin the project to replace the Davis and Sabin locks with a new superlock. The channel needs to be deepened, however the project was put on hold by the federal government on June 17, 2010.

We all enjoyed the trip through the locks, but J, our resident engineer, spent the entire afternoon on the top floor of the tour boat and took photos (Do says at least 300!). 

We ended our day at the Sugar Island Ferry dock, southeast of town, just past the city campgrounds.  They have a great drive-in there called Clyde's Drive-in. Clyde's has car-hop service and they serve delicious thick shakes (I had cherry) and juicy olive burgers and fries!  You can sit and watch the small car ferry travel back and forth to Sugar Island as you munch on your food.  Clyde used to work for my uncle and his father on the ferry at one time and then years later opened the drive-in.

Like I always say..."life is sweet in Michigan".  If you would like to go to a website and see how the Soo Locks work, go to

We're going to the island that is the turtle's back in part 5!

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