Rotary Island Park, Sault Ste. Marie – Freighters and Family Fun
There’s no shortage of things to do in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan’s oldest city. One of the main draws here is the Soo Locks, which all vessels heading to or coming from Lake Superior must pass through. Visitors to Soo Locks Park can watch the freighters as they are raised or lowered 21 feet from an observation deck. Much of the downtown shopping district is located near the park. A few miles down the road to the east is Rotary Island Park, which has become one of our favorite stops when visiting the area. Here you can watch freighters in the St. Mary’s River from a few hundred feet away with no barriers, or take a stroll through this beautiful park that has quite a bit to offer.
The main draw to Rotary Island Park, as previously mentioned, is to view passing freighters. The park offers one of the best opportunities to see these large vessels up close, and there are no obstructions for photographers. This is usually one of the first places we bring people if they haven’t been to Sault Ste. Marie before. It takes most vessels about a half hour to reach this point after exiting the Soo Locks if they are downbound. This year, with the viewing platforms at Soo Locks Park close due to coronavirus concerns, we found ourselves spending a lot more time at Rotary Island Park. Below are some of our favorite freighter photos from this park over the past few years.
The park also offers a walkway that follows the shoreline, complete with informative signs that talk about its history and some other things to watch for on the river. A kayak launch is provided for those who wish to check out the river.
The park has a kids’ fishing area, where those under 16 are invited to try and catch something. The pond is stocked with trout.
The walking path has benches and a gazebo (that can be hard to access when water levels are high).
It also has a playground.
In the fall, this park is beautiful!
Be sure to watch for wildlife in the area. Geese, ducks, and the occasional loon can be seen in the river.
Clyde’s Drive In is right next door. Check out their menu!
You’re guaranteed to see at least one boat at work here. The Sugar Island ferry runs back and forth between a dock just west of the park and Sugar Island twice every hour. Sugar Island is home to a few hundred year-round residents and is also home to the Chase Osborn Preserve.
Keep up with freighters and other vessel traffic at https://ais.boatnerd.com/.