Soo Locks
The Soo Locks allow ships to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. The locks pass an average of 10,000 ships per year. This is achieved in spite of the locks being closed during the winter from January through March, when ice shuts down shipping on the Great Lakes. The winter closure period is used to inspect and maintain the locks. The locks bypass the rapids of the St. Marys River where the water falls 21 feet (7 m) from Lake Superior. Sault Ste. Marie gives its name to both the Canadian and U.S. cities at the site, in Ontario and Michigan, respectively. The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge between the United States and Canada permits vehicular traffic to pass over the locks.

U.S. Soo locks
The U.S. locks form part of a 1.6-mile (2.6-km) canal formally named the St. Mary's Falls Canal. The entire canal, including the locks, is owned and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, which provides free passage. The first iteration of the U.S. Soo Locks was completed in May 1855, and operated by the State of Michigan until transferred to the U.S. Army in 1881. The current configuration consists of four parallel lock chambers, each running east to west; starting at the Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, shoreline and moving north, these are:
  • The MacArthur Lock, built in 1943. It is 800 feet (244 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) wide, and 29.5 feet (9 m) deep. This is large enough to handle ocean-going vessels ("salties") that must also pass through the smaller locks in the Welland Canal. The first vessel through was the SS Carl D. Bradley.
  • The Poe Lock, re-built in 1968, after the Saint Lawrence Seaway had opened. It is 1,200 feet (366 m) long, 110 feet (34 m) wide, and 32 feet (10 m) deep. It can take ships carrying 72,000 tons of cargo. The Poe is the only lock that can handle the large lakers used on the upper lakes. The original Poe Lock was engineered by Orlando Poe and, at 800 feet long and 100 feet wide (244 x 30 m), was the largest in the world when completed in 1896 .
  • The Davis Lock, built in 1914. It is 1,350 feet (411 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) wide, and 23.1 feet (7 m) deep. This lock is used rather infrequently (only 5 commercial/private and 34 government vessel passages, on 14 October days, during 2008 ) to lock light freighters, tour boats, and small craft when traffic warrants. The SS James A Farrell was the first vessel to lock through.
  • The Sabin Lock, built in 1919. It is 1,350 feet (411 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) wide, and 23.1 feet (7 m) deep. This lock has been placed in caretaker status and is no longer used.
The Davis and Sabin locks have been slated for replacement since 1986 with a new ' Super-Lock', which would provide a second lock capable of accommodating the lakers. Groundbreaking for the new lock project was held on June 30, 2009, although the bulk of the funding necessary to complete the project has not yet been appropriated. This construction will further limit usage of the Davis Lock. North of the Sabin Lock is an additional channel with a small hydroelectric plant that provides electricity for the lock complex.

Engineers Day
On the last Friday of every June, the public is allowed to go behind the security fence and cross the lock gates of the U.S. Soo Locks for the annual Engineers Day Open House . Visitors are able to get close enough to the ships passing through the two operating locks to touch them.

Canadian Soo locks
See: Sault Ste. Marie Canal

Building Activity

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