Freighters and Sault Ste. Marie go hand in hand. Many of the freighters on the Great Lakes make there way through the St. Marys River and the Soo Locks and into Lake Superior. The shipping season runs from March 25th through January 15th which leads to the ability to see the ships in all 4 seasons.
For your next freighter viewing adventure in Sault Ste. Marie, here are (x) places to watch the freighters in a 3 mile stretch.
- The Soo Locks
We will start with the most popular and most famous spot to view the freighters and that is from the Soo Locks. There are multiple spots inside the park to view as well including the observation platform. Another great spot is in the lower portion of the park where you can watch the freighters enter or leave on the lower St. Marys River. If you are looking for a truly unique freighter viewing experience, at midnight on March 25th the Soo Locks open for the shipping season. The park is open at this time and you can watch the first freighter pass through. This year, it was the Edwin H. Gott.
Opening of the Soo Locks
- Rotary Park
This is a great spot for watching freighters, especially if you are a fan of hearing salutes. Do you want to possibly witness a Barker Bark from the James R. Barker or a salute from the Queen of the Great Lakes, the Paul R. Tregurtha? This is the spot in Sault Ste. Marie for that! This spot is also where the Sugar Island Ferry passes by. During the summer months, Clyde's is located right here so getting a burger and watching the freighters is a must-do!
The James R. Barker at Rotary Park
The Arthur M. Anderson Passing Rotary Park
- From the St. Marys River
At Rotary Park there is a spot to launch paddled vessels and it is one of the best spots for kayaking and paddleboarding in Michigan! You can paddle through the islands in the area and have viewing areas to see the freighters pass by from the water. The paddling in this area is great but adding in a freighter takes it to the next level. If you don't have your own kayaks, Birds Eye Outfitters offer guided adventures along the river.
The St. Marys River
- Voyageur Island
While out on the St. Marys River, making a stop for a hike on Voyageur Island offers a unique viewing experience from the islands Freighter Trail. To get to Voyageur Island, you will need a paddled vessel such as a kayak, paddleboard or canoe. This is also a great spot to see Bald Eagles along the river.
- From a Soo Locks Tour Boat
This is a great way to get up close to the freighters and even go through the Soo Locks yourself for a truly unique experience. The boat tours are seasonal and start in May and go into October.
- The Valley Camp
Watch the freighters from a freighter. The Valley Camp is a museum that is a retired freighter and is located near the Soo Locks. There is a ton of freighter history in the museum and the stern of the Valley Camp will have the working freighters passing close by.
- West Pier
Another seasonal burger place in Sault Ste. Marie is West Pier. Grab some food and watch the freighters pass under the International Bridge and into the Soo Locks.
Tracking the freighter locations is key to having a good day of of freighter watching. Sometimes there is a lot of traffic all at once and sometimes there are gaps with no traffic. We typically use the app Marine Traffic app that tracks the freighters locations in real time.
There are other parks and spots to stop in Sault Ste. Marie and even more if you want to take a day trip you can make your way out all the way to Whitefish Point to the Shipwreck Museum. You can also go the other direction and stop for food at Cozy Corners to watch the down bound freighters pass by.
Recap. The freighters go from March 25th to January 15th. Download a ship tracking app. Take in the views from the different spots. Eat some great food while doing it!