Thanks to Mlive for this:

SAULT STE. MARIE, MI – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had planned to close the Soo Locks system to all ship traffic at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021 kicking off the annual 10-week season of winter maintenance.

Every year, the Soo Locks are closed from January 15-March 25 for maintenance and repairs.

But when you’ve got a 1,000-foot freighter motoring across Lake Superior loaded with 70,107 tons of taconite iron ore that needs to get to Gary, Indiana, you leave the locks open for a few more hours.

Walter J. McCarthy Jr. @ Soo Locks

The Walter J. McCarthy Jr. was the last big ship through the Soo Locks to end the winter season.

The freighter “cleared the Poe Lock at 4:06 this morning, closing out the 2020 navigation season,” U.S. Army Corps staff said today in a post on their Facebook page.

The McCarthy freighter, built in 1977 and owned by the American Steamship Company, will head to its winter layup after delivering the iron ore pellets, locks staff said.

Walter J. McCarthy Jr. @ Soo Locks

As the clocked ticked down to the Soo Locks’ closure earlier this week, freighter fans watching marine tracking websites were chatting on social media about how a handful of ships had been getting their final cargo of winter loaded at the western end of Lake Superior and were about to set off on their last downbound trips. .

Now closed, the Soo Locks will reopen to ships on March 25. During this roughly 10-week closure, no ships will move between Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes.

While the locks are closed, crews from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will pack a long list of maintenance into the winter work schedule.


See the Soo Locks for yourself:

Soo Locks Boat Tours (open annually May 30-October 15)


Soo Locks (Sault Ste Marie, Michigan)

Interesting Facts about the Soo Locks

The Soo Locks are the largest and one of the busiest waterway traffic systems in the world

The first modern lock in this location opened in 1855

90% of the United State’s Iron Ore moves through the Soo Locks (the value of this cargo is over $500 billion dollars)

500,000+ people visit the iconic locks annually to see how two of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior and Lake Huron, connect to each other, despite a 21 foot difference in elevation

Thanks to the Soo Locks freighters over 1,000 feet in length can traverse freely along the St. Mary’s River all the way from Duluth, Minnesota outward into the Atlantic Ocean and beyond

Roughly 7,000 vessels pass through the Locks yearly hauling nearly 86 million tons of cargo. Crews at the Soo Locks complete these lockages during the 42-week-long navigations season. They are open 24 hours a day

Most ships utilize the Poe Lock (1,200 feet) which was rebuilt in 1968 to accommodate larger and more modern ships. The Poe Lock requires 22 million gallons of water to lift/lower a boat

The Soo Locks have no pumps. They are 100% gravity fed

There are thirteen 1,000 footers on the Great Lakes, and the largest boat that comes through the Soo Locks is the Paul R. Tregurtha, in at 1,013 feet 6 inches, which is larger than three football fields! The first vessels on the great lakes were 40-foot long canoes

The United States Army Corps of Engineers currently oversees four locks: Davis, Sabin, MacArthur, and Poe. The MacArthur Lock (800 feet) and Poe Lock (1,200 feet) are currently active, while the Davis Lock and Sabin Lock are waiting to be demolished and replaced by a new, larger lock.


Can you take your personal boat through the locks?

Yes, as long as you have a motor and permission from the lockmaster.

Soo Locks (Sault Ste Marie, Michigan)

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