Did you know these 20 things about the Soo Locks?

Called the “Linchpin of the Great Lakes” by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, this engineering marvel has roots that date back to the mid 1800’s. The Soo Locks are a National Historic Site in Michigan’s oldest city.

Soo Locks1. Did you know that 90% of iron ore passes through the Soo Locks annually? The value is over $500 billion.

2. Did you know that you can take your personal boat through the Soo Locks? You have to have a motor and permission from the lockmaster.

3. Did you know that about 12,000 vessels pass through the locks yearly? Crews complete these during the 42 weeklong navigation seasons, they are open 24 hours a day.

4. Did you know that the Soo Locks are part of the St. Lawrence Seaway? Ships from all over the world visit this port as the locks which help connect Duluth, Minnesota to the Atlantic Ocean. Duluth is 2,332 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and takes on average 7 days to reach it from Duluth.

Soo Locks5. Did you know that 22 million gallons of water are required to traverse a boat through the Poe Lock? There are no pumps, the locks are powered by gravity. Water moves in and out of the lock chambers by opening and closing valves.

6. Did you know that the largest boat that goes through the Soo Locks is over 1,000 feet long? The largest boat is the Paul R. Tregurtha at 1,013 feet 6 inches. There are 13 – 1,000 footers on the Great Lakes.

7. Did you know that it takes 9 hours to pass through the Soo Locks? The time between Lake Superior and Lake Huron it takes a freighter about 9 hours to pass through the St. Mary’s River System.

Soo Locks8. Did you know that a thick layer of bedrock (the same stone that makes Pictured Rocks) holds back the waters of Lake Superior where it joins the St. Mary’s River? This drop prevents boats from passing through. The reddish sandstones lines most of Lake Superior Southern shores and is about 1000 feet thick.

9. Did you know that the Soo Locks are toll free? From 1855 to 1881 the toll was 3-4 cents per ton. In 1881, the locks were transferred to the U.S. government and placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps have operated it toll-free since.

10. Did you know that the propeller in Soo Locks Park is from a steamer named Independence? This steamer exploded just northwest of today’s locks. One crew member is said to have survived a trip down the rapids on a bale of hay from the ship.

Soo Locks11. Did you know that the locks are open from late March through Mid-January depending on the weather? – It is estimated that 500,000 people visit the Soo Locks and watch the freighters go through the locks up close.

12. Did you know that you can take a boat tour of the Soo Locks? There are a couple of companies that provide tours that let you experience both an up bound and down bound lockage.

Soo Locks13. Did you know that the Poe Lock is the lock that most ships use? It is 1,200 feet and was originally completed in 1896 and rebuilt in 1968 to accommodate larger and more modern ships.

14. Did you know that the MacArthur Lock at 800 feet is still in operation? It was constructed in 1943 and is name after General Douglas MacArthur. It is the lock closest to Sault Ste. Marie and the observation deck in the Soo Locks Park overlooks it.

15. Did you know that a lock was constructed in 1797 on the Canadian side of the river. The Northwest Fur Company constructed it for small boats and it was 38 feet long. The lock remained in use until it was destroyed in the War of 1812.

Soo Locks16. Did you know that freighters and boats were portaged around the rapids after the first lock was destroyed in the War of 1812? The Fairbanks Scale Company who had mining interests in the Upper Peninsula agreed to the project of building a new lock in 1853. The first chamber built was the State Lock in 1855 and once again ships were able to easily transport between the two great lakes.

17. Did you know that there are 5 locks? The MacArthur (built 1943), the Poe (built 1896), the Davis (built 1914), the Sabin (built 1919) and the Canadian. The Canadian is for pleasure craft only, the Davis is for Soo Area Office Vessels and the Sabin is closed.

Soo Locks18. Did you know that there is a 21-foot difference in elevation between Lake Superior and Lake Huron? This creates a ¾ mile set of rapids over sandstone that blocked shipping freighters before the canal and locks were built.

19. Did you know that the Soo Locks makes its own electricity? They only use about 5% of what they make and sell the excess to the local power utility.

20. Did you know that the St. Marys River is dammed? The hydro plants, locks, and other works above the rapids acts as a dam to regulate the water flowing out of Lake Superior. An international treaty signed in 2910 with Great Britain governs water use. Canada has replaced Great Britain in this treaty.

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