Eight Things To See and Do at Soo Locks Park in Sault Ste. Marie

Eight Things To See and Do at Soo Locks Park in Sault Ste. Marie

Soo Locks Park Observation Deck View

Sault Ste. Marie is Michigan’s oldest city and home to the Soo Locks, a marvel of engineering that allows large freighters to transit the elevation difference between Lake Superior and the St. Mary’s River as it connects to Lake Huron. The locks are vital to Great Lakes shipping and have also been a tourist destination since they were constructed. We love visiting Soo Locks Park and today we take a look at everything you can see and do when you visit. The park is free to visit (though you will need to pass through security) and is open during most daylight hours during the shipping season (typically March – January). Here are Eight Things To See and Do at Soo Locks Park in Sault Ste. Marie:

Soo Locks Park Observation Deck

Soo Locks Observation Tower – This is without a doubt the top draw for the park, as a two-tiered deck offers views of freighters from above while also providing some shelter from the elements. From the upper deck you feel as if you could almost reach out and touch one of the freighters as it passes through. The lower level offers a fully enclosed area with a large window and can be accessed via ramp by any visitors with mobility issues. It can take between 30 minutes and an hour for a ship to pass through so find a good spot and enjoy the view!

Soo Locks Park Visitor Center 2023

Soo Locks Visitor Center – Your one-stop shop for information, the visitor center is located in the middle of the park between the west entrance gate and the observation deck. Typically open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. during peak season, the building houses several exhibits and models that detail the history of the locks and the importace of Great Lakes shipping. They also post a daily schedule of upbound and downbound freighter arrivals to help plan your ship watching. Restrooms are also located inside this building (the park’s other restrooms can be found on the lower level near the fountain).

Soo Locks PArk Fountain SSM Michigan

Fountain – A family favorite in the east end of the park, the fountain is a great spot for relaxin on hot summer days. Stop by after dark to see it with colorful lights and music!

Soo Locks Park Chase Osborn Memorial

Chase Osborn Memorial – On the lower level of the park there is a memorial to one of Sault Ste. Marie’s most famous son, Chase Osborn. There is a bust statue and several plaques that detail his life and career. Osborn was postmaster in Sault Ste. Marie, governor of Michigan, an author, a statesman, and a philanthropist.

Soo Locks Park Torii

The Torii – One of Osborn’s gifts to the city was this Japanese torii found near the park’s east gate. A sign nearby explains its significance: “Traditionally, Torii gates are used to adorn the entrance to Shinto shrines, serving as a point of transition from the outer world to the inner shrine. The Torii in Sault Ste. Marie was placed at the entrance of Government Park to welcome park visitors and to commemorate the Sister-City relationship between Sault Ste. Marie and Ryuoh Town in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture, affiliated in 1974.”

Soo Locks Park Maritime Artifacts

Maritime Artifacts – Spread throughout the park are many maritime artifacts like anchors and propellers from freighters of years past. There are informational signs next to most of them detailing where they came from and providing a look at how things were different in the early days of shipping on the St. Mary’s River.

Soo Locks Park 1000 Foot Freighters

1,000 foot freighter banners – The fence by the locks now has colorful banners showcasing the 13 1,000-foot freighters that travel the Great Lakes. You can even walk past all of them to get an idea what 1,000 feet is actually like since they are spaced out over 1,013 feet (to match the longest freighter)! These are some of the favorite ships that come through and include the Stewart J. Cort, Presque Isle, Edwin H. Gott, James R. Barker, Indiana Harbor, Mesabi Miner, Burns Harbor, Walter J. McCarthy Jr., Edgar B. Speer, American Century, American Integirty, American Spirit, and the Paul R. Tregurtha (the current Queen of the Lakes).

Soo Locks Park Construction

Check out construction progress on the new lock – Funding for the construction of a second lock that can accommodate 1,000 foot freighters was approved in 2018 and construction has slowly been ramping up since then. The process will involves turning the Davis and Sabin locks (not used in decades) into one new lock, and the USACE put together an amazing video showing how the whole project will proceed. With the project slated for completion by 2023, there will definitely be some new activity to observe every time you visit over the next five years or more.