In what sounds like a cool job, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District, is actively seeking applications to fill multiple Lock and Dam Operator vacancies.

Check out the whole job description here

The St. Mary’s River is the only water connection between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes.

Near the upper end of the river the water drops 21 feet over hard sandstone in a short ¾ mile long stretch.

These rapids, or “sault” to use the original old French term, made it impossible for trade vessels to pass. Vessels had to be unloaded and their contents portaged around.

In 1797 the first lock on the St. Mary’s River was constructed on the north shore to provide passage for trade canoes.

Soo Locks Map
Soo Locks Map

This lock was destroyed by American forces during the War of 1812 and cargoes once again had to be unloaded, hauled overland, and reloaded until a new lock opened in 1855.

Directions to the Soo Locks
Directions to the Soo Locks

The State Lock 1855 – 1888 was the first to be built.

Built by the State of Michigan on the south shore of the river, this project was financed by a congressional land grant of 750,000 acres of public land to the company that successfully built the lock to the required specifications and within the two year deadline.

The E&T Fairbanks Company, a Vermont company investing in mineral resources in the state won the contract and with Charles T. Harvey on site to oversee operations completed two locks, each chamber measuring 350’ long, 70’ wide and 12 feet deep with a lift of 9 feet in less than two years.

Few more facts:

  • Each year, there are approximately 10,000 lockages during the navigation season at the Soo Locks
  • The largest boat on the Great Lakes is the Paul R. Tregurtha, this boat is 1,014 feet long and 105 feet wide.  (That is longer than three football fields!)
  • Boats do not pay tolls to use the locks. However, cargo vessels pay a tax on their cargo at their destination port which goes to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
  • To be able to lock through the MacArthur or Poe Lock, a private boat must be motorized (no canoes, kayaks, peddle boats, etc), have 75 feet of line and coordinate with the Chief Lockmaster to receive permission. Private vessel owners should realize there is a set priority hierarchy for use of the locks starting with government vessels, freight vessels, commercial vessels and finally private vessels. During busy times, there could be long waits for the locks and the lockmaster may divert private watercraft to the Canadian Lock on the north shore of the river.
  • From the time a vessel approaches the lock until the time it leaves takes between 40-60 minutes.  Once the vessel is secured inside the lock it takes 15-20 minutes to raise or lower the boat 21 feet (just over a foot a minute!).

Read the rest of the locks history here

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