|The locks of Sault Ste. Marie|
|Mackinac Bridge: courtesy Wikipedia|
I spent a pleasant afternoon exploring the famed Soo Locks.
The locks have operated in some form or another since the late-1700s. The reason: at this geographical point, the St. Mary’s River rapids fall about 21 feet from Lake Superior to the lower lakes.
This engineering marvel is quite simple – it's just a water elevator going both up and downstream. The system relies simply on the gravitational flow of water, using no pumps. Operated by the Corps of Engineers, over 11 thousand vessels pass through the Soo Locks each year. If you are really really interested, here's a short video describing the process.
So if spending an hour of your life watching a massive ship navigate an itty-bitty opening sounds a lot like watching paint dry, I can tell you that it’s actually pretty riveting!
A nice 2-story platform is provided from which to view this phenomenon. I was surprised by the number of people who, like me, came to gawk.
As I arrived, so did the Walter McCarthy Jr. At almost 1,000 feet in length, the iron ore freighter was heading from Lake Huron to Lake Superior. “Enormous” doesn’t really describe it. I’m from the southeast where we measure distances in football fields. So, a little over 3.
Here she comes ...
aaaaand there she goes.
Web shot of the ship. See the wee people?
After traversing the lock, the McArthur accompanied me on the walk back to the GDB. I was tickled to get this shot of both vessels.
Some 50 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie lies the famed Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere.
The toll-keeper collected my $4 and advised me to "go slow and enjoy the view". And I did - all 5 miles of it.
During my last stop before leaving the Upper Peninsula, I'm able to provide documented proof that Autumn is indeed close at hand!