Come aboard the Soo Locks Tour Boat, Nokomis, for a look at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario from the beautiful St. Mary's River.
Here are 92 photos (PLUS 4 bonus photos added on Oct. 22, 2011) from a trip aboard the Nokomis on June 28, 2009. The text with each photo will explain the things you are seeing, and hopefully give you a "feel" for what the actual tour includes. Also, I will attempt to explain certain processes along the way (you will see what I mean). The tour will take us up the St. Mary's River (beginning on the American side) from Soo Locks Boat Tours Dock #1 past MCM Marine, Soo Supply Co. dock, Carbide Dock, James A. Alford Park, Edison Sault Hydroelectric Power Plant, Valley Camp Museum Ship, G-Tug Base, U.S. Coast Guard base, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer's facility before entering the MacArthur Lock, where we will be lifted 21-ft. into the Lake Superior level of the St. Mary's River. From there we will travel under the International Bridge and over into the Algoma Steel Co. facility on the Canadian side of the river, then past the Algoma/Essar Steel Company's Co-Generating plant, also on the Canadian side. At this point, the tour boat would normally go back downbound through the Canadian Lock; however, the lock was closed for maintenance on this trip, so we will proceed back to the American side and go downbound through the MacArthur lock once more. After departing the lock on the Lower St. Mary's River, we turn once again toward the Canadian side of the river. The first thing we see is the U.S. Hydroelectric Power Plant (adjacent to the current Sabin Lock), which supplies electricity to the Soo Locks, and excess power is sold to the Edison Sault Electric Company. Then we pass what is left of the St. Mary's River Rapids, open water flowing from the Lake Superior level down to the Lake Huron level of the St. Mary's River, which is just a trickle these days. From there we head over to the Canadian side to take a look at the Lower Approach to the Canadian Lock, Roberta Bandar Park and Pavillion, Purvis Marine base and the Bushplane Museum before heading back to our dock where the tour ends.
This gallery will contain photos of the facilities mentioned PLUS various vessels encountered along the way at their various docks.
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So, let's get this tour underway! Please note that the Canadian Lock was closed for maintenance when I took the tour. However, a good friend, Scott Best, was up there on Sept. 4, 2011 and took the tour while the lock was open. On Oct. 22, 2011, I added 4 of his photos showing the transit through the Canadian Lock. Thank you Scott!! Here are the photos:
MCM Marine - After departing Soo Locks Tour Boat Dock #1, we come to the tug, William C. Gaynor at its dock
MCM Marine - Also at the dock is the Zenith tug, Anna Marie Altman
MCM Marine - In the floating dry-dock is MCM's Derrick No. 55
Soo Supply Co. - At the dock is the supply boat, Ojibway, which services the Great Lakes ships with anything from parts to groceries (and more)
Soo Supply Co. - Also at the dock is the old tug, Sioux
Carbide Dock - Just east of the dock are these old barges
James A. Alford Park - At the west end of the Carbide Dock (the dock itself is just an open field) is this fishermen's park and the Edison Sault Power Plant
Edison Sault Power Plant - Close-up of the ornate walls decorated with a lighthouses motiff - The building is the longest horizontal power plant in the world at 1360-ft.-long. It houses 74 turbines which can produce a peak power of 40 megawatts of electricity; however, the average output is about 65-percent of that number. The plant was completed in 1902.
Soo Locks Boat Tours Dock #2 & the Tower of History - The tower rises 210-ft. above Sault Ste. Marie, MI, and visitors can take an elevator up to near the top of the structure for a breath-taking view of both Sault Ste. Marie, MI and also Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Soo locks Tour Boat Dock #2 - The LeVoyageur awaits a call to duty (our tour boat, the Nokomis, is the twin of this vessel
Valley Camp Museum Ship - The ship was built in 1917, taken out of service in the 1960's and turned into a floating museum. Displays include the 2 lifeboats recovered from the Edmund Fitzgerald, a freighter that sank in a November 1975 Lake Superior storm that claimed 29 lives.
Valley Camp Museum Ship - The ship is listed in the National Register of Historic Places
G-Tug Base - The American tugs that mostly assist foreign ships through the Soo Locks (among other duties) is next to the U.S. Coast Guard Base
Coast Guard Station - USCG Katmai Bay on station at the base
Coast Guard Station - Also at the base is the USCG Buckthorn and other assorted craft
USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) base - The tug, Owen Frederick pushes the corps' barges
USACE base - This is the corps' dredge, Nicolet
USACE base - This "heavy-lift" barge, Paul Bunyan, is capable of lifting 300 tons, and is used (among other duties) to lift the gates of the Soo Locks when they need to be repaired
Soo Locks - We approach the MacArthur lock, which is open before us
MacArthur Lock - We prepare to enter the lock in order to be raised 21-ft. to the Lake Superior level of the river
MacArthur Lock - The stairs closest to the lock are used by crewmembers handling the ships lines (so they can tie up the vessel while "locking through")
MacArthur Lock - The massive gates close behind us
MacArthur Lock - The gates in front of us hold back water which is now 21-ft. higher than we are.
MacArthur Lock - The safety boom is lowered behind us and the lock begins to fill. Water is fed into the lock by gravity; no pumps are used. Filling valves in the bottom of the lock are opened to fill the lock, while emptying valves are opened when a vessel is being lowered.
MacArthur Lock - We are about half-way up to the level of Lake Superior
MacArthur Lock - ... still going up
MacArthur Lock - we are fully raised, and the gates in front of us begin to open
MacArthur Lock - The safety boom is being raised, and we will be on our way shortly.
MacArthur Lock - We are on our way to the upper level of the St. Mary's River
MacArthur Lock - Looking back at the lock as he head out
MacArthur Lock - A look at the pieces of the massive cofferdam which can be put in place to block off the flow of water should the upper lock gates fail
International Bridge - As we continue, we will pass under the International Bridge which connects Sault Ste. Marie, MI with Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and also under the International Train (lift) Bridge
International Train Bridge - we have just passed under both bridges
International Bridge - A look back at (almost) the full span of the bridge to Canada
Algoma Steel Export Dock - The dock itself (not quite visible) is made from the hull of a scrapped freighter, Sewell Avery
Algoma Steel - Broad view of the steel-making giant in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Algoma Steel - A closer look
Algoma Steel - The dock is lined with piles of taconite (iron ore pellets)
Algoma Steel - Excess gases from the making of coke (not the drink - LOL) are burned off. Coal is baked in huge ovens for over 15 hours to get rid of the tars and gasses; what remains is coke that is used to fuel the blast furnaces. The natural gas burned off in the making of coke is used to heat the furnaces. The tars and other by-products from the coke-making process are then sold.
Algoma Steel - This is the main dock at the steel plant
Algoma Steel - Taconite pellets are lifted by an overhead gantry crane (see last photo) and dropped into train cars, which then carry the pellets to the blast furnaces where they will be mixed with limestone and coke. The molten limestone removes the impurities from the iron and the coke; the iron being heavier drops to the bottom of the blast furnace and is sent along to the next process. The end result is steel, while the impurities from the limestone and coke form "slag", which is then sold for uses such as asphalt and concrete mix (just to name a couple). The gantry cranes may also be used to unload ships; however, the advent of the self-unloading vessels has made this move rare.
Algoma Steel - A clamshell takes a bite out of a taconite pile
Algoma Steel - ... and lifts it where the gantry crane will move it over to a waiting ore car
Algoma Steel - An overhead conveyor is used to move coal to the plant from the opposite side of the slip.
Algoma Steel - Our tour boat has now turned around and we head out of the Algoma Steel facility. The gantry crane looms to our left and piles of taconite line the docks. These piles would be even larger if the economy wasn't in such bad shape!
Algoma Steel - A closer look at the taconite piles
Algoma Steel - Blast furnace
Algoma Steel - More furnaces
Co-Generating plant - Located next to Algoma Steel (Algoma [Essar] Steel recently put this power plant on-line)
Co-Generating plant - A closer look at the facility (Thanks to Bill M. for this corrected information)
Canadian Soo Lock - A look at the upper entrance to the (closed for maintenance) Canadian lock and the railroad swing bridge in front of the lock
Canadian Soo Lock - The entrance to the lock is partially obscured by a railroad swing bridge
Even though we continued the tour by heading back to the U.S. side to lock through the MacArthur Lock on our way back to the Soo Locks Tour Boat dock, a good friend of mine, Scott Best, took the tour on Sept. 4, 2011 when the Canadian Lock was open for business. He has provided me with some photos of what it was like locking through the Canadian Lock, and also generously allowed me to share the following 4 photos with you. The photos take us into the Canadian Lock from the upper St. Mary's River in the first 3 photos to the view behind the lower lock gate after the boat is lowered. Notice the people along the lock watching the boat lock through in photo #4. There is a park right along the Canadian Lock where people can walk right up to the lock, something that can only be done once per year on the U.S. side: the last Friday in June each year known as "Engineer's Day." So, here is where the tour normally proceeds. Jump to the "" symbol below to continue the tour as it would be after passing through the Canadian Lock (however, you may want to take a look at the two other (different) types of train bridges in the section immediately following before doing that.) Thank you, Scott!!
Canadian Lock - Heading into the lock, the upper gates are already open waiting for the boat
Canadian Lock - Heading into the lock
Canadian Lock - Looking out over the (closed) lower gate at the lower approach and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
Canadian Lock - The boat is almost lowered to a level 21-ft. below where it was a few minutes ago. Notice the people along the lock
Algoma Steel - A view of most of the facility from the Canadian Soo Lock Approach
Algoma Steel - One last look at the dock
Bridges - (L to R) Railroad Bascule Bridge, which is the largest in the world, spanning the approaches to the Sabin and Davis Locks, and the Railroad Lift Bridge, spanning the approaches to the Poe and MacArthur Locks, with the International (highway) bridge above them
Windmills - In the hills above Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
West Pier Apartments - Apartment complex built along West Pier (Upper approaches to the Poe and MacArthur Locks) in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan
Bascule Bridge - A closer look at the railroad bridge
Lift Bridge - With the upper approaches to the Poe and MacArthur Locks in the background
International Railroad Bridge - A look at the stationary parts of the railroad bridge with the International (highway) Bridge above
Interntional Bridges - Looking straight up at both the railroad and highway bridges
Upper MacArthur Lock Approach - Tourists aboard the boat look on as we head for the lock
MacArthur Lock - Heading into the lock from the Upper St. Mary's River
MacArthur Lock - The lower gates are now closed and we are about to be dropped 21-ft. to the Lake Huron level of the St. Mary's River
MacArthur Lock - The upper gates close behind us and the safety boom lowers
MacArthur Lock - We are about halfway down looking at the lower gates
MacArthur Lock - ... all the way down and the lower gates open in front of us
MacArthur Lock - The gates continue to open and the safety boom rises
MacArthur Lock - Gates are open and the boom is almost up, we are about ready to proceed.
MacArthur Lock - Water guage inside the lock registers 32 feet of water in the lock
U.S. Hydroelectric Power Plant - Adjacent to the current Sabin Lock
St. Mary's River Rapids - A look at the International Train Bridge with the highway bridge in the foreground which cross what used to be a mighty rapids
CCG Cape Hurd - A Canadian Coast Guard boat docked in the Canadian Soo
Canadian Soo lock - A look up the Lower Approach to the Canadian lock
Canadian Soo Lock - A closer look at the lock and grounds
Canadian Soo Lock - ... and an even closer look
Roberta Bandar Pavillion - The Soo Locks Canada Tour Boat, Chief Shingwauk, sadly sits idle near the park and pavillion this year, a victim of the economy
CCG Cape Hurd - Stern view of the Canadian Coast Guard vessel sporting a zodiak watercraft on its stern
Norgoma Museum Ship - A statue of a bull moose stands guard over the ship
Valley Camp Museum Ship - A view from across the Lower St. Mary's River
USCG Katmai Bay - Stern view from across the Lower St. Mary's River
Purvis Marine - Tug base at Purvis Marine in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario as rain clouds roll in
Purvis Marine Dock - Tugs, Reliance and Avenger IV in front of the barely visible ship, Yankcanuck, with the old E.M. Ford alongside
Bushplane Museum - Next to Purvis Marine has several airplanes available for tours plus other displays
E.M. Ford - One more look at the old cement carrier with the uncertain future
Tower of History - With the Valley Camp Museum Ship in the foreground
Edison Sault Hydroelectric Power Plant - A great view of the over 1/4-mile-long building in Sault Ste. Marie, MI
Edison Sault and Tower of History - wide view of the area
Holiday - Approaching Soo Locks Boat Tours Dock #1 (where we began) sits one of the other tour boats
Hiawatha - ... and another
Soo locks Boat Tours Dock #1 - With the 2 other vessels at dock ... Thus concludes our tour; hope you enjoyed the journey!
Nokomis - Oh, and in case you wonder what our tour boat looks like, check out this stock photo from a previous year.